Archive for category Organization and Productivity

Making Writing a Priority & When Helping is Hurting

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The weird thing about the new paradigm of publishing is the Digital Age Author is a very different creature. She might be a single mom trying to squeeze in a couple hundred words before the kids wake up or a husband struggling to fit in a writing burst during a lunch break. It can be a dad striving to finish his book while still caring for his family. Maybe it’s a retired person balancing FINALLY pursuing that dream of writing…while caring for grandkids.

Which is to say that a lot of part and full-time writers are also caregivers. Many of us wrestle with guilt. I do. I love writing SO MUCH and it is SO FUN.  But if I write instead of finishing laundry I am “bad” :( .

I’ve learned a rather weird lesson lately and I believe it’s worth pondering. We talked about workaholics the other day. It is no great feat for us workhorses to take on MORE WORK. The true challenge is when we’re given the choice of a great opportunity and a nap and we are directed to take the NAP.

AAAAGHHHHH!!!!!

I am learning the same thing with givers. WANA is truly unique and I don’t say this because I started it (because frankly, I didn’t). WANA was actually birthed by people who took my classes. They were natural givers. The only “special” thing I did was spot this phenomena and then nurture it. WANAs are SO generous and kind and supportive and it is the greatest collection of amazing individuals one can find.

But lately I’m starting to see the dark side to giving. Every strength has a blind spot. Remember this when creating characters ;) .

And the easy blind spot for givers is that we overdo it and wear ourselves out. Yeah, I saw that too. But one that snuck by me is that giving is not always good. NOT GIVING can be the greater gift.

I grew up with a Scandinavian mom and Norway is the motherland of OCD. Work was what we did and we made it fun. But I recall being 4 and making my bed. Mom would praise me, then remake my bed so it didn’t have all the lumps and the bedspread was even. Later, when I was 8, I loaded the dishwasher. Mom would thank me…then rearrange the dishes to wash more efficiently. I’d organize a closet and she’d be THRILLED…then redo it. Finally, in 2009 I made a Christmas dinner and Mom tasted it, and then reasoned everything and I snapped.

Why must you redo everything I do? Why isn’t what I do ever good enough?

My mom was speechless (which she’s like me so that’s actually a HUGE deal). In her mind, she’d been “helping” me.

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I have family and friends who are in real rough spots these days, people I sacrificed A LOT to “help.” In retrospect, I should have left it alone. By helping, I didn’t allow them to fail and learn lessons when the lessons were far smaller and the consequences for failure far less painful. I also stole the possible victory they might have enjoyed if they’d accomplished “whatever” on their own.

I didn’t mean to. I was “helping.”

So what I’m challenging all of us to do is to look for ways to give by NOT GIVING. Write the book. Don’t “fix.” Don’t “do” beyond the writing. Once the words are down, have at it.

The other day, I sent Hubby to the store instead of doing it myself. Did he shop the way I would have shopped? No. I can make a penny scream. Hubby pays retail *twitches* But he did it and I kept my mouth shut when I SO wanted to tell him how he could have saved money by doing this or that or go to this store instead of that one and NEVER THAT one, they gouge!

I also asked Hubby to help Spawn with his martial arts in the evening so I can write. And this is excruciating because I taught martial arts for years. I need to mentally duct tape my mouth shut and not correct how Hubby’s teaching him and show a “better or easier way.”

Me doing everything is not a gift. It’s control. It can disempower others. It also steals the joy of contribution and the thrill of accomplishment.

When a friend has a problem, resist the urge to fix. Instead, say, “Wow, that’s a huge challenge, but I know you can figure this out. You can do it!”

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This morning, I let Spawn make his own PBJ sandwich instead of making the “perfect” sandwich served on an adorable clean plate with decorative garnish. I even said nothing when he piled on half a jar of jelly. I merely smiled and exclaimed, “Great job!” ….then walked away before I scraped most of the jelly lump back in the jar.

Writers crumble at building a brand or doing social media and writing. Why? We fail to see we have help. Outsource. Maybe see if there are ways that we can make our family part of our publishing team. Let the teenagers find the funny memes or videos to use on a blog. Let them be part of the success instead of shouldering everything alone. Let Hubby go check out book covers and see which ones catch his eye. Maybe let a family member do some research for you. Also, let them know that when they leave you to write, they are helping write the book. They are helping the creation process.

