Baby Brother & Writing Buddy, Holding Each Other Accountable

Writing Buddy

Baby Brother & Writing Buddy

When my baby brother was born not quite sixty years ago this week, I never would have pegged him as my future writing buddy. He wasn’t the sister I’d hoped for, and at first, all he did was sleep. I was three-and-a-half at the time, and I thought he was dumb.

I’ve long since revised my opinion of my younger brother who, it’s turned out, is a kind, creative, smart man who also happens to be a writer and a good friend.

This brother is a playwright. Like me, he’s working on several writing projects at the moment, some with external deadlines and some dependent entirely on self-motivation.

During a recent visit, we both confessed that we were better at meeting externally imposed deadlines. We regularly keep our word when we commit to writing for others, and postpone the projects that mean the most to ourselves. As a result, the projects that are nearest and dearest often languish as we perpetually put them off.

During a recent visit, we came up with a plan to help each other out – simply by holding one another accountable.

We’ve done this before.

The last time, money changed hands. I sent him a considerable sum to hold in escrow, with a deadline attached. If I met my deadline, I got my money back. If I didn’t, he’d spend it on swag advertising organizations or politicians promoting antediluvian policies I loathe, and which as part of the deal, I’d have to wear.

This was a powerful disincentive, and it worked. I met my deadline and he returned the cash.

I returned the favor – and was relieved when he met his deadline. I wasn’t entirely sure I could actually follow through buying him a membership to an organization I despised.

This time, we’ve changed up the plan.

No money.

No threats.

Just accountability.

We talk each Friday afternoon: 5pm my time, 2pm his. We each report on how we did meeting the goals we set the previous week, then set goals for the next.

We’re both pretty good at setting measurable and achievable goals. And when our aspirations get the better of us, we’re quick to question one another: Really? You’re going to finish an entire draft by Friday while working your day job and hosting how many out-of-town guests?

Knowing that I have to report on my progress at the end of the week helps keep me on task.

Writing Buddy

Brother & Father, celebrating summer birthdays and beards.

Knowing that my brother will question unreasonable goals helps me set achievable ones.

And knowing that I’m helping him do the same levels out the hierarchy of birth order. Jonathan’s not just my baby brother; he’s a valued writing colleague – and a really good friend.

 

Deborah Lee LuskinDeborah Lee Luskin blogs weekly at Living In Place.

Tempting the Muse – A Quick Bit of Advice

Sharon Stone in the Albert Brooks 1999 movie, The Muse

I’m going to bet that your muse doesn’t always show up when you want her to.

Muses are tricky, fickle creatures. They are like cats in that they prefer to do things only when they damn well please and never according to anyone else’s schedules or needs. Also, like cats, they have a tendency to show up when you least expect them. How often have you been struck by inspiration in a moment when you absolutely cannot act on that inspiration (like in the middle of a business meeting, for instance)?

But then, when you’re ready to make your move and itching for that lightning-bolt-out-of-the-blue whack upside the head, your muse is nowhere to be seen. You’ve set up the perfect conditions: steaming mug of tea, a quiet environment, your lucky sweatshirt, several hours of uninterrupted time, and a handful of Dove dark chocolates. You’re ready to rock and roll, but … no muse.

It can be infuriating.

The thing is, your muse is not a creature of habit or a 9-to-5 worker who is going to clock in at the same time every day. She’s more wild and spontaneous than that, which is why you need to learn to work without her – butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, muse or no muse.

Your muse likes to sneak up on you while you’re in the shower, driving down the highway, or cutting cauliflower florets for dinner. It amuses her to stop you in the middle of doing something else and surprise you with an epiphany that leaves you frozen in thought under the shower head, missing your exit, or knife paused mid slice.

While I’ve learned to work without my muse and to adapt to her capricious ways, I’ve also recently realized that I can be sneaky, too. I’ve discovered that I can lure my muse to me with the right bait. Lately, the bait that has been most effective is a morning power walk to the epic sounds of my Lindsey Stirling station on Pandora. I walk and listen, and the world of my book opens up before my inner eye. Scenes play inside my head as though I’m watching them on a movie screen. Flashes of character insights pop into my mind unbidden. I keep moving. I keep listening. If my logical brain tries to veer into the mundane territory of the days To Do list, I gently lead it back down the rabbit hole of my story daydreaming.

And every once in a while, I take out my phone as casually as I can (don’t want to frighten my muse away) and type in a few notes to help me remember the things that I’ve discovered.

