Isn't that exciting?
All future posts will be at:
(Mostly because I cannot seem to get this site to let me make links anymore! So frustrating!)
This blog is moving to it's own domain!
Isn't that exciting?
All future posts will be at:
(Mostly because I cannot seem to get this site to let me make links anymore! So frustrating!)
Is there something you have been thinking about doing, but just haven’t quite been willing to take the leap of faith and just do it? Come on, be honest! You know, that one thing you haven’t had the nerve to even tell anyone else you are thinking about doing. Maybe there are lots of things like that for you.
For me it was taking my blogging more seriously and to the next level. I had been quietly reading up on it and researching what it would involve, even making lists just in case, someday, I got up the nerve to act on the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I have a perfectly good blog site already and I have been making a concerted effort to post to it more regularly and more often. Checking the dates on the side bar will prove that while I have had this particular blog, (which is not my first or even my second blog) for a long while, I have been somewhat less than committed to posting to it regularly. Lately I have been adding one or two posts a week to it. At one point, it occurred to me that I could easily add Amazon affiliate links to my blog because I often mention specific products and most of the time those can be found readily on Amazon.
So it started with me giving myself a stern talking to. Are you gonna do this for fun or are you going to try to earn an income, no matter how small, from what you spend time and effort on? I figured it couldn’t hurt, so I did a bit of research of being an Amazon affiliate and it turns out it isn’t all that difficult. The most frustrating thing about it all is that once I made the decision and tried to add the links to my current blog, I realized that the links were not working. Not the affiliate links, not any of my links. I tried several different times over the course of a couple of weeks and they didn’t work. I tried two different computers and they still didn’t work. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to make the links, because I have done it many times over the past couple of years.
Just when I was making some progress on making my blog what I hoped it would be and starting small with just a couple of affiliate links, something goes wrong! It figures! Just my luck. I then considered the fact that my free blog site might not allow such links, but by then I was seriously considering the whole, get a domain name and do this for real thing. So, one night I was doing more research about how to start a Word Press blog and whether I wanted WordPress.com or WordPress.org and somehow I ended up on a site where I could see if the domain name I wanted was available. So I searched for the one I wanted and it didn’t look like I could have exactly what I hoped for. Perhaps I could switch some of the words around without too much trouble? Yes, there were a few options available so it was just a matter of deciding which domain name I thought would be most closely matched to what I have been using. So I decided to think about it some more and do more research to find out exactly what all of this might cost me. In case you don’t already know this about me, I don’t spend money lightly, at l;east not on things like this, not on, gasp, myself.
A few weeks pass, the year ends and another begins, and all of January passes and still I haven’t figured out just what domain name to settle on. I would be settling too, which is part of the reason I couldn’t get myself to act on the substitute name options I was tossing around. None of them seemed right. I just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for any of them. It was like the dream was spoiled somehow. I figured I would just put the affiliate thing on the back burner and keep posting to my blog. I could always update the posts if the link thing suddenly started working again.
Then, over the weekend, I watched a webinar. Nothing new there, I am always finding interesting free webinars to watch, but this one got me excited about the whole thing again. I even taught myself to use a free online graphics creation tool in a day and was actually enjoying myself again. I created a Facebook banner, not because I needed one or even wanted one, but because it was possible. I created a business card for myself as a Freelance Writer. What? Me? Well, why not? I’m just creating graphics here, no harm in that right? Fifteen or twenty graphic creations later I was thinking about starting a Facebook author page just so I had somewhere to park my banner. I even went so far as to go to VistaPrint and see what business cards would cost and if what I had created would even work. Meh, something was a tad off, I would try again later and see if it worked better without the border. I had so much fun hanging out at home all day on Sunday and playing at graphic design. I knew I was no good, but it was fun, so it didn’t matter. I kept going and kind of figured out what I was doing eventually. Ah ha! I’m NOT too old to learn new tricks!
I remembered a link to a how to start a blog video from someone I trusted not to lead me astray and started watching it. She has you jump right in with getting a domain name first thing. Oh. We are back to that hurdle again are we? Well, let me see what the options are again I guess. Maybe I could get the name I want in something other than .com and I just didn’t know it. I could live with that right? So I followed the steps and couldn’t believe my eyes when the exact domain name .com that I had been wanting all along was available! It was like that still small voice was whispering in my ear. “Come on, do it! Commit already! Put your money where your mouth is, you KNOW you want to!” Yeah, that voice. Should I do it? What was the worst that could happen? I could pay for the domain name and never use it, that would be a waste of money. So don’t waste the money. What? That’s not what I meant! I meant buy the domain name and actually use it, of course! Well, I guess I could do that.
So, I took a chance on me for a change and decided to commit to my goal, not someday, but now. If I didn’t act, someone else could snatch up my perfect domain name choice, it had to be a sign that I was meant to do it right? So I click the button, and my frugal self talked me into committing for 36 months, because it is so much cheaper per month that way. I was feeling so proud of myself after I made the commitment!
I went and did another possibly crazy thing. Yep, you guessed it! I reworked the business card design and ordered 500 of them. It was easier to do that, probably because there was much less cost involved. So I am officially committed to this blogging thing for the next three years and I will soon have a box of freelance writer business cards that will become clutter on a shelf if I don’t get busy and put myself out there a little more.
So have you ever taken a chance on yourself? What did you do? How did it work out for you? If you take a minute to let me know in the comments, you will be helping me not feel quite so alone in my adventures.
Please visit this site with a new look and new home at:
Many years ago, hubby and I found ourselves faced with the annual car insurance bill. There was, of course, the option to pay the entire amount all at once. That didn’t seem like a great option because the checking account didn’t have that much money in it at the time, if ever.
The other option was to break it down into smaller payments but they, of course, tacked on a fee for the privilege of stretching the payments out. We decided there was another option. We could pull the money out of savings, just this once, and pay the entire bill. This was the option we ended up choosing, but with one condition. Hubby and I decided that we didn’t want to rely on savings to pay for car insurance every time it came up or miss out on the savings ($200-300) we could take advantage of by paying the full bill, so we came up with a plan. We calculated the full bill with the savings and divided it by eleven months. We went into the bank and asked if we could set up a sub account and on a particular day each month have the figure we had calculated as our monthly payment transferred from our checking account into our new car insurance savings account. The bank told us we could and that the special savings would even earn a higher percentage of interest if we were willing to have it only allow one withdraw per month without penalty. Since we were planning to leave it there for the next year until our car insurance was due again, we agreed and set it up. Our bank charges us nothing to do all of this, so it was a great plan. You may be wondering why we divided by eleven instead of twelve months. Well, we figured it might go up before the next bill and we wanted to make sure the money was already in place to pay the full bill when it arrive in the mail. The twelfth payment would insure there was a little extra to leave behind also so we could start the next yearly cycle on a positive note.
This was awesome we didn’t miss the money in the checking account because it was transferred out and we never missed a payment or forgot to transfer the money because it was already automatic. We did this a couple of years and would periodically increase the amount we pout into our car insurance account each month to help offset any car repairs. This made car repairs much less of a drain on our budget too because we had some money save to help pay for them already.
Eventually, this system was expanded. We discussed the fact that all of the appliances in our house were getting older and would likely need to be replaced at about the same time, so we tallied up all the costs to replace the stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc. Then we figured we could have to replace all of them over the next seven to ten years, so we divided the huge total by seventy-two months and decided to begin to pay ourselves first into the newly created Household account. We also figured what we normally spend on gift giving for birthdays and Christmas each year and started a Gifts account. We set another one up in a second checking account we had but weren’t really using anymore and called it our Charity Checking account where we would write checks for fund-raisers and church offerings and such.
Once upon a time we used our tax refund to pay for family vacations. That worked fairly well and quite honestly when the kids were young was the only chance we had of affording to go on a vacation of any kind. Hubby realized that we couldn’t ever go on vacation until we had gotten our tax refund for the year, so he suggested that we decrease the amount of money we had taken out of our checks so we would get much smaller tax refunds each year. Then, we would begin paying the money weren’t having withheld into our new vacation savings account. Each Friday when hubby got paid, we would have the bank transfer fifty dollars into our vacation savings account where the money could be building up and available for the occasional weekend getaway.
This system really works, it all happens automatically so you really don’t miss it but there is money slowly building up in all of these special accounts. The holidays can come and we don’t panic about how we will pay for it, we just stay within the budget we have saved. When we need to replace or repair a household appliance the money is already there, so the stress level is much lower.
I highly recommend trying this for yourself. Start small. Check with your bank to see if they are willing to help you with this. It is basically the envelope system in action without all of the cash stashed in envelopes and lying around the house.
Ways I have been fearless this week:
This week, on Monday, I felt sick while at work. It became increasingly evident, as the morning went on, that I was coming down with the flu or something like it. After a bout or two of the dry heaves, the inevitable happened and my breakfast left me. I cleaned up the stall because I didn’t quite get there in time to fix my aim well on the target. I went back to work feeling ever so slightly better than I had just minutes before, but still not feeling well.
