It’s a challenge to be your own boss

Being your own boss is thrilling, isn’t it? It’s nice to not have someone to report to every day. You don’t have to deal with someone hassling you if you don’t show up or if you spend all your time chasing dust bunnies, shiny objects, or killing time on Snapchat or Facebook.

Of course you want to impress your clients, but they come and go and care about what you can do for them, not necessarily about your personal success.

There’s a lot of freedom (insert Mel Gibson’s scream from “Braveheart”) in working for yourself. Maybe too much at times.

To be successful and keep your business on track, you need to think like a boss. What do I mean? Here are a few tips.

  • Determine and write down your goals
    • Yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals will help you achieve the success you want. Written goals keep you focused.
  • Set check-ins and review milestones
    • Schedule time in your calendar, at least quarterly to review your progress on your goals.
  • Set and stick to a schedule
    • When working for someone else, you had to show up at a certain time, it’s just as important t o set a schedule for yourself and show up daily. It doesn’t have to be 8-5 5 days a week, but you should have a regular schedule – consistency and predictability are great for productivity.
  • Track your time
    • Use a timer and track how long  you spend doing different tasks – including those ‘shiny object’ time wasters. Tracking billable hours is imperative to running a successful business.

If you had a boss, you’d be responsible for all of the above – you’d be accountable for achieving certain tasks each day, week, month, quarter, and year. You’d even have once- (or perhaps twice) -a-year reviews. Which brings up another critical requirement for being your own boss: the self-evaluation.

It can be tricky evaluating yourself, so a tip here is to act as though you’re reviewing someone else — it’s important to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses to achieve the success you want. No one else will see the report, but spend time on an honest evaluation, as it can only help you achieve the success you’re after.

So if you start acting like the boss, you can the success that you want in your own business.

Why not start now? You’re the boss – even if you’re the only employee. 

 

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa 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 Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Putting Food Into Words by Leda Scheintaub

cultured book cover

Today’s guest post is by cookbook writer Leda Scheintaub, whose new book, Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen is at the top of my holiday gift list – both to give and (hopefully!) receive. Leda’s journey to published author is an inspiring one, and I’m as delighted to bring it to you here as I am to welcome Leda to my neck of the woods. With best wishes for Thanksgiving, Deborah Lee Luskin

Growing up I had a mission: to share with the world the dangers of refined sugar and the horrors of factory farming. In high school printmaking class I created a notepad stamped with “Leda’s Natural Sweets” for penning my favorite recipes, and my most memorable piece of writing was a paper titled “One Man’s Meat Is Another Man’s Poison.”

I experimented with gluten-free baking before there was such a thing called gluten-free baking, and by the time I worked my way to managing editor at Penguin Books, I counted many and varied diets.

Though I loved the publishing world, I wasn’t a nine-to-fiver, and my early dream of a life in food remained a constant.

The day I was assigned the new edition of Rebecca Wood’s The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia the seed was planted for a career shift. Rebecca became wholefoodsmy mentor, and her invitation into the world of traditional foods inspired me to take my love for food to a new level. What sealed the deal was a blowout with my boss at The New Press just a few years later, coincidentally on the day of an open house at the Natural Gourmet Institute. The evening’s winning raffle ticket was my ticket to a new chapter in my life; with it I promised myself I’d enroll.

By the time I finished my culinary education (supplemented with cookbook copyediting classes at NYU), I had lined up a few private chef clients and I began to take on freelance cookbook work. It was enough to leave my day job.

My first jobs were proofreading cookbooks, then copyediting and editing. Testing recipes came next, then writing headnotes, developing content for recipes, talking with authors, bringing out their voice; I found few people had the unique match of editorial and culinary skills that I offered.

I found a niche: celebrity ghostwriter. I recommend this career path for those with both an eye for the minutia of the English language and an obsession for precision recipe writing. It’s not glamorous, but it’s rewarding and it keeps me away from the daily grind. And it enabled me to land my first solo book deal, and with it a platform to share that early mission of health, healing, and making the world a better place with the food we put on our plates.