If you’re having trouble managing your muse, maybe a different approach will help you reconnect with your inspiration. Sometimes, inspiration is something that you can only see out of the corner of your eye. Squinting at it head on will only give you a headache, but if you just pretend you’re not paying attention, your muse may just sidle up and make herself comfortable.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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From Digital to analog to … Danalog*

*Danalog = part digital, part analog.

Last fall, I wrote about my trials and tribulations on my search for planner peace.  Eight months later, my epic journey continues.

Things I’ve learned on my quest for planner peace:

  • Using digital methods (Google, GQueues and Teamwork) to collect my appointments and tasks is crucial. I can add things on the go and prioritize during my weekly planning time.
  • I need to “write” things down for them to stick in my brain (I’ll explain the quotes in a minute).
  • Each part of my life requires its own unique color for clarity and retention.
  • I need a both weekly spread and a daily spread.

Perhaps the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that I’m not likely to find a pre-printed paper layout that meets all my needs.

I’ve mentioned I’m part of an awesome paper planning group on Facebook. Recently someone sheepishly posted that she’d created a digital layout and was using the iPad an Apple pencil to complete it weekly. In the immortal words of Gru from Despicable Me “LIGHT BULB”.

Creating the layout digitally allows me to design layouts that meet my needs. Using the Apple Pencil to fill in the layouts by hand on a weekly basis creates connections in my brain that fuel my productivity and personal growth.

My weekly layout. The seven days run across the top 3/4 of the screen with hourly breakouts for each day. The bottom quarter is my to dos by category.
I experimented, creating layouts using InDesign and Excel. I like InDesign better, but if you are considering creating your own layouts, don’t wait for the perfect software, seize the moment and make it happen! You can use whatever program you are most familiar with (any word processing or graphic design program would work). The nice thing about creating your own planner layout is if you decide something doesn’t work, you aren’t stuck with it. Plus, if you really want to stay analog, you can print your templates out.

Steps to create your own planner layout

  • Determine what you need on the page (Breakout of the day hourly? To do list? Tracking chart? Word count? Water consumption?)
  • Design your layouts
  • Save them as .pdf files
  • Open them on the iPad (I email them to myself and open them using and annotation program such as Goodnotes, Explain Everything or Notability).

I'm adding a task to my to do list using Google pencilIt’s worth noting that an Apple Pencil is not required, many of the programs listed above will let you add text boxes and enter information via a keyboard. I just need the hand to brain connection.

I have developed a routine where Sunday morning or first thing Monday at the absolute latest, I sit down and plan my week. I copy what’s on my work and home Google calendars and create a to do list for the week drawing from my task managers. I only plan one day ahead. At the end of each day, I’ll make the plan for the next. Using both a weekly and a daily layout means copying things twice, but it gives me a big picture view of my week and allows me to focus in on specific tasks on any given day.

I’ve been at it about six weeks now and I’ve made tweaks along the way but I’m really happy with the results. Not only am I noting (and completing tasks), I’m tracking personal development too. I’m keeping a food journal and also tracking pain management and treatment for a foot injury as well as my modified exercise regiment. At the end of the day it’s so nice to see progress! Even if I’ve only checked off 3 things. If they are the three things I set out to do, I’m ecstatic.

What’s the draw back? The layout is fairly utilitarian. I’m too pragmatic to make it pretty. I keep telling myself I’ll make time to make it look nice, but alas, I don’t. I’d rather be working on my WIP or out riding ATVs with my family. I’m jealous of my paper planning friends who utilize stickers and all the pretty washi tapes, but on the upside, I’m saving trees by not printing and money by not buying washi and stickers. 🙂

So that’s my latest installment in my search for planner peace. I’m not sure I’ll EVER be 100% satisfied, but this is working better than most of my last iterations.

Have you tried making your own time management templates?


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 working on the second draft of her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

You Need a Deadline – New Reedsy Contest Directory

The first quarter of 2017 is behind us. How’s your writing going? In January, we checked in with you about your writing goals, but that seems like it’s SO long ago now. (How did we get to April so quickly?!?)

Have you, like me, you’ve been moving the goal line on your writing projects? You know – pushing things out a little bit at a time because, life? I completely understand. Things come up. Each of us has obligations and unplanned crises, and many of us are also suffering from resistance fatigue. Hitting your writing targets can start to feel like an impossible dream.

Well … sometimes, what you need is a deadline.

I write a LOT, but most of what I get done is writing that is tied to a client or other deadline. “My” writing projects (stories, novel ideas, flash fiction, etc.) tend to slip down the slippery slope of falling priorities. I want to work on them, but other things are always butting in ahead of them – cutting the line, so to speak.