Mom taught us growing up that we may as well go to school because we would feel just as bad at home, and at least we wouldn’t be getting behind in our school work. So, as might be expected, I carried that mentality into adulthood. I didn’t bother stopping for lunch, because it wasn’t exactly offered and I didn’t think I could eat the somewhat spicy soup that had sounded so good that morning when I packed my lunch. I was doing good to take small sips of my iced tea at this point.
After soldiering on for a few more hours, I finally got up the nerve to mention something to my boss. I asked her if there was anything else that just HAD to get done today. She asked why and I told her I REALLY did not feel well. She asked what was wrong and I casually mentioned that I was feeling marginally better after throwing up earlier, but still not well. She figured out fairly quickly after that just what had to be done before I could go home for the day.
It took a lot for me to say anything at all, but I was fearless and decided to put myself and my health first for a change. I hadn’t left work early or called off work because I was sick in years. I went home and slept the rest of the day away in my recliner. The next day I felt a little better but still had an awful headache and my entire body was achy. I got up and went through my morning routine as well as I could trying to decide if I could make it through a day of work or not. When it came time to go downstairs and eat breakfast and pack my lunch, I managed to make it into the kitchen but couldn’t think of a single thing that sounded edible for breakfast or lunch. I decided then to go back to my recliner and rest until my first alarm to remind me it was almost time to leave for work went off. I dozed off, which honestly surprised me since I had done almost nothing but sleep since I had come home the afternoon before. When the alarm went off, I had two choices. I could either call the boss and tell her I wasn’t coming into work today or I could rush around trying to eat something and keep it down and pack a lunch all in the next ten minutes so I could make it to work on time. I thought about my word of the year, fearless, and made the call. When I got off the phone, I put it down on the table, took a sip of water and proceeded to sleep the rest of the day away again. I was feeling much better that evening and was able to eat some toast and applesauce. These always come to mind because they are half of the famed BRAT diet that all mothers learn about when they have sick kids who are “off their feed”. We don’t always have bananas and rice as handy as the other two.
The next day I got up feeling mostly back to my old self and confident that taking the day before off work and asking to go home early were absolutely the right things for me to do. I think I might really be able to embrace this being fearless thing. That first day back to work was kind of rough, but by the next day I was back to my old self again, only maybe better for all that extra sleep I got earlier in the week.
Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to speak up and make your health a priority.
The Book for People Who Do Too Much by Bradley Trevor Greive
This book was loaned to me by a co-worker who knows what it means to work too much. It was a quick read with lots of great sayings and photos. These are a few of my favorites. I share them to encourage you to check out this adorable little book for yourself. If you need a break from working too much and a chuckle to lift your spirits, please grab a copy of this book and keep it on your bookshelf at work. It might even be a good choice to display library style on your desk at work where your boss will notice it and maybe get you some help so you don’t have to work so hard.
Let’s face it, we could all stand to save a little more money. If nothing else, use the money you save to treat yourself to something that you’d feel guilty spending the money on otherwise. Perhaps you could save up for a trip, a new computer, dinner out, ice cream after work or any other treat that motivates you. Maybe you want to pay down debt extra fast or build up an emergency fund. Give some of these tips a try and let me know how much you saved.
1) Put a clean mayonnaise jar into your toilet tank and let it fill with water. Make sure it sits upright and is safely out of the way of all mechanisms. Every time you flush you will use about a quart less water. This can really add up. Note this might not work in the newer water-saver toilets. Another hint, if you don’t have room for a quart sized jar, perhaps a smaller jar will fit instead.
2) Put some ice cubes in a plastic zip-top bag or plastic container and put them in the basket in your deep freezer or the freezer in your refrigerator. Just don’t bury them in the back or on the bottom. If the power ever goes out for a long period of time and then comes back on, the ice cubes will have melted and refrozen into a solid mass. If this happens, you may want to discard things that may have spoiled in your freezer. As long as the ice cubes are still cubes you can relax. No sense poisoning the family unnecessarily!
3) Pack your lunch for work or school every day. Well, alright, you can treat yourself to lunch out once or twice a month if you need to. Look back over your spending last year and see how much of it was for eating out for lunch. More than you realized I’ll bet. Same goes for breakfast or hot beverages. Make and pack your own. Buy yourself a nice lunch box, thermos, travel mug or whatever you need to motivate you. The cost will be earned back in savings in no time.
4) Use your local library! Don’t think just because you use an eReader that you can’t do this. Using the Overdrive free app, you can read library books on practically any electronic device. I use it on my nook, my computer, my phone. Note that you can download the library books (eBooks or eAudio Books) on only one device at a time, so decide which you want to read any given book on, try different books on different devices. Before buying any book, check the local library to see if you can get it there first. If you read a lot think of the money you could save! Another plus is that if you are not buying all those books, you won’t need to have as many book shelves at home so you will save additional money that way. You will also save time because you won’t have to store and dust all those books! Packing to move to another place will be much faster and easier on your back too!
5) Don’t be afraid to try generic or store brands. These are often packed on the same production lines as the name brands but with a different label. Most come with a satisfaction guarantee on the package. Cheaper doesn’t mean lower quality. Try one new store brand or generic thing each time you do a major grocery trip. Keep a list of those you liked and make it a practice to always buy that brand in the future unless the big name brand is on sale and actually cheaper.
I have many more tips, so I may have to make this a regular feature. Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite money saving tips are. Also let me know if you try any of these.
(NOTE: I am participating in the Writing Contest: You Deserve to be Inspired. Hosted by Positive Writer: http://positivewriter.com/writing-contest-you-deserve-to-be-inspired/ This blog post shall serve as my entry.)
Hello, my name is Karen and I am a writer. For many years I have felt I was supposed to write a book. The feeling wouldn't go away, but I never got the sense of what sort of book I should be writing, so I waited for the same sense of purpose that I got with needing to write the book. I waited and thought about it, but still no still small voice whispered to me what this book I was absolutely certain I should be writing should be about. Nothing, not even what genre I should be writing. I tried to be patient. After all it hadn't been my idea to write the book, so I figured I should wait to get further guidance on the matter.
Then one night, in the wee hours of November 1, 2013, I was surfing the net and searching for instructions on how to write a book and came across the NaNoWriMo.org website. I read about the annual challenge that happens every November where people all over the world spend the 30 days of November trying to write a 50,000 word novel. It was as if the voice I had been waiting on was now smacking me upside the head and telling me to stop thinking and talking about writing a book and just write it already!
Alright. But what should I write I asked out loud? Suddenly the age old advice to write what you know popped into my head. Well...that was something but when it comes to writing a book I don't exactly KNOW anything I thought. So I thought and thought and finally decided that what I know is my life and what about my life might be interesting enough for someone else to want to read I asked myself. I finally decided that I should accept the challenge and that I would spend the next thirty days writing about our adventures in parenting our two, now adult children. I figured since they were now both in college and we had survived thus far will very little drama, perhaps we were doing something right and should write it all down to see if there was anything worth sharing with the world. So I worked on writing for the next thirty days, all the time wondering if I was crazy to have taken on this challenge. But I kept at it and also decided to join my local region and see if anyone else in my city was interested in writing. I fully expected to be the only crazy one in our mid-west city to want to write. I didn't know anyone else who called themselves a writer, so I thought I was all alone, but was comforted by the thought that somewhere else in the world, others surely must be taking the challenge with me.
I discovered that there were write-ins happening a regular intervals all around my city and figured if I was in for the challenge, I should be all in and attend a few write-ins and see if they would help me. After the first write-in I was hooked. When the gathering of writers did word sprints I had to write because they would know if I wasn't and I wanted to fit into this writer-ly group in the worst way. So I wrote and you know what? I wrote more than I thought I could. I was typing out one memory after another with twenty plus years of parenting under my belt to draw from. I learned that writing is a group sport. Who knew? After reading over some of what I had written, I realized I could write in a way that might actually enjoy reading.
I made it through the month, and I learned something else about myself. I could write every day. Maybe not a lot some days, but I could write EVERY day. I also learned that I could reach the goal of 50,000 words in less than 30 days! I felt like a million bucks! I was on top of the world. I was a writer, a REAL writer and I could do ANY thing. I gained so much confidence in myself as a person. A person who never used to try new things like writing, like meeting and talking to total strangers in places I had never been before, who never ventured out to strange places because I might get lost. I had a reason to do all those things. I had a goal to achieve. Little old me, a forty-something mom with grown kids was doing all this and being accepted into a group of writers that were mostly young enough to be my kids. There were a few in their late twenties and even some in their thirties, but I was definitely one of the older ones and yet I was taken at face value as a writer and even praised for my enthusiasm. I AM a writer! I am a WRITER! Having met the goal in the time allotted, I am also now a WINNER! I have gained so much from participating in NaNoWriMo these last 4 years! I am a winner and I am a writer and I will likely do NaNoWriMo for the rest of my life.