LScheintaubLeda Scheintaub trained as a chef at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York and has been a recipe tester, editor, and writer for the past thirteen years. Her most recent cookbook is Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen: 100 Recipes Featuring the Bold Flavors of Fermentation. Her next book, The Whole Bowl: Gluten-Free Dairy Free Soups and Stews, with Rebecca Wood, will be published in January 2015. Visit her at www.ledaskitchen.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

The Artist’s Date

artistsway-t           Several years ago I followed the exercises in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Well, I followed some of them; I wrote my morning pages without fail. But I confess: I didn’t do the collages, and even though I went so far as to schedule regular Artist Dates, I didn’t always follow through.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron prescribes taking oneself on a regularly scheduled “artist date.” An artist date is “a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you pre-plan and defend against all interlopers.”

Even though I’m good at blocking out time for writing and other word-related activities, I’ve never followed through on Cameron’s advice, even though I carried a shadow of shame that I should – if only I had the time.

Then last weekend, while I was in the Hudson River Valley for a family wedding, I visited The Storm King Art Center, a world-class sculpture park.

Waves, by Maya Lin

Waves, by Maya Lin

It was as I was strolling across the rolling terrain studded with sculpture of all sizes that I finally got it – what the artist date was all about.

Most of all, I became more observant, especially as my point-of-view of each sculpture kept shifting first as I saw it from a distance, then as I walked closer to it, around it, and then again from a distance. What I was seeing changed from each vantage point, just as our stories are shaped by the point of view from which we tell them.

I was also struck by the way the relationship of objects and angles bent space and changed one another, just the way details in narrative shift in importance and meaning depending on how they are presented.

I was especially struck by the power of negative space – the blank area created by sculptural lines that nearly vibrated with tension. Great prose can do this too – outline what’s not there, what’s not being said, but what may in fact be forcing all the characters in a story rushing toward mayhem.

Abstract sculptures at Storm King Art Center

Abstract sculptures at Storm King Art Center

Many of the sculptures were abstract. Nevertheless, I nearly always tried to make up a story about them, to ground them in narrative, because that’s how humans (or this human, anyway) makes sense of the world: through story. And once I noticed myself trying to tell a story about each orange girder, I challenged myself to see it simply qua orange girder, the way in yoga class I’m learning to acknowledge intrusive thoughts and then let them go. This technique allowed me the freedom of seeing without storytelling, sharpening my observational capability and focusing my concentration, two key tools for writers.

Some of the artwork literally stopped me in my tracks, they were so breathtaking, others barely registered as I strolled by. I simply noted this, without trying to evaluate it. Isn’t it interesting, I said to myself, that some of this art is so moving and some leaves me cold? And I walked on.

By the end of the day, I was seeing ordinary objects in new ways, which is one of the wonderful things that any IMG_1302art can do – sculpture, painting, music, prose. Suddenly, the way two trees leaned toward each other was pregnant with meaning, as was the relationship of two trashcans standing shoulder to shoulder, like sentinels guarding the parking lot.IMG_1312

And that was it: looking at art changed how I look at the world.

It also taught me the importance of the artist’s date, which I’ll now ink into my calendar and heed.

 

 

 

IMG_1298Deborah Lee Luskin is a novelist living in southern Vermont.

Rejuvenate and Explore: My Two Nights in a Museum

We’ve talked about getaways and writing retreats and taking time for ourselves as ways to recharge, get back in touch with the muse, and just to enjoy life — because what’s life if you aren’t enjoying it, right?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a fabulous opportunity to join a group of other active older adults who enjoy group outings through Boomerang Adventures. This one involved an island, a ferry, a golf cart, tai chi, yoga, kayaking, walking, cycling, and dining on fresh-from-the-ocean lobster, mussels, and clams.

NightAtTheMuseumHave you ever seen the movie Night at the Museum? It’s from 2006 and stars Ben Stiller. It’s a fun movie about a museum security guard who discovers the museum exhibits come alive at night.

Anyway, back to my adventure weekend. It was on Peak’s Island, Maine (a quick ferry ride from Portland, ME). I’d never heard of the island, yet it was only 2 hours from my home.

The island itself has a lot of civil war history – and at one time it was considered the Coney Island of Maine with hotels, entertainers, amusement parks, and more.

Currently on the island (among many things) are 2 military museums – the Fifth Maine Regiment Memorial Hall and the Eighth Maine Regiment House and Live-in Museum & Lodge. It’s amazing how much history is preserved on this beautiful little (4 mile) island on the Maine coast.

