Month, Week, Day

As a free-lance writer I am my own boss, so I’ve developed a system for staying on-track I call Month, Week, Day.

Every month, I list my goals.

Every month, I list my goals.

MONTH

Every month, I list my goals. These include both Big Ticket items, like the two books I’m working on, one a novel and one a piece of non-fiction, and the Smaller Tasks, which include my blogs, radio commentaries, newspaper editorials and work-for-hire. Some of these goals have deadlines. I post here at Live to Write – Write to Live every other Tuesday. I post to Living In Place on Wednesdays, and I submit The Middle Ages column to The Rutland Herald on the third Monday of the Month before posting it to my website the third Wednesday. I make my own deadlines for Vermont Public Radio and pencil in my ideas and due dates for two commentaries a month.

I also take time to list the meetings I’m already scheduled to attend as well as the interviews and events I either want to attend or need to schedule to research a commentary, my non-fiction project, or an editorial idea itching at the back of my mind.

By the time I’ve finished, I have a daunting list of goals for the month, so I break it down week by week.

I break the month's goals down week by week.

I break the month’s goals down week by week.

WEEK

Either at the end of work Friday or on Sunday evening, I fill in the following week’s deadlines, appointments, and meetings – all of which I schedule for afternoons. Because I’m one of those writers who thrives on consistency, I fence off my mornings for writing, and I try not to schedule anything else until after noon – and later, if possible.

Because writing is both sedentary and solitary, I also try to schedule exercise and social time for afternoon or evening. I attend local yoga classes that offer me both a good workout and a chance for brief interactions with friends.

But before I leave my desk for the day, I schedule what I have to do the next.

Before I leave my desk for the day, I schedule the next

Before I leave my desk for the day, I schedule the next

DAY

Because I’m not very good at breaking the novel down into small, measurable and achievable tasks, I simply block out the first hours of every morning and work on that first. This is the project closest to my heart at the moment, and because sustaining an entirely fictional reality requires fierce concentration, I work on it until my brain gives up. Then I write essays. I save research and formatting posts for late in the day.

My studio is internet- and telephone- free.

My studio is internet- and telephone- free.

There are two reasons for this. First, my studio is internet- and telephone- free, so I can’t squander my writing time on social media when I’m supposed to be writing; second, these tasks don’t require my morning mind, when I’m most fluent with words and ideas.

Sometimes, I’m distracted by other obligations. When that happens, I consult my list of goals for the month, week and day, which helps me reorient my mind to my desk. At the end of each day, week, and month, I cross off the tasks I’ve completed and the goals I’ve reached; I reassign those that I didn’t.

Thanks to a post Wendy wrote years ago about The Planner Pad, I have a great system for making Month, Week, Day work and for Accounting for Your Writing Time, but there are lots of good systems out there. The important first step is to develop a system and stick with it.

Like everyone else on the planet, I also have other obligations. Most notably, I have my 90-year old dad living nearby and a small farmstead at home, as well as children out in the world and a community in which I serve. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what obligation to tackle first and how I’ll ever get everything done. Well, I can’t always get everything done, so I do what’s most important first: I write.

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of Into the Wilderness, a love story between middle-aged characters, set in Vermont in 1964.

Boston-Area Mystery Writers’ Conference – Nov 2014

If you’re a mystery writer or reader, there’s a wonderful (I may be biased) small conference held each November in the Boston area.

2014 marks the 13th Annual New England Crime Bake Conference.

CrimeBake banner

 

We (I’m part of the conference committee) have a wonderful GOH (guest of honor) this year. Well, we always have a great GOH — Meg Gardiner, Lee Child, Charlaine Harris, Harlan Coben, and Sue Grafton, to name a few.

This year’s GOH is Craig Johnson. If you’re a fan of the Walt Longmire mystery series or the Longmire A&E TV series (3rd season starts June 2!), the name is familiar.

I met Craig last year at a local independent book store. It was the most unique book event I’ve ever been to. The author lives in tiny town in Wyoming (population 25) and he was here, in NH, in his cowboy boots and hat. He brought a few six packs of beer to share with drinking-age audience members – I had ice water – and had a 2+ hour conversation with us. We could have been sitting in his living room for how comfortable the evening felt.

This year’s Crime Bake conference is going to be loads of fun with him around. The banquet is featuring line dancing (with lessons) as well as cowboy poetry (from participants on the spot). But that’s not all the fun!

Several agents and editors will be around all weekend to listen to pitches (from cozies to thrillers to noirs) and share their expertise.

We’re going to have professionals set up a crime scene and participants get to make their own deductions and determinations — and find out how right we are on Sunday morning.

There are several panels and seminars covering everything from writing cozies to selecting the best publishing option to talking about detectives from Sherlock Holmes to television’s Richard Castle. Check out the full conference schedule. There’s something for everyone who loves the mystery genre.

I personally love this conference because it’s small (250 people) and everyone I meet there (whether unpublished writer or multipublished novelist) is friendly, encouraging, and loves talking about all things mystery. It’s a guilty pleasure to hang out with other writers, but there’s something extra special about hanging out with mystery writers.

