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.

Memoir Writing: Interview with Shelley Armitage, Author of Walking the Llano

llano-front-cover1(This is an edited transcript from a live chat with Shelley Armitage at The Writer’s Chatroom on Jan 22, 2017.)

Moderator Lisa Haselton (aka Lisa J Jackson): Welcome to The Writer’s Chatroom. Our mission is to present fun and educational chats for readers and writers.

Let me introduce our guest, Shelley Armitage, author of the memoir, Walking the Llano.

Shelley grew up in the northwest Texas Panhandle in the small ranching and farming community of Vega, Texas, in Oldham County.

She still owns and operates a family farm, 1,200 acres of native grass, wheat and milo farmland bordering Highway Interstate 40 on the south and the Canadian River breaks on the north. Shelley shared this landscape from childhood on, riding with her father and grandfather to check crops and cattle and later jogging and today walking the farm roads.

Shelley’s professional life has offered her a connection with landscape through studies of photography, environmental literature, cultural and place studies. After living and working in diverse places—Portugal, Poland, Finland, and Hungary, teaching in the Southwest and Hawai’i, researching in New York, Washington DC, Oregon, Illinois, Missouri, Connecticut—place has taken on special meanings.

The author of eight books and fifty articles and essays, Shelley has held Fulbright Chairs in Warsaw and Budapest, a Distinguished Senior Professorship in Cincinnati, and the Dorrance Roderick Professorship in El Paso as well as three National Endowment for the Humanities grants, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and a Rockefeller grant.

Shelley resides part of each year in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

LH: Shelley, what is the Llano Estacado and why was it important to you to walk some of its many miles?

shelley1SA: The Llano Estacado is a vast tableland (much of it at 4,000 feet) – an elevated plateau – one of the largest in the U.S. My modest part is in the northwest part of Texas near the New Mexico state line.

I found it important to walk there in order to really sense the place, its prehistory, history, and the various stories, including the land’s own narrative by actually feeling the place. I say in the book that I felt I took the land up in my body and it came out writing.

Also, that area is much maligned, called by some still the Great American Desert, and stereotyped as flat and “unworthy of love.” I found special beauty and surprising revelations by spending many summers walking there.

LH: Do you remember a moment when you ‘knew’ you’d write the memoir? A day or when you noticed something in particular?

SA: Actually, I had been teaching a memoir course, without having written a memoir! And yes, looking back on notes and photographs I took, I started thinking about what Mary Austin said one time: “it’s the land that wants to be said.” Someone else I had done scholarly work on, a poet, also said she wanted to be a tongue for the wilderness.

I thought that memoir as a form was particularly suited for what I thought about the experiences: it may deal with interiority, but also with the explicit world, thus concrete experience, but also interior thoughts, even dreams, the spiritual, etc.

LH: Shelley, what did you discover about yourself as you walked in relationship to the land where you grew up?

SA: Oh, so many things. The walks were also a respite from the worries I had carrying for a declining mother and later dealing with her death (while this process was going on) and also the death of my brother. I essentially lost all my family while on these walks. I turned to the plains as a kind of family, believe it or not, something that gave me strength and wisdom. I did a lot of research after each walk and thus studied lifeways and beliefs of Native peoples, the care of the land by pastores (New Mexico sheepherders), etc. The stories are what help us along, as Leslie Silko has said, “we are nothing without the stories.” Living these other stories, while making my own, was profound for me.

In one passage, I say I want to be adopted by mother earth and father sky, which sounds very corny out of context, but as an adopted child, it resonated many ways.

LH: What were some of your challenges in writing the memoir?

SA: Well, for one, I had never written this kind of nonfiction. My scholarly works I hope are very readable; I have always thought of myself as a writer (or someone who attempts to be) rather than an academician. So grace and saying through style have always been important. I had never written about myself until this memoir. And it’s amazing how it went through so many stages. I wrote and rewrote it, through a few years. I think each time I got closer to it writing itself, a kind of flow that was natural. A real story. And I learned I could write in segments. That I didn’t have to have a logical sequence. This was the most freeing discovery–this and the realization that memoir allows for fictional devices, so as I say I did not have to make everything logically sequential.