This year began with my reading the book, Miracle Mornings by Hal Elrod. I kept seeing folks in the bullet journal community doing level ten life spreads and when I searched to see what they were all about, I discovered it had to do with this book and since I had been hearing good things about the book too, I decided the time had come to add this book to my TBR list. As it happened it came in on hold from the library in time for me to read it and take it to the cabin weekend. It was a fairly quick read but did require a bit of thought. Luckily I had already gotten to the part where he told you to go to the website and download the Fast Start Kit (http://www.miraclemorning.com/start-here/). This includes the questions you answer to figure out where you stand in the various areas of your life so that you can begin getting all the areas up to level ten.
Hal also suggests the idea of getting up early every day and doing the SAVERS as a great way to begin your day. I am intrigued with the idea of the miracle mornings and believe it will work, but realize that I must first get myself to the point where I am getting at least seven hours of sleep on a consistent basis. I have it in my goals for the year to try the Miracle Mornings 30-Day Challenge at some point in 2017.
This was a good book and it inspired me to want to do better and try to un-do some of the bad habits I have developed over the last few years. I would totally recommend reading this book.
I decided that my word of the year to focus on would be FEARLESS, so I chose Why Not Today? Face Your Fears and Chase Your Dreams by Eric Dodge as the second book to read this year. I have known about Eric Dodge for years. I have met him and even had my picture taken with him in 2006, it didn’t turn out great but I will include it here anyway. He is a country music artist and an awesome performer. I had bought his book when it came out because I really wanted to support him and knew I would eventually like to read his book.
Eric wrote an excellent book and opened up and told the reader about his early years of being bullied, dating, depression, anxiety, weight gain and other adventures and things that lead him to be the person he is today. This book is a very uplifting story about how he overcame the obstacles in his life to become the wonderful man he is today. If you have ever dealt with any of these things in your life, you will enjoy reading this book. When I finished reading Eric’s book, I felt very hopeful, like I could do anything. If Eric could do it, then maybe I could too. I was willing to try.
The next book I found was one I had downloaded on a whim as an audio book from the library and I found I really enjoyed finding ways to “read” when I normally couldn’t, like while I was making dinner or driving. A great way to read that I don’t take advantage of nearly as often as I should. It was even better that it was read by the author. The book I listened to was called The Gratitude Diaries: How A Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan. Now I consider myself a grateful person who usually looks on the bright side, but after listening to this book I realized that there are numerous times in my life when I am more negative than positive. The author tackles a new area of her life each month and sees how it will react when gratitude is applied. She tackles marriage, love, family, money, career, possessions, health, fitness and more. I really liked her mix of real life applications and scientific research. I began testing some of her suggestions right away, so we shall see how the attitude of gratitude will change my outlook on life. Again, this book is one that I highly recommend.
The 30 hats shown above were all crocheted by me using donated yarn. The idea was to donate the finished hats the homeless in Indianapolis. Whichever library group gave me the yarn to crochet got the finished hats made from that yarn to donate to the homeless mission of their choice. So, if you are ever out and about and see one of my hats on someone, please take a photo and share it with me. I would love to see them warming our city's homeless.
What can YOU do to help those less fortunate?
Ok, we have a new year and that means I need to bunch of new goals. I have been setting goals for years, but it seems I write them down, post them to the group that asks us to set the goals and then proceed o forget all about them until December when I dig them up and look them over to see if I have managed to actually, accidentally get any of them done. Usually, the only ones I got accomplished were the ones I would have done anyway, because I certainly wasn’t deliberately trying o get any of my goals done. I decided that since I found this shiny new obsession called bullet journaling, that perhaps I would do well to really think about my goals before setting them this year and once they were recorded in my bullet journal I should actually try to actively get them done this year.
So I saw some folks in the bullet journal community talking about the importance of setting SMART Goals. So I, of course, Googled it and came up with lots of helpful websites and graphics. I decided I liked the looks of one of them so I saved it and tried to stick to what it said when it came to creating my goals this year. I will include the graphic in this post in case you want to see if the goals you have set for yourself are SMART Goals.
So, I won’t bore you by telling your what makes a smart goal because you can read them for yourself in the colorful graphic.
I split my goals into categories. I’m not sure why, but I’ve done this a few times before, so decided to stick to the established system this year because it seemed like a decent idea at the time.
FAMILY FUN GOALS:
1) Do a cabin weekend
2) April trip
3) Annual Hockey Trip for the kids’ birthdays
You are probably saying that these sound easy enough and you’d be right. I actually marked the first one off after New Year’s weekend because hubby and I decided the cabin was the way we wanted to celebrate the new year. (See my previous post and pictures of the cabin.) We already have the April trip planned because we planned it during our trip last April. The hockey trip is a matter of hubby and the two grown kids settling on a NY Rangers game that fits everyone’s schedule and is somewhere in the midwest. We actually did the 2015 trip in March 2016 and the 2016 trip in November 2016 because that was the way it worked out with the NHL hockey season schedule.
1) Get 6 hours of sleep a night
2) Drink 6 cups of water a day
3) Continue using MyFitnessPal app
None of these is easy for me. I usually drink only water after work, but almost never drink water earlier in the day because I need my caffeine fix and so I drink my unsweetened iced tea instead. Yes, someday I will need to break the caffeine addiction, but this is not the year for that goal. I log into MyFitnessPal daily when I am at home, if nothing else, to record my weight each day. I am trying to do better about recording what I eat and drink in the app, because I know when I do so regularly and say within the caloric recommendations, I can lose weight. The sleep thing I have been trying to do better about since before I had kids (25 years ago) and it just isn’t happening, but I continue to try.
1) Clean out my home office
2) Declutter the landing
3) Declutter my clothes
My office is an eight foot square that was, in a former life, a breakfast nook. It has a built in china cabinet, an L shaped desk, half of which has a hutch attached to it, three file cabinets with six drawers of files and four drawers of assorted junk between them and my desk has one of those long drawers for pens and such too. I am very good at cramming a lot of stuff in a small amount of space unfortunately. Most of the stuff is just there at this point and needs to be gone through, sorted and decluttered. The clothing can always use a good culling. The landing is full of furniture waiting on the master bedroom to be gutted and rebuilt from the studs out. Seriously lofty, those goals!
1) Do some genealogy
2) Take three writing classes
3) Read for thirty minutes a day
I was looking at the website just yesterday to see what classes are being offered at the local writers center. Reading is not hard, but I don’t always make time for it every day and I really should. I used to do genealogy all the time, it was my passion from the time I was in fifth grade until I started working full-time over ten years ago. I miss it, I can’t remember where I left off so jumping back into it might be difficult.
1) Pray daily
2) Read 15 inspirational fiction books
3) Crochet 26 hats to donate to charity
Ok, so I already pray daily, but perhaps I should expand my prayer list a bit. I prefer to read inspirational fiction but want to make sure I am reading mostly in this genre. I attend three crochet/knit meetings a month where I can usually get an entire hat crocheted, but I don’t always get to attend the meetings and don’t always finish a hat at each meeting. I have already completed four hats this year toward the goal. Hats are my thing, I rarely deviate from the one hat pattern. Carpel tunnel could be a serious issue in achieving this goal.
1) Finish one of my previous NaNoWriMo novels
2) Publish something
3) Participate in NaNoWriMo (and hopefully win again)
In case you haven’t figured it out already, I LOVE NaNoWriMo! I have participated and won for the past four years. I have four unfinished manuscripts (just over 50k words each) to show for my efforts along with one Camp NaNoWriMo unfinished manuscript (just over 30k words) and a non-fiction book as yet unfinished. Thus, goal number one. Once that is completed, it would be nice to actually publish one of those six books. That goal could also mean writing and publishing a short story or article of some kind. Come November, I will be writing another 50,000 words on some new project.
So those are my 2017 goals for what it’s worth. The thing I’m not good at it checking in on those goals occasionally and planning to make sure they get accomplished. If you have any tips or tricks for how to actually get yourself to accomplish the goals, please contact me by email or leave a comment.
So, the hubby and I did something really cool this year over New Year’s weekend. We decided we wanted to get away from the city and we went to a cabin for the long weekend with no television, no WiFi, and sketchy cell coverage. It was great!
We ate at the local Pizza King on the way into town Friday night. It was the only thing open besides maybe a bar or two. Even the grocery store was closed already and it wasn’t nine o’clock yet. We brought a bit of food from home, but would need to visit the grocery store once it reopened on Saturday.
The cabin came equipped with two twin beds, a queen bed and a queen sofa sleeper, but you must bring your own sheets and blankets. It also has a coffee maker and filters, a two-slice toaster, a microwave, as well as a full-sized stove and refrigerator. Hey even supply the basic pots and pans, but you must bring your own food, drinks, plates, silverware and cooking utensils. We usually bring an electric teapot and at least a cookie sheet. When we grocery shop, we try to buy things that don’t require much in the way of seasoning or condiments so we don’t need to buy all that stuff and haul it back home or throw it out.