This is a lot to ask. Of you of me…and OH DEAR GOD SPAWN IS NOW MAKING A JELLY SANDWICH WITH NO PEANUT BUTTER! HOLD ON! ….*breathes* I’m cool. Still here.

What are your thoughts? Do you suffer from Compulsive Helping Disorder? Are you struggling to let others help YOU, to ask for help? GASP! Did you ever think your helping could be hurting? I didn’t until recently so it’s okay. We are all friends here and I have jelly in my curtains and I am OK with that.

****Please pray for me *head desk*

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Will announce July’s winner later this week.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE here’s my newest social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

I have a new class series GOING PRO—Craft, Business and Brand. Take one or all three for a discount. Also use WANA15 for $15 off. Each class discusses the CORE ESSENTIALS. What is the essence of great writing? What is the heart of a brand/social media? What are the basics of publishing when so many options are available?

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94 Comments

To Win We Must Lose—Sacrifice, Boundaries & Reaching Our Dreams

Image via "Fight Club"

Quote via “Fight Club”

This post is not a Plate of Cupcake Lessons. It’s a Bowl of Spinach and Kale Lessons. These lessons/habits are probably going to feel very un-fun for a while, but they’re essential for any kind of success. So many want to make success more palatable with sugar-coating and sprinkles. We live in a world of “effort-free, guilt-free, payment-plan options that require no work or pain on our part.”

And like P.T. Barnum once said, There’s a sucker born every minute. 

First, we need to define a few key ideas before we dig in.

What is Our Definition of Success?

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Before we can apply any “lessons” we have to accept a castor oil spoon of TRUTH. If we don’t make our own decision, we’ve still made a decision by abdicating making our own decision. If we don’t define success or happiness or what’s important, we leave a vacuum that other people and things will fill and they’ll be happy to define what our success should be.

A common result of abdication is we end up “living by default” which generates stress because it’s coming from a place of perceived powerlessness.

“Success” is all around us. We see it in magazines, television, on-line. We have more choices than any other time in human history (*cough* publishing). One of the reasons I hate going to Central Market is I can’t just buy SALT. There’s Himalayan Pink Salt, and Grey Celtic Salt, and Hawaiian Black Volcanic Salt, and White Truffle Oil Salt and…*head explodes*. While it IS a blessing to have a lot of choices (especially if one has as many food allergies as I do), all these options can put our brains in a knot.

On top of the plethora of choices, there’s another factor many of us might not appreciate. Due to the interconnectedness of our world, there is far more peer opinion about our choices. Peer pressure is at an all-time high.

The same factor that can be a positive force for selling books can be the same force that keeps us from finishing them, too ;) .

Back to success. What does it mean to YOU? What does it look like? In fact, in my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I spend an entire section having readers succinctly define what their success would be. Your vision of success is as unique as you are. Being specific in our goals is what’s going to make building a brand simple.

Remember Our Definition of Success Can Be Malleable and SHOULD Be

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Baby Spawn. Cutest priority EVER.

Life situations change. We go through seasons of growing and seasons of drought and seasons where it seems that life is trying to KILL US.

Before I was a wife and mom, being a NYTBSA was the epitome of success. That goal stayed paramount for a long time. Then Hubby had orders to deploy to Afghanistan and we would be without his income. Starting a small business took priority over being a NYTBSA. But, The Spawn was in nursery school six hours a day so this was doable.

Now that I’m homeschooling? I have to revisit “success” yet again. For me, there is NO SUCCESS that can take precedent over my mental, physical and emotional health. PEACE, for me, is paramount. If I cannot have peace, then everything will fall.

I’ve lost sight of this in the last 18 months, largely because of a lack of rest which will scramble discernment. When we aren’t rested, we’re reactionary. I’ve been trying to do what I did back before other responsibilities were on my plate. This is akin to trying to weed 1000 acres of an industrial farm using a garden hoe because, “Well, it worked fine in my backyard’s tomato garden.”

This is why it is so vital for all of us to clearly define success. Then we can more easily define priorities, which makes it simpler to discern when to say yes and when to say no. Also revisit those goals. They will evolve. And when life stacks more on top of us, we can give ourselves more grace because we’re viewing life from the appropriate lens.

I’m not a failure because I’m no longer writing 4000 words every day. Life is different. I’m no longer single and writing full-time. I’m a Mom with a high-energy child and a small business. And maybe I can still get in 1000-2000 words a day, but where am I willing to sacrifice?