I invite ya’ll to come on along with us (at least 3 NHWN bloggers will be there) and “Saddle Up for Murder” on November 7, 8, and 9. The conference’s Facebook Page will keep you updated on activities and if you’re on Twitter, we’re slinging words using #crimebake.

Boy howdy, this is going to be a fun time!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. In her other life, she writes and reads mysteries and is a fan of the New England Crime Bake conference. Her cowboy hat and boots are ready to go. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Share Your Story: Chicken Soup Compilations

Do you enjoy the essay format? Or crafting poems?

Upcoming Chicken Soup Anthology

Upcoming Chicken Soup Anthology

Do you have inspirational stories that you share with others?

Have you written any of those stories or poems down?

Can you tell a story in 1,200 words or less?

If yes to these questions, check out Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

They are always updating their list of books that are open to submissions. As of this writing, the titles seeking stories include:

  • Angels in Our Midst (March 31 deadline)
  • Overcoming Challenges/Finding Inner Strength (March 31 deadline)
  • Stories ABOUT Moms (September 30 deadline)
  • Stories about the Christmas Season (August 30 deadline)
  • Stories BY Moms (September 30 deadline)
  • The Power of Forgiveness (June 30 deadline)

Chicken Soup has detailed submission guidelines that you want to follow. (It is so important to always follow stated guidelines for any submission to any publisher.)

To get a feel for what the publisher is seeking, you can find a copy of any past publication through a library, book store, online bookstore (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc), used book store, or even a family friend.

For an easy way to digest inspirational stories, you can subscribe to the Chicken Soup daily bulletin and have a daily inspirational storied emailed to you.

Payment for an accepted story is $200 plus 10 copies of the book your story appears in, upon publication.

I recently submitted to the anthology named Reboot Your Life. I’ll let you know when I hear something.

Do you have an essay market to recommend?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

My business writing year in review

Earlier this month, the NHWN bloggers met via Google Hangout. Lee has a nice summary of the evening here. One topic was to share our achievements for 2013 and share some 2014 goals.

The new year brings new opportunities and I’m excited with how 2013 has ended, and inspired for 2014.

Celebrate 2013 accomplishments

Celebrate 2013 accomplishments

Here’s a high-level look at my writing year, my 7th as an independent writer and editor. Some achievements include:

  • Financially, I blew my own mind by achieving 6 figures — my highest annual income ever. ‘Freelancing’ doesn’t have to equate to living on a tight budget (although my frugality is still well in place). Many happy dances and loud “Woo Hoo” shouts have echoed through the walls here, especially this month as the goal was realized!
  • 3 prior clients came back for more projects. I love building lasting relationships!
  • I wrote about small business ownership for American Express at their request. 
  • I published 4 NH-related travel articles in  a regional monthly magazine I loved. (It closed its doors in August, even though it was successful.)
  • I blogged here on NHWN weekly for most of the year.
  • I converted my website over to WordPress.
  • I have a business logo designed.
  • I joined a business mastermind group.
Make 2014 awesome!

Make 2014 awesome!

2014 business writing and editing wildly inspiring goals include:

  • Double my 2013 income
  • Gain 12 new long-term clients
  • Publish 12 writing-related and 12 small business ownership related e-books
  • Use business blog for writing and small biz ownership posts
  • Integrate my own photos into blog posts, especially with inspirational sayings on them
  • Publish NH and New England travel articles again

I’ve joined a business mastermind group and am now a co-organizer for a NH-focused networking group that plans monthly events. This year I also joined a local Chamber of Commerce and made connections with a networking group focused on New England. These groups will help me meet people (obviously), but also to build relationships and learn more about myself so I can continue to grow and improve overall.

Although my business has international clients, I have a strong desire to work with regional businesses where I can meet face-to-face. Technology is great and telecommuting is fantastic, but I feel there’s more to a client relationship when we can meet in person whenever possible.

I also write and publish fiction and poetry and those accomplishments and goals are separate from my business. Definitely ‘upping my game’ in that area, too!

If you need some help setting writing goals, this article may help: 15 New Year Writing Resolutions to Adopt in 2014 by David K. William of The Web Writer Spotlight.

What is one major goal you have regarding writing in 2014?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Get that “one thing” done today — move forward

We’ve talked more than once about having business goals written down so you know how to get where you want to be with your professional writing career.

blankplannerThese are yearly goals broken down into monthly goals, then into weekly goals, and eventually down to a daily task list. The idea is to keep yourself, and your business, moving forward.

I do my weekly planning on Sunday nights, so when I start Monday I know exactly what to start working on. Worst case is that I do this planning on Monday mornings, and best case is that I do the planning Friday night so I can have the weekend off!

I digress. I’m guessing that I’m not alone in having at least “one thing” on the list that is carried over from week to week too many times. It’s “one thing” that should be done to move the business forward, but it seems easier to keep putting it off — for some reason.

Do your reasons (excuses) sound like any of these:

  • Ugh, that requires a phone call, it’s too early/mid-morning/lunch/afternoon break time/too late, all I’ll be doing is leaving voicemail. I’ll call tomorrow.
  • I’ll do it after I do this, this, and this.
  • The holiday is coming up, I’ll wait until after so the email doesn’t get lost in the overflowing Inbox.
  • I’m not in the right frame of mind for that today.
  • I need to let it simmer in my head for a few more hours.

