Writers’ Freedoms and Freedom.to for Writers

Today, I’d like to share a couple of things that are, in a way, at opposite ends of the “engagement” spectrum:

On the #writersresist front, PEN America’s Daily Alert on Rights and Expression (aka: DARE):

pen-americaPen America is the largest of more than 100 centers of PEN International, a group that has been supporting the freedom of writers for more than 90 years. On their website, they state their mission as, “PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.”

While most of their freedom-fighting work has been needed abroad, recent shifts in the U.S. government – perhaps, in particular, the new administration’s contentious relationship with the media – have shone the spotlight on instances of concern here in America. In response to this, PEN America has refocused its newsletter and begun publishing a daily (yes, daily) update on rights and expression at home and globally.  You can find all the editions of this on the PEN America blog. You can also subscribe to the PEN America newsletters and then manage your preferences to focus on just the DARE one if you like.

On the #savemysanity front, the Freedom app that allows you to cut off your access to specific websites:

app-freedomI missed the window to share my two cents in last week’s Friday Fun post. We were asked to provide tips for writing during times of turmoil.  As I mentioned in my recent weekend edition post, I’m definitely feeling some tension between my writing and my life.  As someone who hasn’t been previously engaged in politics or legislative activism, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by everything I have to learn and all the news I feel I need to consume. I’m working on finding a saner, healthier balance, but – in the meantime – I’ve also armed myself with a handy little tool for shutting myself out of, say, Facebook for an hour or so at a time.

The Freedom app offers a multi-session trial so you can try it out. A couple of tips:

  • If you’re running a social media app on your smartphone, Freedom will not be able to block access to the app. (It works only on web browser protocols and cannot override app permissions.) If you find yourself reaching for your phone too often, may I suggest putting it in another room, or maybe locking it in your car.
  • I also found that on my MacBook Pro, if I have an instance of Facebook open in a browser tab, I can still interact with it a little once my Freedom session starts. Solution: I click to refresh the Facebook tab, and then I get a little message telling me that the website is unavailable. (At which point, I breathe a deep sigh of relief.)

I hope you find both of these resources helpful. While it’s important to keep our eyes open and stay aware of what’s happening in the broader writing community (including novelists, journalists, poets, nonfiction writers, etc.), it’s also important to carve out time for our own work free from distractions and all the “noise” that’s jamming the Internet.

Good luck in your battles on both fronts, and – no matter what happens – keep writing!

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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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Make Affirmations Rather than Resolutions!

confetti-1112949_640

Affirmations rather than Resolutions!

This is the time of year I advocate for affirmations rather than resolutions.

I used to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the accepted and conventional manner. I’d stay up till midnight, fortify my resolve with champagne, and vow to live cleaner, work harder, and sustain a calm, orderly, life.

clock-334117_640I’d make these resolutions at midnight, and in the morning – just hours into the new year – I ‘d break them. Then I’d think I was a failure, and that the year was off to a bad start and could only get worse so really, why bother?

It didn’t matter if it was a modest resolution I’d failed to keep, like putting the clean laundry away, or a grandiose one, like writing a novel by the end of the week, or a perennial one, like losing a few pounds, or a hopeful one, like being kinder and more generous.

All resolutions did was set me up for failure.

I’m done with that!

Now I make lists of affirmations, including all the milestones and transitions celebrated and/or mourned, depending.

I write everything down: the visits, the adventures, the conversations and connections, the surprises, and the words.

If you’re a writer, it’s important to keep track of the words.

I write down all my publications and broadcasts for the year, including where and when they were published.

This isn’t just a measurable reality-check, it’s also good record keeping, which is part of the job.

Writers need to keep track of their work for several reasons:

  • So you can send a clip along with a query.
  • In order to keep track of your income; the tax man cometh in April.
  • To correlate your paying markets with your readership. What’s your payer to reader mix?
  • For a sense of accomplishment: Look how much you wrote!

This time of year I also try to update the list of the books I’ve read and movies I’ve watched during the year. I’m middle aged, and this is a helpful memory aid.

And I list all that I’m grateful for, which is especially helpful in these uncertain times.

Making resolutions is like “shoulding” all over yourself; listing affirmations leads to kindness and self-care.

I no longer make resolutions. I write affirmations, try to stay present, single task, and live one moment at a time.

Blessings to you. I’ll see you in the New Year.