LH: Thank you! Was it challenging to figure out what to include and what to leave out?

SA: Oh, yes. Great question. At one point (and back to the question about the poetic) I clipped and posted up on my garage wall the poetic lines I could not part with. Yet, I didn’t know exactly what to do with them. Then, looking at them on the wall (like Faulkner diagramming As I Lay Dying) I saw they were the subconscious underpinning of what I wanted to say. So I could build on them. That way, I could cull what didn’t fit, didn’t connect as extended metaphor or expanded imagistic theme.

LH: Sounds like quite the process! 🙂

SA: I found it kind of tricky when you already are a critic, a literary professor, and come at literature from that perspective. To critique oneself, yet not gut what is a primal sort of notion, the given line, the lyric voice, was difficult. I found another self, the one I had always wanted as a writer, in this book as in the poetry.

Chatter Janet: A reviewer of your memoir said “She carefully mines the history, character, and geology of the Llano Estacado and combines it with a compelling personal narrative to create an account that flows with lyricism, authenticity, and wisdom.” You have crafted a beautiful story I believe. What period in your life is in the book?

SA: The book, or I should say the experience of the walks, began in my fifties. That was a very transitional time for me; as I say, my mother had all sorts of health problems and I found myself the prime caregiver even though I lived 400 miles away. I think that experience (the combination of adventure and loss) really helped me grow.

Chatter Tricia: You mentioned your mother’s and brother’s deaths. Do you talk about your grieving in the memoir?

SA: Absolutely. I couple those experiences with the hikes, the walking. I don’t know how to explain those chapters, but everything is interwoven, which becomes the heart of the book. I still grieve frankly when I reread passages of the book and am buoyed as well. The walks helped me cope and gave me strength.

LH: Did your approach to the memoir-writing class change after you wrote the memoir?

SA: I think the one thing that most affected me was realizing how narrative is not sequential. I actually wrote almost flash pieces, sections, even some which were aided by prompts (or forced by prompts!!). But somehow there was a thread, a kind of subconscious reality, that, when I looked at the fragments, they could be worked together.

I should give an example. There is the obvious element of water, of the lack of it, in the llano. The Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest in the world, runs underneath, but is rapidly being depleted. So in terms of water I had a natural trope emerging. My mother actually died from water on the brain. At one point, thinking about her condition, I say “water will have its way.” This has been set up in earlier chapters with my observations of the landscape where water has previously sculpted the geography. And there is also an earlier section about my father building a dam which didn’t hold against the periodic rains. Water will have its way.

LH: What tips would you have for someone wanting to write a memoir?

SA: Value your own story (stories). Examine your life and think about the seemingly small and insignificant things about it which are waiting for you to revisit. With memoir, we have a double memory, that of the first experience, trying to remember it, and that of recreating that experience. It’s almost like revising oneself, perhaps we become a better self once written out. And I would say write, write, write then look at that writing as if it is someone else’s. What have you learned from it? What is missing? What do you want to know? And, back to my two suggestions, what can be found there? What is remarkable about the seemingly pedestrian elements of our lives?

And I forgot to say earlier that a major theme in the book is that we ARE the landscape. As Leslie Silko has said (sorry, but she is so right on in her comments), we are as much a part of the landscape as the boulders we stand on. In other words, landscape is not something “out there.” But, maybe we could say, in here.

LH: Shelley has been an entertaining and informative guest with much to share with us. Check out her website after chat: http://shelleyarmitage.com/. Our Chatroom Team and I want to thank Shelley for an interesting and entertaining chat. Thank you!

SA: Thanks! Super experience!!!

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.

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.

Try Something New and Take a New Step Forward

try-something-newIt still amazes me how often I hear people not only say they are afraid to try new things, but they actually avoid trying new things.