Now you might be asking why we would want to get away only to have to cook our own meals, and have nothing to entertain ourselves with. Well, the biggest reason is to get away from the stress of work and the idea that if we are home for the long weekend, we should be working on unfinished home improvement projects. So hubby and I have been to these particular cabins numerous times over the years so we know what we are getting into and how to pack for the trip. We keep plastic tubs stocked with the bedding needed for all the beds at the cabin, so when the time comes we just grab the tub and load it in the car. We have in years past, when the kids were much younger, brought along portable DVD player and several movies they wanted to watch. The problem with that is the screen was barely big enough for one person to watch at any given time. We both brought along our laptops, hubby so he could play games that didn’t require internet and me so I could write, though I barely go mine out and did no writing. Hubby brought along two Christmas themed jigsaw puzzles that have been in the family and traditionally get worked almost every year. We worked one on Saturday night, then hubby put it away before breakfast on Sunday morning. We, of course, brought a few books and magazines to read. I brought along my crochet basket and managed to get three hats made. I also took my bullet journal stuff so I could work on the spreads for the new year. We thought we might go hiking but never got around to it. It was very relaxing, nothing planned except make simple food when we got hungry. It was very quiet, nobody visiting, no extra people around to keep us from some much-needed rest. This is the first time we have gone to this particular park without at least our two kids, who are now adults, along for the fun. It was very different this time, but in a good way. I could see a bunch of writers getting together and renting one or more cabins for a weekend to just write. It would take some planning and cooperation if six writers were to all stay in one cabin, but it could really be fun. So, if you need a chance to just get a way and have never been to a state park cabin for a weekend, you really should give it a try.
Note: The photos below were taken at Whitewater Memorial Park in Liberty, Indiana.
Make a writing date with someone else who needs to write, go to Panera or some other writing-friendly place that doesn't mind if you hang out for a couple of hours. Take out your notebook and pen, laptop, tablet or whatever your writing tools of choice are and do word sprints together. Mix it up, start with some short 5-10 minute sprints then do a longer one, maybe 25 minutes. Have a goal in mind. Maybe your goal is writing and editing an entire blog post, or writing your holiday newsletter, or a short story or article.
Have a goal and set aside some time to write with other writers. Make it a regular writing date.
We started a group after NaNo last year and we meet every Thursday night at a Panera (we rotate amongst a few local ones on an odd schedule) and we write. I get my dinner and eat it then I won't let myself eat the 99 cent pastry I always let them talk me into until I have written at least 500 words for the night. Some Thursdays we have just 1 or 2 of us, sometimes we have as many as 8. It is sad when I am the only one to show up, but I have made the comittment to show up and write and I just do the writing sprints anyway, then maybe during the breaks between sprints, I grab a drink refill or read some in whatever book I am currently reading. When we have more people, we can chat and catch up between sprints, but during those sprints we write.
Our Thursday Nights Writing @ Panera Group has a closed Facebook group page just for us where we can post the events, let each other know which of several Paneras we are meeting at that week and also post who is going to be able to get there and who will be elsewhere that week.
Being part of the Thursday writers group has made all the difference in making me into a year-round writer instead of a November only writer. If you don't have local friends, make a virtual date and meet via Skype, or Google Hangouts or FaceTime or whatever. Hold each other accountable, show up and write. It works. For me, writing is a group thing. I used to get really down after November because all the hype of NaNoWriMo was over and I needed that energy to write, having a regular writing date each week has made me keep writing in my life throughout the year. Make no mistake, I don’t write with the frenzy or frequency during the rest of the year that I write during November, but the meetings of fellow writers once a week means that no matter what else is going on in my life during the week, on Thursday, I will take the time to write.
Basically, everyone has time to write if they want to write. You may easily find excuses as to why you have no time, but they are just that…excuses. I have dragged my computer to work with me in November and written while I ate lunch during my 30 minute lunch break. Give an honest look at how you send your time. Do you watch tv? Are you on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube or Twitter? Do you check your emails. Chat on the phone, text back and forth with friends? Read the newspaper, magazines or books? You can choose to do these things or you can choose to write. Not writing is a choice you have been making, I guarantee if you REALLY want to write, you will find a way to do so just like you find a way to do other things you want to do. If you have to, carry a notebook and pen with you into the bathroom and multi-task for 10 minutes a day. Ok, you’re right, I shouldn’t have gone there. My point is you CAN find time to write, you just have to want to write.
The real question here is, what are you willing to give up or cut back on to MAKE time to write? Think of all the time you would have to write if you gave up making excuses and just do it!
I am normally very into Christmas. I used to enjoy the whole picking the perfect gift for each person on my list thing. But lately, my Christmas gift list just seems too long. I feel obligated to buy for everyone on the list and that turns it into a chore. The truth is, I rarely spend much time with any of the people on our gift list, so I don’t really know what the perfect gift for each of them would be any more. I’m not sure when this happened. Perhaps it was when the nieces and nephews began growing into adults and bringing dates to family gatherings. Then they get married or move in with their significant others. Sometime they married into ready-made families and the gift list grew exponentially. At any rate, it is somewhat overwhelming.
I love the way my sisters and I handle the holidays. We get together sometime near the holiday, well within a month of it usually. We each bring a wrapped gift valued at about ten dollars. The gift can be anything, but preferably some of them will be suitable for the men or teens and not just to one particular person. Sometimes we get a lot of gift cards, though they are wrapped creatively so it isn’t always obvious that is what is inside the wrapping.
Once everyone is gathered in the designated location and the wrapped gifts are on the table, someone figures out how many of us there are and makes little slips of paper with that many numbers and folds each number up so they all look the same and puts them into a bowl. Someone volunteers to go around and have everyone select a folded slip of paper. The person who draws number one goes first. Number one gets to pick from all the wrapped gifts and open the gift they choose. They hold it up and show everyone. Number two then has the option to choose a wrapped gift from the table or take the gift from number one. This goes on until everyone has had a turn. When the numbers have all had their turn, anyone who had a gift taken from them gets to pick another one from the table and open it. If this happened a lot, they re-pick in the same order they picked in the first time around. When everyone has an unwrapped gift and the table is empty, number one gets the chance to take the gift from anyone else, and that person essentially ends up trading gifts with number one. After that is all over usually folks start asking others if they want to trade gifts.
Sometimes the gifts are great, other times the gift is destined to become a white elephant gift offering or go into the donation bag. It doesn’t take hours like it does when a big family gets gifts for each and every other member and the group must sit around taking turns opening gifts so everyone can see every gift each person received. The point is spending time together and having fun, our little “Dirty Santa” game is how we have turned the holiday and a bunch of family members on very tight budgets into a fun and memorable experience. Sometimes, we learn a lot about each other by seeing what sort of gift each person contributes to the game. Some choose to bring a gift they would love to go home with themselves, sometimes it is more of a gag gift. Sometimes it is something edible like candy and the person opens it and passes it around to share with the group. We used to have separate groups for the kids and adults. Then the kids started growing to adulthood and wanted to be in the grown up group. We have a lot of fun and everyone seems to be relieved that they only need to come up with one gift per person in their own family unit. Sometimes, the person gets a great deal on a gift worth ten dollars and other times the person spends ten dollars on a gift worth much more. It doesn’t really matter. The gifts are just a fun way to get every one together in the same room to spend time together.
I sometimes wish we could do this for the other side of the family too. There are just so many people and many of them are on tight budgets too. There are a few options, we can give a family gift, but that is difficult too as the kids are getting older. My family used to draw names about a month before the holiday, this used to be easy if we were all together for the Thanksgiving holiday as we could draw names then. We gave this up eventually because it didn’t really allow us to invite others to join us. I rarely managed to draw the name of the person I had found the perfect gift for, so that was a bit of a downer.
All of this is to say that this year for whatever reason, I am having trouble getting into the Christmas mood. It has helped some to listen to Christmas music. It also helps when hubby is willing to help with the shopping and not just leave it all up to me to figure out. Of course it is too soon to talk about what sorts of gifts we chose for the various family members. You never know who might actually be reading this blog post. I keep thinking that eventually the mood will hit me and hopefully when it does it won’t be after the holiday season has ended and the new year has descended upon us.
So, what family holiday traditions do you have? Are you in the Christmas mood this year? Do you have any advice to share on what a body can do to enjoy the holiday season more and dread the gift shopping less? Any hints you can gift would be greatly appreciated.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
This year, at the end of September, I discovered a cool thing called a Bullet Journal. I was intrigued by all of the colorful photos on Pintrest, FaceBook and Instagram and was seeing people mention it more and more often. I got tired of seeing it mentioned and not really knowing what it was, so I figured if all these people were hyped up about it, I should at least see what it was all about. I have really never kept a journal except when we travel as a family on vacations, then I would try to journal about where we went and what we did during our trip. I eventually quit even doing that because I felt like I couldn’t keep up with it and didn’t want to write it after the fact because that really wasn’t the point of the whole thing and I knew I would forget a lot of the things I wanted to record in the travel journal. In other words, my perfectionist reared its ugly head and told me I shouldn’t bother because I wasn’t doing it right/perfect.
So enter the Bullet Journal which would be a place to house everything. It is more than a planner and allows more freedom than any traditional day planner or calendar system I have ever found. It looked as though it would also allow me to be as colorful and creative as I wanted to be. I could try a spread and if it wasn’t the right one for me I could move on and try a different one next time. I read many articles about using the bullet journal system for all aspects of your life.