One of the most life-affirming things I've done in 2016 is hike Vermont's 272-mile Long Trail.

One of the most life-affirming things I did in 2016 is hike The Long Trail, Vermont’s 272-mile “footpath in the wilderness.”

Deborah Lee Luskin blogs weekly about Living in Place, The Middle Ages (in humans, not history), Vermonters By Choice, and most recently: Lessons from the Long Trail, about her 272-mile end-to-end thru-hike of Vermont’s Long Trail.

Friday Fun: How many hours do you write in a day?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: People often assume that professional writers clock in at 9AM each day for a full eight hours of hammering diligently on the keyboard, but usually that’s not even close to the reality of the working writer’s typical day.  In your real-life experience, how many hours do you actually spend writing each day (on average), and what do you spend the rest of your working time doing?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: So, I’ve been freelancing full time for about the last nine years, and I’d say that – on average – I typically spend about three to four hours each day either working on a first draft or revising my work. Don’t get too excited. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my share of days when I’m cranking at the keyboard for six, eight, or even ten hours (I do), but most days, my actual writing time doesn’t add up to more than half a day. This is, in my humble opinion, a reasonable target for any writer, whether it’s someone who is writing fiction or someone who – like me – is primarily working on copywriting and content marketing assignments. Writing is hard work, both physically and mentally.

I will clarify, however, that just because I’m only writing for three or four hours a day does not mean I’m done at noon. Not at all. I routinely work a longer day because there are lots of other, non-writing tasks that are a very real part of my writing business: interviewing subject matter experts, intake calls with clients, research, outlining, client correspondence, general project management, meeting documentation, schedule development, and (everyone’s favorite): administration (e.g., answering emails, tracking my time, preparing invoices, following up on payments, etc.). In addition, most freelancers will tell you that a sustainable business depends in great part on your ability and willingness to invest time and effort in prospecting for new clients and projects. I probably spend two to three hours each week following up with leads, networking, doing introductory calls, and preparing proposals.

Though some of my non-writing tasks can be tedious, I’m actually grateful for the variety in my day. I don’t honestly think I could hack more than my three to four hours of writing each day. Sitting in front of the screen is pretty taxing, and I’m usually relieved when my Big Writing Task for the day is finished and I can switch gears into something less intense.

Deborah Lee Luskin at the US-Canadian border marker 592.

The end of the Long Trail a the US-Canadian border.

Deborah Lee Luskin: Like Jamie, I do my hardest, best, writing work in the morning, between eight and noon, though I write my Morning Pages earlier than that. Since returning from the Long Trail, however, I’ve developed routines and often write in the afternoons as well: drafting posts, commentaries and editorials. These are often very rough drafts and extremely useful guides for later. Depending on what else is on the docket, I’ll spend some of the afternoon doing research, reading, staring out the window or walking the dog.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: As a part-time writer, I only spend a half day writing once or twice a week. The rest of the time I’m coaching clients, parenting, daughter-ing, and snatching writing time in short periods like waiting in the car pool line to pick up my son and in the hour before he wakes up in the morning. I also head to the library in the evenings to get some writing done if I don’t have a meeting or a client (and my husband is home.) I dream of spending all morning writing every day, but that’s not the reality of my life right now and that’s the way I want it. My family and my work are priorities and my writing comes in a very close third.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: My days are so varied with different client work and bouncing between writing and editing, I can’t really say how much is writing – although as a business owner that is one metric I should absolutely have a handle on! 3-4 hours is a minimum. As for my own personal writing, that’s not on the radar at the moment because of my focus on business. But I plan to do NaNoWriMo next month and get my fiction kicked back into gear!

 

The Metaphor Tool

Sometimes, when we are wrestling with a big topic, it can be difficult to address it in a direct way. For example, I struggle with making time for my writing, as I wrote in a recent blog post. I addressed the problem directly there (and have implemented the strategies I mentioned) but sometimes it can also be helpful to address the problem in a more indirect way. With metaphor, for example. Before I explain further, I’m going to ask you to do this exercise[i] with me. I’ll share my example below, but please try to do the exercise yourself first.

If I said the word “writer,” what image comes to mind? What do you immediately think?

Try “my writing life.” What comes to mind when you say this word to yourself?

Write down whatever comes (an image, a color, a movie clip, anything at all,) then embellish it until it’s really vivid for you.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Consider what you wrote. What feeling does this image evoke? Write it here:

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

The image you came up with is your metaphor for “writer” or “writing life” or whatever word you used to evoke the image.

