What’s Your Most Productive Time of Day?

There are those of us who love mornings, those who love staying up late, and those who find the 10AM-2PM window their favorite time of day.

TimeWhen we hear “work hours,” the tendency is to think “8 to 5.” And that may be the case more often than not (especially when juggling your business with a family that has a set schedule), but when working for yourself, the hours can blur into each other, and it can be easy to work long hours every day.

As a writer, I think it’s crucial to find the times where you  are most creative — those sweet times where you and your muse are working in tandem. There is definitely something to the mantra of “show up at the keyboard every day” in order to build a habit. If you show up ready to work, you’re going to pull your muse in, too.

If you show up at the keyboard during your ‘peak’ creative times, just imagine what can happen!

For me, early morning used to be the best for creativity. Now it’s more 10-2. After 3PM and I’m not very creative. I plan my writing accordingly.

If you’re finding yourself struggling to meet deadlines or finish projects, test out new schedules. Start by trying various 2-hour window combinations to see if there is some chunk of time where your productivity soars. (Note where your productivity wanes, too.)

If you’re running your own business and have flexibility in creating your own schedule, you owe it to yourself to find the timing that works best for you. There is nothing that says you have to run your business “like everyone else.”

By improving your productivity, you’ll be able to make more time for billable hours and achieve your writing goals with a little more ease.

Do you know when you’re most creative?

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.

It’s February 29th – An Extra Work Day – or A Day to Play?

Leap-year-daySo today is February 29.

2016 is a leap year and has 366 days instead of the typical 365. Apparently, if we don’t add an extra day to the calendar every now and then our seasons would morph into each other and lives would change dramatically.

I’ve always thought of February 29 as something fun and unique – not that I’ve treated it any differently than any other day, but, since it doesn’t come around every year, it’s an anomaly.

If you were born on Feb 29, you finally get to celebrate another birthday on your actual birthday! People born around Christmas think they have it tough, huh? Imagine having to pick a day each year to celebrate your birthday because it only comes around every 4 or so years?

In the grand scheme of life, today is an extra day, an extra 24 hours to do as you please. Will you use it toward achieving goals, or will you be taking it as a ‘freebie’ day and doing something entirely unique?

I’ll be working as it’s ‘just another Monday’ for me, and another day to work toward my 2016 goals! Wishing you a great week with a lot of writing success.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology 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: When to Use ‘Nor’ or ‘Neither’

This post is inspired from a recent reader’s comment: when do you use ‘nor’ or ‘neither’ in a sentence?

In using neither/nor construction, it’s important to keep the sentence parallel. An example:

  • Incorrect: She will cook neither her apple pie nor do her laundry. [The part that follows “neither” is a noun (“her apple pie”), and the part that follows “nor” is a verb phrase (“do her laundry”) — so they aren’t parallel.]
  • Correct: She will neither cook her apple pie nor do her laundry. [Both parts are now verb phrases.]

Neither (1)Also, it’s important to watch for verb agreement when there is a mix of singular and plural. For instance, Neither the teens nor the teacher was excited about the fire drill. (singular was for ‘teacher’) Switched around, this is also correct: Neither the teacher nor the students were excited about the fire drill. (plural were for ‘students’)

If the second part of a negative construction is a verb phrase, it’s your choice whether to use ‘nor’ or ‘or’. Both of these examples are  correct:

  • The coach will neither allow unsportsmanlike conduct nor consider awarding good behavior.
  • The coach will neither allow unsportsmanlike conduct or consider awarding good behavior.

When using ‘neither,’ make sure there are no negative words preceding it. You would use either/or instead. For instance:

  • Arnold had seen neither the grandbaby nor the grandbaby’s rattle on the couch, and was ready to enjoy a quiet evening.
  • Arnold had not seen either the grandbaby or the grandbaby’s rattle on the couch, and was ready to enjoy a quiet evening.
  • (it would be incorrect to say: “Arnold had not seen neither the grandbaby, nor the grandbaby’s rattle…)

And to add just a little more… when you have a negative sentence with ‘not’ (instead of ‘neither’) use ‘or’ in the second part of the sentence (i.e. “Not A or B.”). Examples:

  • She is not interested in Bob or Rick or Peter.
  • He didn’t (did not) speak hesitantly or softly.
  • They are not excited about horror or romance or comedy movies.
  • She does not want apples or oranges.
  • He does not enjoy walking or cycling or kayaking.

You won’t ever pair ‘either’ with ‘nor.’

You won’t see ‘nor’ without ‘neither.’

I hope that helps clarify the neither/nor topic. Happy writing!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology 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: ‘Used to’ vs ‘Use to’

Today’s topic is one that I found curious, and think you might, too.

When do you use used to and when is it use to? Both statements are used when speaking about something done in the past and both are followed by an infinitive in a sentence.

It’s amazingly simple!

UseToWhen used in a positive sentence, it’s used to; when used in a negative sentence (with didn’t), or as part of a question, it’s use to.

What do I mean by that?

Positive sentence examples:

  • The dog used to bark at every person passing by.
  • We used to go camping for two weeks every year.
  • I used to candlepin bowl every weekend.
  • He knows there used to be a convenient store on the corner.
  • She used to love living in the city.

Negative and question-form sentence examples:

  • The cat didn’t use to scratch the furniture.
  • We didn’t use to walk on the beach.
  • What beach did you use to go to?
  • I didn’t use to grow my own vegetables.
  • There didn’t use to be a donut shop on the corner.
  • What color house use to be on the corner?
  • He didn’t use to hate commuting to work.
  • Where did you use to commute from?

With “didn’t” (a ‘d’ word) or as part of a question, it’s use to (without a ‘d’); otherwise, it’s use to.

What other grammar topics would you like to see covered?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology 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.