Ryder Carroll, who designed the Bullet Journal, called it “The analog system for the digital age”. If you are interested in learning more about using a Bullet Journal, go to http://bulletjournal.com/. On his website, he gives the very bare-bones basic version of a bullet journal.
If you want to learn other really cool ways to use the bullet journal you may want to check out:
~My Pintrest page for Bullet Journaling
~Saving a Life With a List
~Kara of Boho Berry
~Dee of Decade Thirty
~Jessica of Pretty Prints and Paper
~Look into the following monthly challenge tags on FaceBook:
So, you are probably wondering how I have been using a bullet journal to get myself organized and are wanting to know how I personally find it helpful. Well, I’m glad you asked. I have been using a Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Medium Notebook - Ruled - Lime Green Color as my first actual bullet journal (BuJo). I wish it were a dot grid, but it was one I had on my shelf for years and was too paralyzed by perfectionism to actually write in because I might write sloppy or misspell a word and you can’t tear the pages out, you know? But I decided to jump in and didn’t want to wait for the perfect jounral (Leuchtturm1917 Notebook (A5) Hardcover, Dotted, Purple) so I was excited to finally have an acceptable use for the Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover A5 Notebook - Ruled - Lime Green Color that was gifted to me years ago, but was as yet untouched.
I went through most of October trying spreads I thought would work for me and then decided to see if we also had any of the black and white marbled Composition Notebook in the school supplies cabinet. We did, so I set one of those up for my Writing Bullet Journal. This was just in time for November and NaNoWriMo. I thought the black and white too boring and uninspiring, so I colored the front and then Covered the front with strips of packing tape to keep it looking pretty and so it wouldn’t possibly get wet and bleed off all over things. I used it for a few days and realized the back didn’t feel as smooth and nice as the front so one day I colored and taped the back as well. The bright colors make me smile and want to use the writing bullet journal.
I also found an old steno notebook half-used around work that we were going to throw away, so I took all the used pages out and decided to use it to practice a few weekly or daily layouts in and to make lists in before messing up the green BuJo. Yes, that perfectionism is still a thing, but I am getting over it slowly. I am using a bunch of Sharpie brand markers and some Bic MarkIt brand markers too that my daughter had and noticed they bleed through the pages, but I decided I didn’t mind not using the backs of the pages all the time so I found out that I just put a catalog under the page I am working on with these markers to keep the markers from ruining more than just the back of the page I am currently working on. I tried my hand at lettering and did some of the prompts from the challenges I listed above. I am actually embracing the use of cursive writing a bit again after being told in high school to print my essays instead of writing them in cursive (yes, youngsters, this was the age before computers were much of a thing). I have found it isn’t too bad if I take my time and focus on what I am writing, letter by letter. I doubt I will ever convert back to writing much in cursive but it is kind of cool to practice it once in a while.
The spreads I find most helpful at this time are:
~ When Did I Last…(replace batteries, flip mattress, clean outside dryer vent, etc.)
~ Word Tracker (to track my word counts on a monthly basis)
~ Weekly/Daily (mine is sort of a combination right now)
~ Waiting On (to track online orders and know they all come in)
~ Holiday Gifts to Buy
I am just on my second week of doing the daily/weekly thing. Mine are kind of just daily entries, but I lay them out a week at a time. After the first week which I set up for Sunday through Saturday on two pages, I decided that I wanted the entire weekend together, so this week I did eight days on one page beginning and ending with Sunday so that beginning next week, I can start my weeks on Monday and end them on Sunday. I also started last week adding meal planning using small post-it strips that can be moved if needed and when the week is over they can be put onto the meal ideas page to be reused another week. I find that I don’t need to migrate a task if it doesn’t get done on the day it was listed as long as it gets done before I turn the page. If it doesn’t then I look at each task and either migrate it to the next week or decide not to worry about getting it done at all.
It will take me some time to figure out exactly how the BuJo will be most useful to me. I plan to keep working on my chore list and designating each entry as daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. I plan to keep building my master meals list so menu planning with hopefully get easier as I go along. I haven’t figured out yet if I want to use my BuJo for a grocery list or not, there are plenty of apps for that on the phone. I had thought to make a grocery list page with an outlined spot to hold a large lined piece of post-it note most likely in a bright neon color, but am not sure I will want to put out and take a sticky not e with me.
It is still a work in progress, but already I can feel myself taking back control of my life where once it tended to spiral out of control. I find working in my BuJo is a good way to de-stress at the end of the day. I find myself looking for ways to add color to my life via my BuJo. I'd love to know if you use a bullet journal, so please email me or leave a comment. What are your favorite pages to include?
Disclosure: If you purchase anything from links in this post, I may receive some kind of affiliate commission.
However, I only ever mention products I love and would recommend whether I was being compensated or not.
November has come and gone and I seemed to have let posting blog entries go by the wayside way back in mid-September. The reason is because for all of October and part of September I start to focus on reading writing craft books and not reading fiction. I also start trying to plot the novel I will write in November.
This year marks my fourth attempt at NaNoWriMo and also my fourth year of winning the challenge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days that make up November. I knew I could make it to the goal if I applied myself, but this year I had hope to also write enough words to actually complete the novel. Needless to say that didn’t happen. Due to some extra responsibilities at work, I was working longer hours and had trouble getting out of work early enough to get to some of the write-ins we had in the Indianapolis Region. I was careful to make sure I didn’t get too far behind because I know from past experience how difficult it can be to come back from being way behind on my word count. The problem with writing enough to finish the book was mostly a plotting problem. I still feel like I am not good at the whole plotting and story arc thing. So what I thought I had extremely well planned before November started ended up a little off course about a week into the month. Now before you say that I am the author and I should have just written myself back on track with what I had outlined, just know that I felt like what I was writing was better than what I had planned. Now it may or may not have really been better, but I felt like it was at least good enough to con sider going off track, err off outline worth while.
So I was looking at my bar graph after the win was recorded and thinking about how even though I felt like I was behind a good deal of the month, I wasn’t very far behind at any point and this was really the most consistent year I have ever had during NaNo.
So at this point I would like to post here for all the world to see, the four years of bar graphs. See those below. As I looked at the graphs I decided it might be kind of cool to compare the four years and see what we can learn from them.
Year Won Word Count
2013 27th 50,155
2014 29th 50,063
2015 27th 56,505
2016 27th 53,568
Notable Things about Each Year:
2013 - Behind until day 23 with almost no words until day 4.
2014 - Behind until day 28, basically no words until day 9. First time writing fiction.
2015 - On track until days 6-15, a little behind and then caught after day 15.
2016 - Ahead days 4-7 and 12-15 behind days 8-11 and 19-24.
Advice to First Time NaNoWriMo Participants:
~ Spend some time planning or reading craft books. You can obviously do this any time of the year, but I usually try to cram this info into my brain in September and October.
~ Get your word count (1,667 words) every day if possible.
~ Get ahead and stay there. Whenever possible, write more than the daily goal and bank those words for the tough days when you get sick, the words aren’t flowing or you just are too tired to write.
Get to know your characters and their back story before November. You can write back story or character sketches before November if you like, but these words do not count toward word count goals in November.
~ Try not to schedule any appointments, dates, errands, etc. In November, instead opt for October or December instead.
~Go on the NaNoWriMo.org website and declare your novel, choose your home region, check the calendar for your region and go to as many local writing events as you can fit in. It has been our experience in the Indianapolis area that those who participate usually stick to the goal and do the work required to win. You get to know other writers this way and can help hold each other accountable and motivate each other to write.
~ Writing Sprints! Whether you are at home alone or in a group. Set a timer for a designated amount of time (try 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes) start the timer and focus only on writing as much as you can until the timer goes off. If in a group, compare word counts during the sprint, cheer the achievements. If alone track your word counts. Get to know what you are capable of writing in a given amount of time. Try to beat your own best score. When the timer goes off get up, go use the restroom if needed, grab a drink or snack, move around chat amongst yourselves if in a group, read your favorite lines from that sprint if you like. Give yourself a 5 or 10 minute break then do another sprint. Before you know it you will have written your daily goal.
New things I tried this year and really liked:
~ #1k30min Set the timer for 30 minutes and try to write 1,000 words. You have to write so fast, the inner editor doesn’t stand a chance!
~ When I can’t go to a live write-in near me, I find a virtual one on YouTube. There are some on the NaNoWriMo channel, @NaNoWordSprints or #NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, the WordNerds (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSKHG1eUF7vnL1kieYiVasA) have virtual write-ins every Sunday evening during their live chat so check their channel, also Tamara Woods has some on her channel, PenPaperPad (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCUt-YGmeMSHZfXQQe4XF0g) also has some, I really enjoyed writing with her, probably because she isn’t a giggly high school or college girl. There are most likely many others too. Search on YouTube for “Virtual Write In” or “NaNoWriMo Virtual Write in” and give some a try.