Now we are going to use the power of your brain to change your metaphor—and your life.

If your emotional response to your image is positive, think about what would make you have an even more positive response to the image. Change it any way you’d like. You’re making this up, so put whatever makes you happy into the image.

If your emotional response to your image is negative, think about how you could change the image to one that gives you a positive response.

Write down your new image here:_________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Now for my example:

When I considered the word “writer,” I immediately saw a (male) clerk sitting at a desk, writing by candlelight with a scratchy quill pen. There’s a Scrooge-looking character at the front of the room, wearing a monocle and squinting at a gold pocket watch, obviously waiting for the clerk to finish his work. The whole image is dark and dreary and I do not get a good feeling from it—in fact, it makes me feel defeated just looking at it.

So I’m going to change it.

After some experimentation, I came up with this image: There’s a giant writing desk underneath a baobab tree in a beautiful meadow with lush, green grass. There’s a woman in a lovely long dress that looks comfortable and soft. She’s writing with a fountain pen at the desk and the breeze is rustling the pages of her journal and the leaves on the tree. The sun is shining through the trees and I see the woman pause to think and look around at the beautiful landscape, then return to her writing. This image gives me a feeling of peace, joy, and relaxation. Just holding it in my mind calms me down.

That’s the last step of this exercise: Hold your new image in your mind and think about it for a few minutes each day. Maybe every time you get in the car or every time you brush your teeth.

Changing your metaphor changes your life: In this case, specifically your writing life.

I’ve used this tool many times on different areas of my life and it works. I believe it works because changing the image changes some neural pathway in my brain, but I can’t prove it.

Try it and let me know how it goes.

[i] Martha Beck first taught me this exercise and I’ve used it many times over the years. Thanks, Martha!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I’m a blogger, writer, and life coach. I’ve been working with this metaphor for a while now and I do find I’m more relaxed about my writing and getting more done. I’ve also implemented some very concrete strategies such as saying no to some requests for time that do not fit with my current priorities.

The Rule of Three

three-fingers

While I’m hiking The Long Trail, I’m reposting old favorites. This one originally published January 14, 2014.

Despite my annual resolution not to make New Year’s resolutions, I can’t help myself, so like the Lord High Executioner in the Mikado, I have a little list – not of people to behead, but of things to do. It seems endless, not just with new tasks, like renovate my website, learn how to tweet, and dig an asparagus bed, but also with the repetitive ones of groceries, finances and laundry.

But the Big Projects are repetitive too: write, exercise, be kind and generous. In fact, I could probably use the same list year after year, but I don’t. I think there’s some value to recommitting to the Big Ideals, like productivity and health. When it comes to writing my daily list of things to do, however, I limit myself to three.

To give credit where credit is due, I learned this technique from the therapist I saw in my twenties, the one who helped me come to terms with being a writer. In those days, I’d write lists that started with Wake up, and included tasks like Shower, Brush teeth, Dress. In my own defense, putting these tasks on the list did give me the satisfaction of crossing them off, boosting my sense of accomplishment before I even left my apartment to teach. But it was also like paying attention to static, and never getting past the Activities of Daily Life. So I tried the Rule of Three, and it worked so well, I’ve used it ever since, especially when I allow my To Do List to become overpopulated with tasks that I’ll do as a matter of course, whether I write them down or not.

I use the Rule of Three to clarify each day. Today, for instance, my three tasks are: write my post, work on Ellen, and follow up on business tasks. I To-Do-Listwill have the first task completed before eight; I’ll spend the bulk of the day working on the novel, where I’m nearly finished creating a list of new scenes that have to be written, as I continue to increase the story’s complications and bring the minor characters to life. In between bouts at my desk, I’ll come in to my office and call my producer at the radio station and the client who hasn’t yet returned the contract for a teaching gig that’s fast approaching.

Of course, I have more to do than “just work” – like meal preparation, errands, exercise and such. Whether it’s because I’m absent-minded or middle-aged, I have to write things down in order to remember them, and mapping out these other activities in my planner helps me be efficient. For instance, I attend a yoga class every Tuesday afternoon. This is on the schedule but not the To Do List. While this may seem like splitting hairs, it works for me, especially since if I’m struck fluent and find myself in a writing groove at 4 pm, I can choose not to go. I have to write; achieving a full-lotus is optional.