8th Museum and LodgeThe Boomerang group stayed at “the 8th”, and, wow! It’s really a museum! Part of what is preserved is the kitchen and dining hall (both in the basement). The main floor has an enormous fireplace and is open space – it’s where the civil war soldiers gathered (and slept) when they met at the lodge for reunions. Descendants still come and stay at the 8th.

I signed my name in the visitor’s log that dates back to 1924. How cool is that? The building is only open during the warm months, and the log book shows the influx of visitors – when the reunions happened, and now that the museum is open for reservations, it was fun to read the dates people have visited and where they’ve visited from.

8th Dining Hall Thankfully, the museum didn’t come alive at night, but I felt the history and saw it at every turn. Eating is a community event – visitors are assigned refrigerators (modern) and cupboards (original) for their food and tables so they can meet new people. Everyone chooses their own dishware (vintage and old) and silverware from the kitchen, and, most important, everyone does their own dishes! It’s how the soldiers did it, so it’s how current visitors do it.

There is still so much I’m absorbing from the trip. So much I’m writing down so I can remember. So much I plan to write about. So many people whose essence lingers and whose stories I would love to learn!

Peak's Island landingToday, I wanted to share how rejuvenating a totally different type of getaway can be. It wasn’t a writing-related getaway, I’m not a history ‘buff’. The trip was unique – and that attracted me.

New experiences – and sharing it with new friends – can rejuvenate and recharge you in ways you can’t imagine.

If you have a chance to try something new, go somewhere nearby you’ve never explored before – even for a few hours – I hope you’ll do it. An open mind is a great asset for any writer.

And if you can get to Peak’s Island and even stay at the 8th for a night or two – it’ll be a unique experience!

(I’m not a paid sponsor for any of the places mentioned. I just personally recommend them. And I do think the 8th Maine would make for a great unique writing retreat location – as there are lots of places to sit — inside and out — and large spaces to gather and share writing projects as a group.)

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She highly recommends getting a change of scenery now and then as a way to rejuvenate – and if you can turn it into an adventure, so much the better! You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook,  Google+, and LinkedIn.

The Art of Life

I’m on vacation (in Seattle) and I’m not getting much writing done.

Every time I plan a family vacation, I tell myself I’ll get a lot of writing done. My husband will be around, I think, to entertain our son so I picture myself sitting in a café writing while they are off doing something totally fun together.

And I plan to write every evening: My son goes to bed early and we’re all in a hotel room together so I imagine myself writing into the night by the light of my computer screen.

But the reality is we’re up before dawn every morning (due to the alarm clock that is my son, who has never met a morning he didn’t like) and we’re busy all day and by the time my son is asleep I’m very nearly ready to go to sleep, too.

Plus we are visiting family and I don’t want to miss out on this precious time with loved ones we don’t often see.

It all adds up to a lot less writing than I ever imagined.

My expectations were totally unrealistic. I can see that now, halfway through the week. My first priority here in Seattle is not to write—it’s to drink great coffee! Just kidding, although the coffee here really is amazing. (Seattle’s Best Coffee is my favorite so far.) No, my first priority is to spend time with my family.

When I visited the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. I saw the work of someone whose life is primarily about his art: Dale Chihuly. I am inspired by his art, his words, and his life.

Dale Chihuly has spent his life (so far) creating art, mostly in glass, and teaching his art and his techniques to others. Here’s what he had to say about the art of blowing glass:

The technology really hasn’t changed. We use the same tools today they used 2,000 years ago. The difference is that when I started, everyone wanted to control the blowing process. I just went with it. The natural elements of fire, movement, gravity and centrifugal force were always there, and are always with us. The difference was that I worked in this abstract way and could let the forces of nature have a bigger role in the ultimate shape.”

–Dale Chihuly

I love how he talks about the way he allowed the glass to flow. It sounds so natural, so organic.

When I think about my life as my art, I realize I’m letting my life flow in a natural way. I used to try to control the process of living, every little thing, but now I practice control by controlling my mind and reminding myself that I am the only one I can control. The result is more joy, more peace, and (at least most of the time) more writing.

I’m living my life, a life that includes writing, and letting it flow. It’s much more organic than it used to be when I tried to muscle everything into it’s proper place.

When my expectations don’t match my reality, I adjust my expectations. I don’t beat myself up, or try to cram everything in to the point of exhaustion, but I also don’t avoid writing because “I don’t have enough time.”

And now I have the image of Dale Chihuly in my mind, reminding me with his gorgeous glass art how beautiful life can be when we go with the flow.