After watching the WordNerds YouTube videos and live streams for a couple of years, I find myself wondering if I can find a group of writers willing to give Google Hangouts a try and doing our own virtual write ins. This would be great for when one of our local members relocates to a different state or when the weather is bad and prevents you from going to a live write-in isn’t an option. What do you think? I have also wondered about doing a crafting club this way where everyone knits or crochets on camera.
Today I am writing from a king bed room inside the Baymont Inn & Suites in Alsip, Illinois. We stayed the night last night. We got a good rate and didn’t have to pay for parking and they had a free shuttle hubby could take to Midway Airport so he could catch the train into downtown Chicago. When we got here, it was obvious they were remodeling and had already finished the lobby areas. We got up to our room on the third floor with all our luggage. It took about ten tries between the two key cards we were issued before we were able to get into our room. No problem we will let them know as we leave for dinner. We told the nice lady at the front desk and she made us two new key cards, no problem. The new keys had the same problem but we were able to get in after a few tries again finally after dinner.
We had settled into our room and realized that while the room looks very pretty, fresh and clean, the chairs are not at all comfortable to sit in. The “easy” chair had a nice chunky footstool and the cool little table perfect for a laptop computer tucked under the footstool. I thought it would be great. At first I sat down and it was ok, but quickly realized the table wasn’t able to get near enough to the chair to actually use for a laptop until I lifted the right front leg of the chair and slip the corner of the table base under it. That seemed to solve the problem well enough. The foot stool was quite functional and might have actually been the more comfortable seating option. Hubby complained about the desk chair but I didn’t get a chance to use it until today and when I sat down it leaned back right away. I finally found the lever that keeps it from leaning back and it is now tolerable. It is not however cushioned in any way, not is it particularly comfortable to lean back against the back of it. It is functional and at least the correct approximate height needed for the desk provided.
When I finally gave up and went to bed last night, I realized quickly that this bed is NOTHING like the sleep number bed we have at home. This bed is hard as a rock and not at all comfortable. I know given the bed we finally splurged on at home, this will an issue when we stay the night away from home. But come on, this is not Bedrock and I am not Wilma Flintstone. I, at least, have some padding on my bones. Not that it helped.
Hubby took the first shower so he could grab breakfast and catch his train into downtown. He said the water pressure was lacking and he never complains about things like that. The room we are in is obviously one of the newly remodeled ones. Everything looks spiffy and clean. The shower is brand new. The shower head looks fine. The water does not come out of it straight ahead like you might expect, but barely makes it out at all before heading straight for the shower floor. The pressure is so weak, I doubt you would even need to close the slide shower door. The water never gets close to that far away from the shower head. If this were a tub/shower we would at least have the option of washing our hair while bent over the side, but the water only comes out of the shower head and even at the full-on position the water was very weak indeed. Usually we have this trouble in cabins in state parks where they just need to replace the limed up shower heads or clean them in vinegar for a while. This was a brand new shower head. It didn’t even have more than one setting, which is normally my way of dealing with lack of water pressure. There is usually one setting that puts out more water than then rest. Nope. This hotel remodel was done with simplicity in mind. The choice you have is to stay or go.
I don’t blame the hotel staff for this, they didn’t pick the beds, chairs and shower heads. They probably have never even been allowed to test them, so they don’t know. Does one complain about this sort of thing? Would it do any good? I mean they just spent all this money on remodeling and I doubt they would pull the chairs and replace them with something more comfortable. The shower head might be fine with tons of water pressure behind it. No, I blame the designers who decided this was a good chair design. The interior decorators who planned what to buy for these hotel rooms, the hotel chain who gave them their budget constraints or OKed the purchase of these uncomfortable beds and chairs in the first place are also to blame. Maybe we should even blame the plumbers who installed the shower heads, just because water comes out doesn’t mean it works right. If they were trying to be green and save water, they could have used less to flush the toilets.
OK, so enough about who is to blame. We came, we saw and we gave them a try. Will we stay here again? Not if I can help it.
The staff was very nice, the breakfast was adequate, but lousy showers and hard uncomfortable beds are too much to overlook. I have a choice, and would not choose to stay in this particular Baymont Inn & Suites again. I would still give others a try, but not this one. I give them 2 stars out of 5 for reasonable rates, friendly staff and cleanliness. Beautiful, but not user friendly or functional in my opinion. (991 words)
I get my characters from real life. Sometimes they are loosely based on an actual person I have met and admired. Most of the time my characters are a compilation of characteristics of many different people I have come across in my life. I may take the looks from one person and add in the personality of another person with the odd quirks from someone completely different from either of the two people the character is based on. Sometimes my characters are based more on ideal people than actual people. I imagine a person I would like to meet and how that person would behave in a given situation.
I had the idea for the Crafty Ladies Club and wanted them to all be in the 45 to 70 year old age range. I wanted them to all have different crafting specialties, so I began making a list of the various types of crafting they might be good at. At first, they were listed as Crafty Lady #1, Crafty Lady #2 and so on. Then, I wasn’t sure how to make them realistic. I remembered a co-worker who was creepy accurate with describing a person he had just met based on learning their zodiac sign. He had apparently made a study of how various zodiac signs interacted with each other and how they behaved. I witnessed him telling a woman she likely had a shoe collection that would make Imelda Marcos jealous. He told her that she behaved like this or that and her eyes got as round as saucers and she was shocked how accurate his guesses about her were. He went on to tell her that she likely had a good friend who was a particular zodiac sign and that she had trouble getting along with another zodiac sign. She thought he was psychic or something. So, remembering that, I decided that I had come up with twelve character that I needed to know more about, so I assigned the twelve zodiac signs to them to make sure I had variety in my characters. I studied a sheet listing the signs and a few characteristics about each one and decided which craft or job a person with that zodiac sign would be best suited to. Some were very easy to match up and others were harder, but I really liked having a little guide to help me create each character and decide how he or she would act.
I have heard of authors who use the personality types for their characters. There are numerous websites and tests you can take either as yourself or as one of your characters. One site to help explain the sixteen personality types is https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types. It can help you to get to know your characters better by answering the questions on the test as though you were that character. I have taken the test a few times at different times, but have never used it to help me with story writing or character development.
Now, I have no idea if this is an original idea I came up with or not. I’m not sure if it was a good or bad idea but it was a place to start and at the time I really had no idea how to do it any differently or better. My characters went through most of the first draft of the first book in the series with names like The Sheriff, Deputy One, Female Deputy, Store Keeper and that sort of name. They were place holders. One time, my main character’s late husband went through most of the book being called Hubby and with me having no idea what sort of job he had, but knowing it needed to be a decent office type job that paid well enough for his wife not to have to work. I think I was so afraid of picking the wrong name and occupation for him that I just kept putting it off and thinking about it.
I don’t really create character profiles, but I do try to carefully record in a character sheet each detail about that person as I write it into the story to keep myself from having trouble remembering what I have written about them later.
When I come across a person that I think would make a good character, I try to write what ever I know about them on an index card or scrap of paper so I can add it to a character list I have in a document in my computer. One time I was perusing the forums on the NaNoWriMo.org website and found a place where NaNos could offer themselves up as characters for others to use in their writing. They would give as many details as they felt were needed and that they felt comfortable putting out there for the world. I found several that I thought I could use, so I copied the details down for later use. Most of these people just wanted to be told if they were used as the basis of a character and be given the chance to read all about their fictionalized selves if they were used. This was extremely interesting because many of the “characters” had details listed that I wouldn’t have thought of or have put together in the same person.
So, what about you? Are you a character? Would you want someone to fictionalize you? Where do you get the characters for your writing from? Do you write about the real people in your life, your family members or maybe the strangers you see at the mall? I have been known to sit in crowded public places watching the people and trying to imagine what they do for a living, what their relationship to the person they are with is or what sorts of trouble they have seen in their lives. Sometimes I wish I had the nerve to take photos of them so I could describe them better later on . Have you ever looked at the photos at peopleofwalmart.com? I have often wondered how those photos get taken without someone getting suspicious or angry about their privacy being invaded. Heck for all I know the photographer (and I use that term very loosely) walked up to the person and asked if they would mind having their picture taken. From what I have seen there, that scenario is entirely possible. I’ve thought of using some of those photos as inspiration for characters, but then talk myself out of it because they would never be believable characters. But then again, they are already real people, so I supposed there is no reason they wouldn’t make believable characters. Maybe I am just not imaginative enough to create the right setting and story for them to appear in. (1,138 words)
No matter what task you plan to do, you must first gather the necessary tools to get the job done. Some would say all a writer needs is pen and paper, but I would have to disagree. I almost never write with pen and paper unless making a grocery list. Since I don’t really count grocery lists as writing, perhaps I should tell you about my writer’s toolbox and what tools I consider necessary to get the job done.