Because attending yoga requires a car trip past a bank and a grocery , I build those errands in to my exercise. But if I don’t go to yoga – the groceries can wait. In fact, everything can wait – until I’ve finished the three items on my To Do List for the day.

In many ways, this method of listing mimics my own writing process: I generate a rough draft that’s messy and inclusive, and then I hone it down. By allowing myself only three tasks a day, I’m forced to prioritize and I’m able to stay focused. Rather than being obsessed by crossing tasks off the list, I’m encouraged by how much I actually get done.

I’m curious to know how others use lists to boost creativity. And if anyone tries this Rule of Three, please let me know how it goes.

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin is a novelist, essayist, and editor currently accepting select clients developing projects in prose. Her novel Into the Wilderness won the Independent Publishers’ Gold Medal for Regional Fiction. She lives in southern Vermont.

Even though I’m attempting a through-hike of Vermont’s Long Trail, you can still receive An Essay Every Wednesday emailed directly to your inbox – by subscribing at www.deborahleeluskin.com. It’s easy, it’s entertaining, it’s educational, and it’s free.

Persistence

While I’m hiking The Long Trail, I’m reposting old favorites. This one originally published January 20, 2011.

ITWplainSeeing the galleys for my first book was like seeing a sonogram of a baby that’s been growing inside me for years. I was giddy with excitement to see the cover, the type, and the design of the chapters. Like one of those biblical matriarchs, I felt as if I’d been waiting six hundred years for this birth. In truth, it had only been twenty-five. 

In February, 1985, I received my first rejection letter for a novel I’d written the previous year. The letter arrived on my twenty-ninth birthday, and I despaired of achieving my goal of having a book published before I turned thirty. I didn’t start my next novel until ten years later, and I was well into my forties by the time it was complete – and it’s still not published. I wrote Into The Wilderness in 2002, when I was forty-eight.

During the twenty-five years I’ve been writing but not publishing novels, I’ve also raised a family and worked to help support it. I’ve done some interesting things, like taught literature to health care workers and writing to inmates; and I’ve done some less interesting things, like laundry. I’ve worried about my children, argued with my husband, witnessed my parents age, and – always – kept writing.

A few years ago, a published friend said to me, “The single thing that separates those who get into print from those who don’t is persistence.”

I persisted.

I have the requisite number of rejection letters to wallpaper not just the fabled bathroom, but also the interior of a small house. Some are simple form letters; others are full of high praise. I’ve come to prefer the form letters that start with, “Dear Writer” to those that say what a splendid writer I am and what a wonderful book I have – for someone else to publish. There were months when I could have been working in a boomerang factory, when all the typescripts I sent out kept homing back. But a year ago, I received the letter I’d been waiting for all this time, and now, my book is in print.

This long, slow, journey has made me wonder what gave me the tenacity to keep writing despite so many other things to do (help with homework, wash dishes, plant peas), and what gave me the chutzpah to keep refusing to accept repeated rejection. My answer: my cats and my dog.

My dog doesn't know how to read.

My dog doesn’t know how to read.

As Groucho Marx famously said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” My dog is a great companion, but she’s illiterate. She dislikes the indoor, sedentary pleasures of literature. She’d rather be outdoors, on a walk. I did a lot of thinking on those walks, which are a kind of moving meditation in which I work out narrative difficulties. I also watch my pooch in her mostly futile attempts to catch the chipmunks. Despite her dismal record of failure, my dog never fails to take up the challenge. She flings herself over stonewalls and gives herself whole-heartedly to the chase. And she’s never discouraged by her failure to catch a chipmunk, only by my failure, some days, to take her out.

My cats, on the other hand, want me to do nothing but sit at my desk all day, so they can drape themselves decorously across my papers, my lap, or my keyboard. They approve of literature, and like to lie across the page of any open book, but especially on the page I’m reading. One of them likes to watch the cursor progress across my computer screen; the other likes best to curl up in a manuscript box, anchoring the pages in place. As far as they’re concerned, the only reason for me to leave my desk is to open a can of cat food.

Between the cats and the dog, I’m blessed with companions who provide inspiration, in the case of the felines, and a model of persistence, in the case of the dog. They have been good company for this long haul. They’ve helped mitigate the loneliness of writing in silence, a silence that has at last come to an end.

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin will resume writing when she returns from hiking The Long Trail. Meanwhile, you can still receive An Essay Every Wednesday emailed directly to your inbox – just subscribe at www.deborahleeluskin.com. It’s easy, it’s entertaining, educational, and it’s free!