Ah, sacrifice, that dirty word. Yep, despite what Madison Avenue says, we cannot have it all.

Choices

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I have a nice home, but many of the rooms still need to be painted and bear murals done by Baby Spawn. My furniture is old and my clothes are tattered and mostly from Walmart. I cook almost all our meals and “eating out” is usually a trip to In-N-Out Burger or maybe a pizza. It’s hard sometimes when I go to church in pregnancy pants under a nice top, when I’m surrounded by so many women who look like they fell out of a North Dallas boutique.

But, we have very little debt. Very little (and I am working on NO debt). We work hard to pay cash for everything or simply learn to do without. The only extra expenses we’ve been willing to take on cost far less than Spawn’s Pre-K tuition and they are only activities that will strengthen us as a family. Martial arts and the gym.

We have a neighborhood directly behind us. HUGE, GORGEOUS homes with unbelievable landscaping and back yards straight out of magazines. Deliveries from high-end furniture stores are the norm. It’s easy to feel the niggle of jealousy, but I have to remember…

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Funny thing is that often Pippa will wake me at three in the morning because she has to go outside to go pee. There are at least four homes behind us where it is extremely common to hear knock-down-drag-out fights until the wee hours of the morning, which saddens me greatly.

I have no idea what the fighting is all about, but I find it tragic that these families aren’t even enjoying a home most of us would love to have.

There Will Be Trade-Offs and Pain

One lesson I’m learning is to “count the cost.” Yes, I can press on and become the biggest NYTBSA EVER, but if I do this at the expense of my relationships, health and peace? Is it worth it? To me? No. My child living in a peaceful home with love and play and joy is a bigger priority. To warn you, this is NOT easy. I love to write. I could stay at a computer for hours, but now I have to work on being more fruitful with less time.

This morning, I told Spawn to let me get my work finished by X time and then I would take him to the pool. I hold to my word even when it hurts. But the pain of not finishing a chapter is less than the pain of Spawn being neglected.

There Will Be Push-Back

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Boundaries are really tough these days. We’ve been trained to be people-pleasers. Standing up for ourselves is “being mean.” I’ve learned the hard way to just put down boundaries early. There is no winning with toxic people, so save the energy.

Cases in Point…

I remember being in a writing group many years ago and no one was attending. I believed that by being president I could change things and make the group stronger. It was a nightmare. I had entire folders of hate mail. Never once in e-mail or person did I respond emotionally or even hatefully to the constant attacks. I simply set boundaries. I had people in meetings scream some of the most cruel and vicious things about me and to me, and I never responded in kind. I think once I cried and left the room (and resigned soon after).

But, when I no longer wanted to be president because the constant mental abuse was too much? I was “mean” for quitting. When I didn’t want to keep driving 90 minutes both ways every single Saturday for 95% of the group to no-show? I was mean.

I had the same thing happen in a community service group where (again) I was made president. *rolls eyes* Yay.

Though our membership had dropped so low we almost lost our charter, I received nothing but venomous e-mails calling me everything but Kristen. Often they attacked me in person and in front of guests and speakers. And while it seems I was a glutton for punishment (and perhaps I was), I’m grateful for those experiences.

These tough times honed my ability to remain professional when I was crumbling inside. To maintain peace. To stick to something even when it was extremely uncomfortable until my term was up.

As the saying goes, A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.

Anyone can quit when things aren’t fun. Pros keep their word. If I signed up for a year, then a year was how long I would remain. On the other side of that coin? If things don’t change, let go. If the horse is dead? Dismount.

Most importantly, these experiences helped me hone discernment. Just because someone asks us to be in charge, doesn’t mean we should say “yes.”

Most People Want it ALL and DO NOT WANT Change or Sacrifice

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

If we accept this reality, relationships and boundaries become simpler. Reality dictates we can’t have or do everything, but plenty of people will be there to tell us we can.

When it came to the civic group, our membership numbers had dropped off a cliff because we’d been meeting in a hospital conference room for roughly ten years. Originally, the room was easy to access until a major hospital remodel.

Then guests needed a team of sherpas and a GPS to find the room. Membership plummeted from about 45 to around 12. If I suggested moving? I was a jerk. If I made ways we could stay? I was a jerk.