The most important tool for me is my computer. I currently use a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 as my portable computer. I chose it for the portability of it and the fact that is was not merely a tablet (though it can function as one). It is a full-fledged computer capable of running any computer software that I could run on a Windows desktop computer. It is very portable, and much lighter than any laptop I have used in the past. The battery life is so much better than any laptop anyone I know is using. While they must plug in to use their laptops for more than a few minutes, I can watch an entire movie without plugging in or write for hours. I rarely have to carry a cord with me unless I am traveling or going to a write-in for more than four hours, and even then I usually just put the cords in a zip-top bag and leave it in the car as a backup. It has a detachable keyboard that closes to protect it and thus acts as a cover. Oh, and my favorite thing about the keyboard, besides the fact that it comes in purple, is that the keyboard can be back-lit so I can type in the backseat of a darkened car or in a dimly lit bar. One less excuse not to write, right? Anyway, it took me a while to choose this laptop/tablet, but I am still happy with my choice even three years later. If it died tomorrow, I would replace it with whatever the latest version of the Surface Pro was at that time.
After the computer, my next most important and useful tool would have to be Scrivener. Scrivener is the most amazing writing software ever in my humble opinion. It helps me to stay focused and organized. You can learn all about it at https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php and if you want to try it before you buy it for $40 (for the Windows version) they have a free 30 days of use trial. That is not 30 days in a row, but thirty days of actually opening the software. I will be the first to admit that Scrivener can be a tad daunting to get familiar with, but there are tons of helpful tutorials on YouTube to help you learn the tips and tricks. My favorite tutorials are those by The Scrivener Coach, Joseph Michael. Scrivener can help you outline, research, write and publish. It can do so much more than I know how to do with it. I learn new ways to use it all the time.
I also find that using bluetooth headphones for writing while out in public to be essential. Gotta love the no cords thing and they can connect with either my phone or my computer. I actually have two pairs one that is a tiny set of earbuds and another that is much larger (less portable) but does a better job of blocking out the noise around me while listening to music.
Another important tool for me is music. I keep a decent selection on my phone and have a playlist without words for writing, because sometimes hearing words while I am writing is distracting. It is amazing how the speed of the music helps me write faster. One of the best songs to help get me to write fast is Dueling Banjos, because when the tempo picks up, I write faster, and this song keeps getting faster and faster. There is a huge variety of songs in my writing playlist and the only rule is, no words in that list
Another tool in my Writer’s Toolbox is other writers. I have joined several groups that meet with varying frequency and purposes. One group gets together weekly to write. We have writing sprints where everyone is quiet and focused on writing for a set amount of time and then in between sprints we catch up on life events, talk about our novels and what we are struggling with, ideas for new projects and any difficulties we are having with our current work in progress. They are a fun group and sometimes that meeting time is the only writing I get done during the week.
I also need a Word Count Tracker of some sort because I am nerdy like that and need to see that I have made progress. I created a really cool one in Excel 5that is open on my computer almost all the time. I also share one that someone else created on Google Docs where we can check in and see how each member of the group is doing. The important thing about any word count tracker is remembering to actually use it.
I also include various writing craft books in my tool box. I don’t usually buy them, but rather check them out of the library and read the parts that pertain to whatever issue is causing me trouble at that time. I do have a few I have bought on my Nook and Kindle accounts, but I find that while I love to read fiction books in electronic format, I find that non-fiction books I prefer to read in the paper form.
While I don’t always carry my entire tool box around with me, I need all of my tools to write. Please let me know what you favorite writing craft books are. I would also love to know what is in YOUR writer’s tool box. (1,006 words)
I woke up early this morning after having gotten only a few hours of sleep. I was too tired to get up, but for a few minutes ideas were flying around in my brain about writing. This doesn’t really happen to me, so I was tempted to get up and write it down lest I forget by the time I had slept enough that my body decided to get up for the day. I asked God to help me remember what I had come up with later and to let me get back to sleep now. I knew if I got up I would not be productive. I would wander through the day in a sleep-deprived zombie-like state. I was able to go back to sleep and once I had gotten more than the eight hours of sleep I wanted to get, I woke up ready to face the day. I was calm because I remembered what I had been thinking during the wee hours of the morning and was rested enough to think clearly about it. Thank God!
I know, now you are waiting to hear what ideas were flying around in my brain. A while back, I had been stressing out about the upcoming November challenge called NaNoWriMo (http://nanowrimo.org/). I even wrote a blog post about it. I wanted to participate fully again this November because I really love the energy and support I get writing with the NaNo Indy Group every November. It is unlike any other time of the year for me as a writer. The challenge, the deadline, the meetups and write-ins all help to keep me going even when I think I can’t do it, that my ideas stink worse than garbage and that I really have no idea what I am doing with this whole writing thing. I mean ideally, I would love to be able to support myself by writing. Even more ideally as an inspirational fiction novelist. I know several authors who have written and published numerous books, both traditionally and the self-published route, but they are all quick to let you know they are not doing it for the money and you should hang on to your day job.
Anyway, I wanted to write another 50,000 words this November on a fiction novel, but didn’t see how I could do it because I have started no less than five novels since November 2013 and none of them is what I would consider finished or ready for anyone to read even as a rough first draft. How could I start yet another novel? Last Saturday I took a class at the Indiana Writers Center (http://www.indianawriters.org/) called “It’s A Mystery -- A four hour intensive mystery writing workshop” taught by local author Larry D. Sweazy (http://www.larrydsweazy.com/). I took another class a couple of years ago about writing Mystery from another local author, Tony Perona (http://tonyperona.com/). I chose mystery as my sub-genre on my first fiction novel attempt written during the November 2014 NaNoWriMo. I wanted to get it right but really had no idea how to plan and write fiction back then. So I pants’d it. Thinking back to what I remember of the novel I wrote, I know there is some good stuff there, but I did so many things wrong too. So my big moment of inspiration had to do with using the premise for that original novel and the knowledge I have gained from the classes I have taken over the last three years to start from scratch on that novel. I am considering a second draft, but this time, I am planning things out ahead of time. I’m not editing the original manuscript or adding to it, I am starting over. I now have a plan. I signed up for the class “Planning for National Novel Writing Month, You Can Do It: 30 days, 50,000 words, 1 novel” taught by a wonderful teacher/author/friend, Cameron Steiman, in early October. Cam is part of our Thursday Nights Writing Group. She usually helps inspire us to actually get lots of words written and stay on task. I know I can do this. I have more knowledge this time and more support. I CAN do this. I have a plan. I already know the characters. God is there to lean on and to get me through it. I have time to get myself together and make a decent outline for the novel this second draft. Yep, I got this! I am excited for November now, no more panic and confusion. Thank You, God! (773 words)
They say there is only one good way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time. This is a great way to do most everything in life. Do a little bit toward the goal, then do a little more. If you keep doing this, eventually, all that forward momentum will pay off and the dreaded task will be done.
Building a book works the same way. You write a scene, then another scene, and eventually you have a whole book full of scenes. Hopefully they are in order and you can connect them together without much trouble. I started a challenge in March 2015 to write 500 words-a-day (http://goinswriter.com/my500words). When I actually did it, it was awesome. I had so much enthusiasm going into the month, I even wrote a blog post about it the last day before the month started and posted it as a way of committing to the challenge for the whole world to see. Then a few days in, I found some reason to skip a day. I then felt like I needed to write 2 days worth the next day. One day, I was inspired and wrote over 2,000 words on one piece. I was so happy, but then the next day I used my over-achievement to justify coasting without writing. Once I messed up my streak, it got harder and harder to talk myself into meeting my 500 words-a-day goal. I convinced myself it was still ok, because I was still way above goal for the month so far.
If you want to read some of what I wrote, and see the variety of subjects I chose, click on the archives of this blog for February and March 2015 I gained a total of 8 days of writing out of that challenge, so technically I failed miserably. I gave up even pretending to do the challenge after the eleventh of March, but you know what? I wrote and posted on my blog 8,135 words in 8 days of writing, 12 calendar days total (February 28th to March 11th). In my writing history, that is a win, especially if you consider that back then, I was really a November-only writer, trying desperately to turn myself into a year-round writer. Am I a year-round writer yet? Well, not exactly, but more so that I ever have been before. In case you find yourself wondering why November, go visit http://nanowrimo.org/. I had felt like I was suppose to write a book for a year or more before I found this website in the wee hours of November 1, 2013 and I felt like this was God’s way of telling me to stop thinking, dreaming, planning and talking about writing a book, and get busy doing something about that feeling that just wasn’t going away.
I’m still not perfect, but I continue to try to improve both my writing skills, my consistency and my word count totals. This year has been my best effort yet to write consistently, even if it is only once a week, I try to keep writing.