Opportunity Cost

Back in the spring I attended a lecture by a psychologist who specialized in helping families manage their lives, especially when it came to technology. She had a lot of opinions about the risks and benefits of technology for our children.

One of the worst things about children’s use of technology, in her opinion, is that they are not doing other things with their time with the hours they spend on their phones or on their Xboxes. They are not out in nature, not interacting with friends, not using their imaginations.

In economics, this is called “opportunity cost.” If you invest your money in stock A, the opportunity cost of doing this is the yield you would have gotten from stock B.

In my daily life, I have gradually become aware of the opportunity cost of my lack of organization.

I’m not a slob, I can almost always find my keys, and I’m on time or early for appointments 95% of the time. But, I’m often grocery shopping when I had planned to be writing or doing other last minute errands during the only hours I have to myself to work on my creative tasks.

And I say “yes” to a lot of things that take me away from my creative work.

If I didn’t feel strongly about my writing, I would just let it go. But I continue to yearn to write and pursue other creative interests.

Some of my last minute errands and “yes-saying” may be (okay, is definitely) a result of resistance and fear about my work not being “good enough” but I’m not going to let my unconscious fears hijack my life’s work.

So I’m taking steps to correct the problem.

Here’s my initial plan, which I’ve already started to implement:

  • Unless it’s a hell, yes! I’m saying no (respectfully.)
  • Clean out my office completely (done!) and make sure all the tools that make my work life easier are within reach.
  • Plan menus for the week—and stick to the menu!
  • Schedule my time at the beginning of the month and the week—and stick to the schedule!

The biggest time-saver so far is all the planning ahead I’ve been doing. I like to plan, but I’m more invested in sticking to the plan this summer. Also, I’ve always liked leftovers, but I used to cook three different dinners three different days in a week before having “leftover night.” Now I’m okay with serving the same thing two nights in a row and, OfficePicSmallluckily, so is my family.

Cleaning out my office seems to have given me more space in my head. I like to see the open space on my bookshelves and on my desk. I hope to fill the space with ideas and paragraphs, rather than clutter.

What can you do to streamline your routines to give yourself more writing time?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, master life coach, and family physician. I’m in the middle of enjoying summer and accomplishing small writing and creative tasks. So far, it’s been a great summer!

The Short Form

The short form crosses the skills of puzzle solving with the compression of poetry

The short form crosses the skills of puzzle solving with the compression of poetry

For the past seven months, I’ve been writing, publishing, broadcasting and posting short form essays at a rate of more than two a week. This has been gratifying work, connecting with my various audiences who listen to my broadcasts, subscribe to my blogs, and read me in The Rutland Herald.

Even my pen-for-hire work tends to be in the short form, from 400-word profiles to 700-word essays.

I’ve come to love the short form, which forces me to choose the exact words I need and to arrange them in the most effective order. The short form requires clear emphasis to establish a sharp focus all while telling a very short story. I think of the short form as a hybrid that crosses the skills of puzzle solving with the compression of poetry.

I like the short form, and I think I’m good at it, at least most of the time. But I long for the long form.

I have two book-length projects in different stages: an incomplete rough draft of a novel and a rough idea for a long piece of non-fiction.

I long to write in the long form of books.

I long to write in the long form of books.

These two long thoughts keep me company like imaginary friends. They comfort me at the oddest moments: in the shower, in traffic, in my dreams. When I can, I jot down notes of ideas and tuck them away for later. If later ever arrives, I’m not sure I’ll be able to find them, but I don’t worry about that. I still have the ideas. What I haven’t yet found is the long time in which to write the long form.

The short form suits my current life, which has been interrupted by both duties and delights. The long form requires more consistency than I’ve managed lately.

I’ve managed the long form before, so I know I can do it. I even know how: rise and write – before breakfast, before chores, before coffee. But I’ve been resistant, which is normal; now I’m tired of that, which is good.

I'm setting off to hike the Long Trail along the spine of the Green Mountains, the length of Vermont.

I’m setting off to hike the Long Trail along the spine of the Green Mountains, the length of Vermont.

In need of a kind of reset so that I can double down by getting up early to work at length before pounding out short form pieces later in the day, I’m setting off on a long walk. Walking never fails to help me find my writer’s voice, so I’m looking forward to listening for it as I hike The Long Trail, which follows the spine of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada.