Solution: Give myself a deadline for one of My Writing Projects

There are always a variety of writing contests going on. Why not pick one and go for it? Even if you don’t win, you will have completed something, and that’s worth the price of admission all by itself.

Ricardo Fayet, founder at Reedsy, reached out to me to share his company’s new resource: Writing Contests 2017, Curated with love by Reedsy. In a follow-up email conversation, he shared the inspiration for this new, searchable database:

We speak to a lot of upcoming authors, and one thing we discovered is that writing contests are a pretty contentious topic of discussion. While most writers love the idea of being published, read, and rewarded for their work, some authors had been burned in the past. The truth is that, while there are hundreds of contests each years, very few of them are worth the time; some of them are even outright scams, designed to squeeze money out of their entrants.

With that in mind, we wanted to give authors a way find their ideal contests. Updated weekly, this page lets you search for competitions by genre, entry fee, deadline and prize amount. And because we’ve vetted each and every one, there’s no need to worry about being ripped off.

So, how about it? Think you might try to find a deadline that will help you prioritize your writing? If you decide to go for it, let us know in the comments so we can cheer you on. Also, if you know of any reputable contests not in the Reedsy list, please feel free to share those as well!

Good luck!

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Show Up – Then Decide

keepmovingAs a bit of an introvert – okay, more than a bit – I sometimes let the voice in my head talk me out of showing up for events.

These can be networking events, business meetings, 5K races, sip & paint nights, meetups, and generally any activities that involve several people (whether I know them or not).

This also extends to starting/trying new writing-related projects or activities – personal or client-based.

There’s always inspiration and excitement when first agreeing to do something, but when the date arrives to actually “do” that something, excuses can pour out of the ceiling like rain drops. Do any of these sound like the voice in your head?

  • Oh no, that sniffle might be the start of a cold. Skip it.
  • It’s going to rain, you don’t want to get we. Skip it.
  • It’s going to be hot and humid, you might die. Skip it.
  • You won’t know anyone there. Skip it.
  • You aren’t fully prepared. Skip it.
  • There’s no time to grab a meal first. Skip it.
  • There won’t be anything good to eat. Skip it.
  • You can attend the next one. Skip it.
  • You’ve never done that before so you’ll look silly. Skip it.

In 2016, I talked myself out of numerous activities for reasons like those above – basically, no good reason. I always said out loud, though, “I am purposely choosing not to go,” so that my true self wouldn’t pile on the guilt. However lame the reason was, I purposely chose to avoid activities, so took responsibility.

However, choosing to skip things resulted in numerous missed opportunities to meet new people, try new things, achieve new goals, and push myself out of my comfort zone. Negative results were particularly obvious from the physical activities I avoided.

This year I have made the commitment to myself, and told others, that I will at least “show up” for everything I commit to. And then once there, that is when I can choose whether or not to participate. I’m 99.9% confident that making the effort to show up will result in full follow through.

Isaac Newton said, “An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by a equal or stronger force.”

I challenge you to stay in motion and “show up” for any commitment you’ve made – in person or online, whether personal or work-related – “then decide” whether or not to at least give it an honest try.

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.

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.

Procrastination Is Fear of… What?

procrastinationDo you procrastinate on projects?

Do you put off tasks that can be done quickly, but are tedious?

Do you avoid certain activities for as long as possible (making phone calls, for instance) because your heart rate increases at the thought of doing them?

I recently saw the phrase “procrastination is fear.” It resonates with me.

Why do we put off things we know need to be done for our business – or to better ourselves?

Fear of success? Fear of no one liking what we do? Fear of rejection after trying? Fear that our goal (making it ‘perfect’) will fall short?

Do you procrastinate on making decisions? If you delay long enough, the decision will be made for you (in most cases), so, you actually do end up making a decision — to let time determine the answer for you.

I can procrastinate on blog posts because I want to be like Goldilocks and have everything “just right.” I fear the posts may be too short or too long and miss the mark.

I can procrastinate on making phone calls because they aren’t always pleasant or give positive results. And usually after dialing the number, I end up in voicemail and then fear my message isn’t clear enough.

Procrastination simply delays what needs to be done, so why not do it and be done with it? There’s a lot of psychology behind the topic of procrastination – such as, it’s something we learn to do. Here’s an article from Psychology Today that lists Ten Things to Know about procrastination.

If you know you procrastinate, you can find ways to push through it. Priority lists, to do lists, delegation, or perhaps adopting a ‘just do it’ attitude for a short spurt to see what happens (maybe you’ll like being productive!). Set a timer and make accomplishing something a challenge or a race. (The timer has become a great tool for me.)

How do you fight procrastination?

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.