Whatever the “one thing” is, it’s not something we cross off the list — we know it has to get done, so we keep moving it forward, again and again and again.

Today is Monday, it’s after a holiday, let’s call it a fresh start. I’m going to do my “one thing” (log last quarter’s income & expenses – Jul/Aug/Sep) and be done with it so I can keep my business moving forward. How about you?

Before you do anything else, do that “one thing.” 

Don’t over think it — just get it done.

Happy Monday! I wish you a productive week!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Visuals for goals make an impression

We’ve had several conversations on this blog about goal setting, the importance of writing your goals down and breaking those goals into quarterly/monthly/weekly/daily tasks.

We’ve also talked about ‘checking off’ those daily tasks and crossing items off ToDo lists.

And while I love crossing items off a list, or putting a check next to a “big goal”, I’ve found great value in other visuals, too.

For instance, for exercise – I give myself a star or a smiley face or a “great job” sticker on a day that I have at least 30 minutes of exercise. I have 12 small months taped to a kitchen door, so I can easily see how many days I’ve exercised throughout the year whenever I want. It’s quite inspiring.

Race bibs from 2012

Race bibs from 2012

Last year, I completed 2 races – a 5K and a triathlon. I tacked the race bibs to my bulletin board (as well as giving myself those stickies for exercising those days!)

I stopped exercising all together after the triathlon since I didn’t have any other races in mind. At year’s end, I knew I had to make 2013 better.

I decided that if I had (about) a race a month, I’d have to keep moving. My goal is to complete at least 12 races. (I’m new to running, so don’t feel I need to win, place, or show — just complete a race and focus on improving.)

Race bibs from 2013

Race bibs from 2013

This year, to date, I’ve completed 11 races, including a triathlon and a 5K obstacle course. When I look at the wall of all my bibs, I can’t help but smile, be proud of myself, and be motivated to keep exercising so my next race will be even better.

I’m currently registered for 2 more races, so will hit 13 total. I’m not superstitious about ’13’ at all, but I may try for 14.

1-Mile Pace listed on index card

1-Mile Pace listed on index card

Another visual I have is  an index card list of my “1-mile pace” numbers. I had my fastest pace yesterday!

Visuals make an impression!

I’m absolutely motivated to increase my fitness goals for next year.

For writing goals, I tape up class certificates, awards, as well as kudo notes and emails. And I track business/income submissions on green index cards, so at a glance at my corkboard I know how many projects I’ve completed that have generated income.

Posting visuals of any achievement is a great idea. Remember having grade school papers put on the refrigerator door? First drawings being proudly displayed on some wall in the house? How about those pencil marks on a door jam that showed how much we grew in a year? Did they motivate you to do more? Weren’t you curious to see how far/tall you could grow? (How far can you grow now as a writer?)

Let your inner child out a bit.

Show off your accomplishments, even if only to yourself  — every time you look at the wall where you’ve taped them, hung them, pinned them, or trapped them with a magnet – you’ll smile and feel proud.

Good idea?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Is being self-employed a good fit for you?

Perhaps you’re thinking about working for yourself. If that’s the case, you won’t be surprised to know there are a few things to think about.

Here are some topics to consider:

  • Commute — Only having to walk to your desk/office can be a great money and time saver. (I love not having to deal with ‘rush hour’ any more.)
  • Flexibility — You’re able to set your own schedule to work when you’re most productive (for me it’s late morning, so I do ‘tasks’ when my brain doesn’t need to be fully engaged and I can schedule errands when traffic is light); you get to wear what you want (some days it’s just easier to go from bed to desk without a shower).
  • Distractions — No matter where you work, there are distractions, but working for yourself gives you the power to control them a lot easier than if you’re in an office surrounded by coworkers.
  • Relationships — Working for yourself isn’t conducive to building face-to-face relationships without some effort. Skype and web conference tools can be great for “meeting” in person without leaving your home, but be aware that you may not build as strong connections as working in an office. (Finding a great cafe or meeting space for local clients to meet with you is quite beneficial).
  • Stress — Working for yourself gives you a lot more control over stress. If something gets to be too much, you can talk a walk (or a run) or a break and come back refreshed without having to ask permission or have someone ‘cover’ for you.
  • Finances — Of course you can save money by not commuting, but if you have a home-based business, you can write off the office space on your taxes (at a minimum).
  • Work/life balance — When you’re in control of your own schedule, you’re able to balance work and life commitments a bit easier – or at least that’s the theory – sometimes family and friends will think since you work from home you have a lot of ‘free time’ so you have to set parameters.
  • Accountability — Working for someone else gives you accountability to that person. Working for yourself requires self-discipline, and not everyone can handle all the freedom. (I personally love it, and find deadlines with payments tied to them to be quite motivating.)

This is just a quick list to get you started. More categories and questions come up the further you pursue self-employment.

How about you? Are you self-employed? If you aren’t yet, do you think you can handle it?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes from the comfort of her home. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.