This post was spurred by the photo below of the Eiffel Tower in various stages of construction. It sparked the idea that all great things take time and consistent effort to finish. This includes writing a book. Do you have a goal on your bucket list that you could work on a little at a time? What are you waiting for? Don’t tell me you don’t have time, I don’t believe you! I’m calling your bluff. You found the time to read this, so you can find 15 minutes a day to work on some goal and stop using the lack of time as justification for not getting around to that goal. If you need more help with putting 15 minutes to work for you, go see The Fly Lady at http://flylady.net/. Use a reward system and make big stars on your calendar with a bright colored marker when you do your 15 minutes each day. It may sound like elementary school, but it really works. You see the pattern and you don’t want to mess it up by being a slacker for a day. I’m thinking that as a warm up to writing everyday in November again, perhaps I should try the 500 words-a-day challenge again. Leave a comment or email me if you think I should do it and you are willing to join me. For me, writing is really a group sport and I do better if I have someone else to hold me accountable. (781 words)
This is August already. Oh My! November will be here before we know it and I have n o idea what I should do for my NaNo project. I feel like I should tackle the whole writing 50,000 words on a new fiction novel thing as is the intended thing for NaNo. But, I have currently got no less than five previously started novels that are as yet unfinished. Quite honestly, I can’t say I am particularly jazzed about finishing any of them right now. I plan to finish all of them eventually, but probably not until I figure out whether I have written workable plots and where they need help. I just don’t feel like I am ready to tackle the editing of any of these projects yet.
I know I shouldn’t start yet an other novel until I finish some of the ones I have started but I know I don’t have time between now and November to do any of them justice. Three of them have between fifty and sixty thousand words written on them and the fourth has just over thirty thousand words written. The fifth book is a different animal altogether. It is a non-fiction book that may be mostly finished it is about sixty pages and have right at ten thousand words. I kind of want to spend August and September working on polishing this book and getting it self-published either on Amazon or on a website of my own in PDF format. Doing that would require a lot of research of the pros and cons of self-publishing with Amazon. I should probably admit here and now that while I really, really want to be published and have confidence in the need for a book like mine, I am also terrified that I will do thye publishing thing wrong somehow and mess up my chances of actually successfully launching my first book. I wish I had someone I could trust and then get to lead me by the hand through the entire process and have confidence because of their previous success and experience that it would all go smoothly and turn out exceedingly well. Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone like that who I would feel comfortable asking to help me publish the book.
So, that is where I am as an author. I DO consider myself an author even though I have yet to finish a book or be published. I would love to figure out a way to make a living on my writing. That is my goal, my dream, my torment. I may present myself as a confident person, but inside I am a small child cringing in fear that I will do something wrong and disappoint someone important in my life. I know this is not realistic or founded and I don’t even know who it is I think I would disappoint. Maybe I am afraid of disappointing myself. Maybe I am scare that if I fail everyone will know and laugh at me and then I won’t want to try writing anything again because if I fail, no one will take me seriously as a writer. If I never try to publish anything I have written, I need never experience rejection, there will always be hope of being published…someday.
Another part of me says I should just go for it. What do I really have to lose by trying? Should I use my real name, or assume a pen name? If I succeed, of course, I would want to have used my real name so everyone would know it was me. If I fail, I would rather it be a pen name so I could have a do-over without ruining my real name as a writer. There are so many decisions to be made when you are a writer.
So I am listening to music while I write this and the song Day One by Matthew West just came on and I am wondering if that is Divine intervention telling me I should just do it already. I feel like I am supposed to be writing a book, but have no idea what sort of book I am to write. I feel like I pray for guidance a lot but have yet to hear that “Still Small Voice” I have heard and read so much about. This causes me to question whether I am doing God Will with my life. Am I following God’s path or wandering down my own path selfishly? How is a writer to know?
So sorry, I seem to have gotten off track. I was talking about what to write for NaNoWriMo in November which is only about ten weeks away. I want to write another of the Crafty Ladies Series books, but have no idea which of the Crafty Ladies to feature in the next book. There are seven ladies in the group and so far I have attempted to write a mystery (Marni’s Story) and a romance (Lu Ann’s Story) so the question is not only whose story to tell next, but what genre it should be. Can you have two or more different genres in a series? Should I try to write in yet another genre in hopes of finding the one that clicks for me? The five books I have begun were, in order: memoir, mystery, romance, historical romance and non-fiction. Obviously, I am still trying to find myself as an author. I have no idea what genre to write or whether I should focus on one or just write what feels right? While I am at it, I question what sort of things I should be blogging about as an author, especially as an unpublished author.
I am getting better about writing throughout the year instead of only in November, so I am happy about that. I still don’t feel driving to write with any kind of regularity and often question what I should write when I do sit down to write. Most of my writing outside of November happens on Thursday nights when I join the ladies in the Thursday Nights Writing at Panera group at various Panera Bread Cafes around our fair city. Sometimes if it weren’t for meeting every week with this fabulous group of ladies I don’t think I would be half as far along the path as I am now. I actually participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in both April and July this year and have successfully met those goals as well as completing the November challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days three years in a row. This makes me feel sucessful even if I haven’t finished any of these books. I know I must keep writing, because I can see a lot of confidence and understanding that has come about as a result of these five “wins”. I KNOW I can do it again this November, I just have to figure out what book to write.
Please leave your comments and suggestions below. I would love to hear from you. If you have a favorite go-to book for story structure, outlining a novel, plotting, story arcs, character development, etc. Please let me know what they are in the comments. I need all the help I can get! (1,224 words)
Who knew having kids and raising them to adulthood would feel so rewarding? It seemed like it was hard during each stage we went through, but once it was over then we moved on to a new and different stage.
Before you know it the kids are growing up too fast and instead of celebrating all those “firsts”, you find yourself celebrating the “lasts”. You know, last day of kindergarten, last elementary school awards program, high school graduation, last time you will have to help one of your kids move into a dorm room, that sort of thing.
In five days, we will celebrate another last. Our youngest is graduating from college and moving home. Last time we will have to help pack and move a kid out of a dorm room, last graduation open house, last week of empty nesting for a while. Yes, I will miss the empty nesting. You feel a sense of pride as they reach monumental birthdays. You dread when you no longer have babies, toddlers, preschoolers, but instead you have teens, oh boy! I remember feeling like we had really done something worth while when both kids were officially adults, able to vote, drive cars, get tattoos! Yikes, not all of the rights of passage that come with being an adult seemed like good things. Then the oldest graduated from college and I was so proud. I realized he had done something nobody in either mine or his dad’s family had done since maybe his grandfather, and that was graduate with a four year degree in just four years. We had our share of college graduates in our family, but none had managed to get through in just four short years. Way to go! Then he got his first big-boy job as he called it and he wasn’t moving home. Not even to the city we lived in. But that was alright, he was only an hour up the road and he was doing well. Then when the baby turned twenty, I wanted to celebrate the fact that we had survived the teen years relatively intact. Once the baby turned twenty one, I suddenly had two grown children who not only could legally drink, but chose to do so. Wow! So not sure I am ready for this! The baby turned twenty two, was in her last year of college and it looked like she too would get the four year degree in the four year time frame. Excellent!
So I am bursting with pride yet again. Soon we will have not only two grown adult children, but two college graduates! Who knew when my husband and I struggled through getting our degrees while dating, getting married, having kids and working that we would set such good examples for our kids. They grew up knowing that they were expected to go to college, that we didn’t expect to be able to pay for it so they would need to get top notch grades so they could get scholarships. We were right, we are part of that middle class poor who earn too much for our kids to qualify for financial aid, but not enough to really be able to help them much. We did the College Choice 529 plan thing, but didn’t get started saving until the oldest was starting high school. We faithfully put away $170 a month for just over 10 years to be able to help each kids with ten thousand dollars toward their senior year of college. Do I wish it could have been more? Of course I do. I told the kids that we couldn’t help them until their senior year because first of all we needed more time to save up the money to be able to help them and second because we wanted to make sure they were serious about college and getting a degree. We all know kids who go away to college on their parents’ dime and party all the time until they flunk out. We didn’t want that to happen. They needed to keep their grades up and show up for classes. Their student loans are in their names, because they give out loans for kids to get an education, but not for parents to retire on. It scares me that even going to reasonable priced in-state schools, they are still graduating with over fifty thousand dollars of student loan debt hanging over their heads. That is more than we paid for our first house and almost as much as we sold it for fourteen years later. My husband never had student loans, and I had only five thousand dollars or so amassed during a couple of my last semesters in college. Of course we both took well over ten years to earn our four year degrees going the part-time, slow way and paying for it as we went. Those were the lean years of our marriage. Never much extra time or money, but maybe that wasn’t all bad. We raised our kids to respect money and to be thrifty. They grew up wearing second hand clothing of their choosing from the local Goodwill and thrift stores. They were fine with it and I didn’t stress out if they ruined a pair of jeans or a shirt now and then. They didn’t cost that much and we knew where we could find replacements fairly cheap. Perhaps because they had held jobs and grown up thrifty, they knew the value of the education and student loans they were getting. They didn’t squander them. Yet another reason to be proud of both of them.
One of the things that really pleased and surprised me as a parent was how smart our kids are and how good looking. Still not quite sure how that happened! I mean, you hope, pray and dream it will be that way, but you just figure you could never get that lucky. Well, we won the parenting lottery jackpot. We have two great kids who never caused us many sleepless nights, stayed out of trouble, got good grades, were pleasant to be around, are well liked by their peers and adults in general and who actually seem to like being around us. Well, most of the time anyway. Who could ask for more? I thank God and the fact that both my husband and I were raised by good parents who cared about us. Here’s to hoping you had as good a luck and experience raising your kids as we did raising ours. (1,094 words)