Is your writing part of the flow of your life?

News from Diane MacKinnon: I‘ve planned a writing retreat for the fall. It’s a one-day event, September 20, and I’m so excited about it! If you are local, I hope you’ll join me. You can find out more about my one day writing retreat by clicking here.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, circle practitioner, mother, stepmother, and family physician. I’m so grateful for  the long summer days to enjoy with my family and friends, including my books and my journal.

Not worse, just different

A large part of this blog is sharing what it is that writers actually do (when we are not communing with spiders.) If you’ve been following this blog then you know I have recently finished a manuscript and have sent it out to some literary agents. While I have gotten a few nibbles, most of them, like the proverbial big one, have gotten away (although it is still being evaluated by one agent and I have a slew of others to still try)

No one loves me, I thought, I think I’ll go eat worms. Then I got a reply from an acquiring editor for a publisher – she liked my e-proposal. She liked my presentation. She invited me to send a full hard-copy proposal.

I need to prepare what is, essentially, a “board meeting quality” presentation on my book including:
• Letter of introduction – who referred me, qualifications
• Book description – one paragraph (elevator pitch)
• Why this book is needed and who the audience will be
• Current competitors
• Platform and credentials
• Table of contents
• Length, general appearance, photographic and illustrative requirements
• Previously published writing samples
• 50 pages of manuscript

Because I have a ton of online marketing experience, I’m also going to add a section on:
• Marketing plan

And because I’m pretty good friends with a number of people in my field (chickens), I’m also going to add:
• Endorsements/blurbs

I thought I could get all of this done during this week but, although I know where most of this information is, it’s important that I don’t just throw everything together. I need to present a polished and finished package that will wow the socks off of everyone. You can bet that this puppy will have a title page, TOC, and will be housed in a protective binder.

It will take a dedicated few days to get it all done, and that’s what I’ll be doing this coming weekend.

Keep this information in mind when you get to the point of querying your project. There’s more than one route to publication. Everyone has their own way of doing things and, because this is an acquisition editor and not a literary agent, the submission requirements are vastly different.

Not better, not worse, just not the same.

IMG_20140709_150708944_HDR

 

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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.

Resistance

I’m listening to the book, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne, and I find it very interesting. Mr. Pressfield talks about the resistance every artist has to manage in order to get his or her work done in the world. He equates resistance with fear, self-doubt, self-sabotage and every other thought, belief, feeling, or action that stops us from getting to work.

While listening, I started to think about Deborah’s recent post to this blog: Be Boring, and Julie’s response post, A Different Color Refrigerator.

It struck me that Deborah “combats” her resistance to her creativity by cultivating an orderly life that allows her plenty of time to write. Julie deals with her resistance by cultivating a multi-faceted but balanced life that includes writing.

How do I deal with resistance? Mostly by managing my mind. Starting with the old saying, “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”

When I let my mind go wild, thinking fearful thoughts about my work in the world and my writing, I get nothing done.

Who can get anything done when they are thinking thoughts like these?

  • I don’t have time to get anything done.
  • I have nothing to say.
  • No one wants to hear what I have to say.
  • This is drivel.
  • Why bother when so many others can do it better than you?

I start by questioning each thought. When I do, I find that none of the above thoughts are really true. Some of them go away as soon as I really look at them, others take a little more work.

I believed the thought: I don’t have time to get anything done, for many years. But when I examined that thought, I noticed it was ridiculous. I’m getting something done all the time, even if it’s just typing this sentence, or making a sandwich, or reading a book.

I did a bunch of experiments to see how much I could actually get done in 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or half an hour. I was continually surprised by how much work I got done, no matter how small the window of time I gave myself.

So now I routinely think: I have time to get something done.

When I manage my thoughts about my writing, I decrease my resistance (my fear) and I’m better able to sit down in the chair and write, even if I only have 15 minutes or half an hour (which is almost every day). Some days I have many 15 minutes or half-hours to write and they add up to an hour or more, but only if I use each one, rather than resisting the urge to write and squandering that time on something less dear to my heart.

How do you manage your resistance?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, physician, mother and stepmother. I’m enjoying each 15 minute segment of time that I get to spend working on my craft. Even if I do it in 15-minute increments, it will eventually add up to 10,000 hours! Check out my life coaching blog to see what I’ve come up with during some of those hours.