If you’re a business owner (or want to be someday), there are so many things you don’t yet know about that you’ll have to learn. If you don’t want to learn anything new, being a writer and/own business owner probably aren’t paths you want to consider.

We’re all born with a blank slate. Every thing has a first time. Why weren’t we afraid from the very start to learn to communicate, eat, move until we knew how to walk? Because we didn’t know any better.

Each writer has different strengths and interests and we come about them in various ways.None of us woke up one day as successful writers. We had to learn how to:

  • print / write
  • spell
  • read
  • craft sentences/paragraphs/stories
  • learn writing rules
  • understand grammar
  • come up with ideas
  • type
  • outline
  • research – through the Internet or, old school at a library
  • use a printer or scanner
  • learn to upload and download
  • use e-mail
  • and so on

Our businesses didn’t create themselves out of thin air – there are numerous tasks we need to figure out how to do when we’re a business owner.

Every little bit and piece of our writing business started with learning something new.  All things are brand new to us — at first.

Deciding to be a writer is scary in itself, isn’t it?

Pursuing writing as a career has its own anxiety, too. 

And there will always be something that makes us sweat – even a little – when it first comes to mind.

Where does the fear come from? Why do we get afraid of a project that’s a bit over our heads?

I’ve been there many times, and expect to be there many more. Being a little afraid is how I know I’m continuing to learn, improve, and build upon my current writing (and business) skills.

If you have the basic skills for a project, you shouldn’t be afraid to use them as a foundation for new work. If there’s a certain type of writing you are passionate about pursuing, go after it however you can – online classes, workshops, webinars, writing groups….

We all start with a clean/blank slate. It’s up to us, individually, to fill the slate with the skills and experiences we want and need.

Being nervous is a good thing – it means we’re aware and open to possibilities. It means we desire to push ourselves further.

If you don’t feel a little scared, you aren’t stretching yourself.

I encourage you to embrace the fear and push out of your comfort zone.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? I bet you learned a lot from the experiences – good, bad, or otherwise.

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.

Grammar-ease: Those Words That Are Spelled the Same, Sound the Same…

It’s been a while since I’ve done a grammar post. As I’ve been writing lately, my fingers have been coming up with their own spellings of words that pass spellcheck but aren’t correct. And, voila, today’s post was born!

What are the words called that are spelled the same but sound different?

How about the words that sound the same but are spelled different? What are they called?

And then, what about those words that are spelled the same and sound the same? What are those called?

Here’s the cheat / check list:

 

homophone_homograph_homonym

Homophones are words that sound the same when pronounced and are spelled differently. (think ‘phone’ = ‘sound’) Examples:

  • adds / ads
  • air / heir
  • ate / eight
  • bare /bear
  • bread / bred
  • days / daze
  • dear / deer
  • dew / do
  • doe / dough
  • feat / feet
  • fore / for / four
  • hire / higher
  • lead / led
  • loan / lone
  • meat / meet
  • pair / pare / pear
  • sail / sale
  • sew / so
  • there / their / they’re
  • wear / where

Homographs are words that are spelled the same and they can sound the same, but don’t have to. (think ‘graph’ = spelling) Examples:

  • bear (animal) / bear (carry something)
  • bow (bend forward) / bow (of a ship)
  • fair (reasonable) / fair (in appearance)
  • lead (bullet) / lead (be in front)
  • lean (thin) / lean (rest against)
  • plain (ordinary) / plain (flat country)
  • porter (beer) / porter (person)
  • punch (drink) / punch (in the face)
  • tear (apart) / (cry a ) tear
  • train (teach) / train (transportation)

Homonyms are words that are spelled the same and/or sound the same – they are a combination of homophones and homographs. (think ‘onym’ = name). Examples:

  • lead / led
  • mean (nasty) / mean (math term)
  • muscle / mussel
  • pen (to write with) / pen (to cage animals)
  • pour / pore

***Tip — all homonyms are homophones because they sound the same

Does this help clarify the terms and differences?

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.