Are You Ready to Expand Your Freelance Business?

So you’re creating the life of a freelance writer. You’ve been paid for your writing, you’ve had a few clients. You love the feeling of creating content — and getting paid.

Now you’re asking yourself if  it’s time to start charging (more) competitively for your work. Or maybe you’re thinking of narrowing your niche and  specializing in a certain type of  writing service.

Is the time now? How do you know when to expand your business?

If you’re asking yourself these questions, you’re close to that moment. When you are seeking new projects and thinking of trying new types of content, it’s a sure sign that you’re feeling confident with your current skill set and are ready to push out of your comfort zone to try more.

ComfortZoneSo what’s the next step?

If you simply want to charge more, do some research on what current writers charge for that type of content. Maybe you’ll find you’re already charging a similar rate. If you aren’t, you can assess your skills and determine if a price increase is appropriate or not.

If you want to try a new type of writing — perhaps for a medical company and you have never written a medical paper in  your life — learn as much as you can about the type of writing you want to produce. Read, read, read, and read some more of the type of content. Seek out companies who have published the type of content and practice writing in a similar style. 

Seek out courses in the type of writing you want to produce. If you want to move from process/how-to guides to a white paper, there are a lot of differences.

It’s a definite step in the right direction to already be a paid professional writer. You have a skill set. You know how to write. But now you need to move to the next level and learn the applicable tricks of the trade for your new niche.

It’s not possible to know all the details about a particular writing style before you start charging for it. Even if you specialize in it, there’s always something new that comes along. And if you wait until you (think) you know all there is to know, you’ll never get started.

How did you get started as a freelancer? You educated yourself, you researched, you practiced, you searched out markets seeking your skills. It’s time to do that again. 

Before you know it, you’ll have that ‘moment’ and know you’re ready to move forward and add a new type of writing service to your current portfolio.

It’s time to move beyond your comfort zone.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology 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: Lying vs Laying (Lie vs Lay)

Using lay versus lie has come up quite a bit, so here’s a re-do of my 2013 post on these tricky words.

Lay is an active verb. A person picks up a book and lays it on a chair. A chicken lays an egg. (The person and chicken are active.)

Lie is a still verb. People lie on beds. Cats lie on people. Fleas lie on cats. (The people, cats, and fleas are still.)

——————————————————————————————————

Lay: to place or set something

Simple Progressive Perfect Perfect progressive (action continues for a while)
Present I lay

You lay

He/she/it lays

They lay

I am laying

You are laying

She is laying

They are laying

I have laid

You have laid

She has laid

They have laid

I have been laying

You have been laying

She has been laying

They have been laying

Past I laid

You laid

She laid

They laid

I was laying

You were laying

She was laying

They were laying

I had laid

You had laid

She had laid

They had laid

I had been laying

You had been laying

She had been laying

They had been laying

Future I will lay

You will lay

She will lay

They will lay

I will be laying

You will be laying

She will be laying

They will be laying

I will have laid

You will have laid

She will have laid

They will have laid

I will have been laying

You will have been laying

She will have been laying

They will have been laying

——————————————————————————————-

Lie: to recline or repose somewhere.

Simple Progressive Perfect Perfect progressive (action continues for a while)
Present I lie

You lie

He/she/it lies

They lie

I am lying

You are lying

She is lying

They are lying

I have lain

You have lain

She has lain

They have lain

I have been lying

You have been lying

She has been lying

They have been lying

Past I lay

You lay

She lay

They lay

I was lying

You were lying

She was lying

They were lying

I had lain

You had lain

She had lain

They had lain

I had been lying

You had been lying

She had been lying

They had been lying

Future I will lie

You will lie

She will lie

They will lie

I will be lying

You will be lying

She will be lying

They will be lying

I will have lain

You will have lain

She will have lain

They will have lain

I will have been lying

You will have been lying

She will have been lying

They will have been lying

Here are some great tips to help remember the differences, from Painless Grammar, by Rebecca Elliott, Ph.D.:

  • Think of to lay the same way as to say and to pay. If talking about today, we say,  “I pay”, “I say.” If it’s about yesterday, we say, “I paid”, “I said”, “I have paid”, “I have said.” To lay works the same way: lay, laid, laid.
  • Substitute the word place or put. If the sentence makes sense, you want lay; otherwise, you want lie.
    • Example 1: You place the book on the table. It makes sense. Therefore, You lay the book on the table.
    • Example 2: You place in your bed at night. It doesn’t make sense. Therefore, You lie in your bed at night.
  • My favorite: No one ever says that chickens lie eggs. Chickens are active and lay eggs, so visualize the action when you are writing about how you lay out a rug, or lay down your book.
  • Lie is a quiet or still word. A fun example from the book: At night, I turn out my light and lie. (I’m going to lie down for a nap.) Whether it’s on a couch, beach blanket, or bed, if you are quietly reclining, you’re lying (not laying).

I still find myself challenged with this pairing at times and need to look back at these notes — if I can’t think of any other words to use in their place.

I hope you have a great week!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology 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: Toward vs Towards

In regard to whether to use “toward” or “towards” it boils down to personal preference as the words have the same definitions.

When I see toward or towards in any manuscript (fiction or non-fiction), my belief is that it’s best to be consistent in usage. Pick one version, with or without the ‘s’, and stick with it.

It’s more common for ‘toward’ in American English and ‘towards’ for British English, if that helps you decide.

Toward

My personal preference is toward, but when editing, I let majority rule in a manuscript. Whichever version the author uses more often (if both are used) is the one that will be used throughout.

You might think the same is true for “forward” and “forwards” but it isn’t. The correct version here is always forward.

I hope your week is off to a good start and that you can move forward with ease toward your goals! (see what I did there?)

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology 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.