I’ll be carrying a tent, a sleeping bag, and a camp stove, as well as a pen and paper. I’m sure I’ll be writing, but I’ll be offline for a month. I’m looking forward to being unplugged. Before I leave, I plan to schedule some reruns of favorites, both here and on my personal blog.

Barring bears, broken limbs or other unforeseen mishaps, I expect to plug in again in mid-September. In the meanwhile, I wish good words to you all. –Deborah.

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin hikes and writes in Vermont and on the web at www.deborahleeluskin.com

 

 

 

 

Starting and Stopping

Starting.

Starting.

The more I write full time, the more I learn about how to get started and when to stop, knowledge that makes me more efficient in a job that often is not.

STARTING

I’m learning to start by writing a rough draft: Rough as in scrawled in a notebook or typed without consideration for spelling, syntax or grammar. Usually, doing this shakes the ideas loose in no particular order. Often, the order becomes apparent before I’ve finished turning out all the pieces, so I number the sentences but keep pushing on to what may be the end. Or not.

Ideally, I then wait. That is, if I’ve left myself enough time before a post has to go up or before a deadline arrives. When I can, I let the rough draft mature overnight and return to it the next day. I’m a strong believer in the process of fermentation for both writing and wine, and often while I kick back with a glass, my subconscious continues to work.

When I return to the draft the next day, I’m always surprised by what I find: sometimes it’s a welcome surprise, “Damn, that’s good!” More often, it’s a set of notes with a workable idea buried in it, and I have to dig to find it, typically by writing another draft. And another.

Stopping.

Stopping.

STOPPING

I’m freshest in the morning. Today, for instance, I started at 5:30, drafting Holiday Weekend for Living in Place, my personal blog, which publishes on Wednesday. That’s tomorrow.

Next, I turned to a fourth (or maybe a fifth?) draft of a piece I’ve been working on for days. It’s taken a lot of writing to hone the one idea into just four hundred words. Thinking I finally nailed it, I emailed it to my producer at Vermont Public Radio for edits. Meanwhile, she returned a draft of a different piece with small changes and approval to record it later today for broadcast tomorrow.

In an effort to get ahead, I promised myself I’d draft this post a week in advance so I could go backpacking in good conscience when this posts. But I knew my concentration was done in for the morning.

The tell tale signs of needing to stop are attention to email, wandering over to Facebook, and staring out the window. Even though it was just eleven, I stopped to eat lunch.

Usually, the dog takes me for a walk after I eat, but today I have to go to the studio to record for VPR before a slew of meetings for the Brattleboro Community Justice Center, where I volunteer.

So I returned to my desk, wondering what in the world I was going to write for this post; by allowing myself to write a rough draft, I found out.

How do you start a piece? And how do you know that staring at your computer any longer won’t help, so it’s better to stop?

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin is a writer by compulsion and a Vermonter by Choice.

 

Productivity Tip: Meeting-Free Day

Meeting-free dayManaging your own business takes a lot of discipline.

As business owners, we wear many hats because there is a lot of daily work that needs to be done. Multitasking becomes a norm, and delegating is (usually) a dream.

If you work for someone, you agree to show up at a certain time, put in a certain number of hours, and focus on specific tasks. As your own boss, you quickly discover that you are the Jack-of-All (or Jill-of-All) Trades and having to do ‘it all’ requires a lot of time.

We have our calendars and fill in appointments and meetings without thinking twice since they are business related and need to be done.

In the early days of my business, I felt that spreading meetings and appointments out over the week worked best – the days were less cramped and I was productive (I thought).

But I’ve discovered that having a ‘meeting-free’ day each week makes me more productive. On occasion I’ll have a day with back-to-back meetings and appointments, but mostly it averages out to 2-3 meetings per day and one day a week where I have no appointments (not even phone interviews or online meetings).

Having a day of uninterrupted time results in high productivity. Of course there are emails and phone calls, but they can be managed (or put off). Not having to drive somewhere, or sit on a webinar for a certain block of time, allows the workday to flow and the To Do list to be attended to properly. My meeting-free day is the one where the most tasks are completed.

Of course not every week can work out having a ‘meeting-free day’, but I’d like to recommend giving it a try if you find yourself needing to be more productive during the week.

How do you balance meetings within your weekly schedule? Do you spread them out, try to pack them all into one day? What works for you?

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.