If I said no to 20 different projects we’d once done and tried to pare it down to 5? I was a jerk and a dictator. No one wanted to give up doing what had once been done with 45 members and accept we only had 12. We could do A LOT of things poorly or a few things well. Again, I spent another year filling my folder with hate mail and eventually left an organization I once loved dearly….and was a jerk for leaving.

Why was I a “jerk” in these groups? No one wanted boundaries. They didn’t want trade-offs.

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They couldn’t understand that if they wanted the writing group to continue, we needed people to attend. If they wanted this civic organization to regain members, we had to move. 

Toxic People Use Guilt

When we decide to become writers, we must 1) define success 2) set priorities, then 3) enforce boundaries. All three of these work together. If one falls the others do too. While most humans shy away from change and sacrifice, toxic people do this to extremes. This said, when you decide to make writing your main work priority, you will get grief when you set a boundary. Stand your ground and feel good about your choice. You aren’t being mean, you are being a professional.

If your critics eventually understand and respect your decision, they’re worth having in your sphere. If they’re bitter and hateful and still resent you five years later? Dead weight. Be happy that setting that boundary early culled them out before they could do more damage.

You matter. Your dreams matter. Your peace matters.

And notice I used the word simple through this post, not easy. Simple is NOT easy.  It can, however, become easier with practice.

What are your thoughts?

Do you find yourself chasing your own butt only to realize you haven’t rested? That maybe you need to take some time to redefine priorities? Are you struggling with learning to set boundaries? Are you learning to say “NO”? Are you struggling with feeling guilty that you can’t be and do everything? Have you been through some tough and toxic times where you learned to let go sooner?

Is it tough to not be jealous when you see others who look like they have it all?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Will announce July’s winner later this week.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE here’s my newest social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

I have a new class series GOING PRO—Craft, Business and Brand. Take one or all three for a discount. Also use WANA15 for $15 off. Each class discusses the CORE ESSENTIALS. What is the essence of great writing? What is the heart of a brand/social media? What are the basics of publishing when so many options are available?

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43 Comments

Reduce Stress, Increase Joy & Productivity—Why Is Simple So HARD?

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

Funny how we get the same lessons in life over and over and…over. Maybe not you guys. Maybe y’all are sharper than me. But the thing I keep returning to is “essentialism.” Boil everything down to the basics. Focus on one or even a few key areas with all you have. THAT is the key to success.

So why is simple so hard?

Last week, I blogged about what writing and Brazilian Jui-Jitsu had in common. Much of any martial art is mastery and focus on the BASICS.

Which is why I am no longer LOSING EVERY round. I’m even winning a few *happy dance*.

But I know my life goes through these crazy times. You’ve been there.

The Transition

It happened when I went from being single to married. I am a tad…ok, more than a tad OCD. I once moved and the movers called me, “The House that Rubbermaid Made.” Everything was organized and labeled and it took less than five hours for them to move me and less than four hours for me to completely unpack.

***Note: This phenomena hasn’t happened since *whimpers*.

Why? After that move it was no longer only ME.

I had to adjust to being a writer living with my mom who keeps EVERYTHING, then a wife of a man who is adorable but KEEPS EVERYTHING. Then I became a mom of a newborn and then a toddler, and now that he’s a preschooler? Yeah, I’m happy if I can keep the floors virtually hazard-free and my house not smelling like a crime scene.

But am I happy?

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

The Trouble with “Happy”

Am I happy?

I’ve had to ask that A LOT lately. In the end, happiness (in my opinion) should never be our goal. Why? Well, because the word is tethered to “happenstance.” It’s too wonky. Rather, I choose to do what is right knowing it will eventually produce joy which has a much longer shelf life. Am I happy being up at 3:30 in the morning because the cat coughed up a hairball on me in the middle of some weird dream about The Golden Girls and a money-laundering scandal?

No idea. That was a weird-@$$ dream and good reason not to eat too close to bedtime. BUT, I do know that I’m up for some reason…even if it is to make you feel totally sorry for me :P

Happiness and Joy

I am a NAZI when it comes to language. Seriously. Since we have lost SO many family members in two years, I finally went to a grief counseling group at our church and while it IS awesome and I have made a lot of progress (like finally CRYING) I nitpick about the Scripture. And not to be preachy here, but if you aren’t a Christian, just work with me and roll with it.

We use a lot of the Beatitudes. The translation they use in the group makes me nutso. It isn’t, “HAPPY are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Happy? That makes NO sense to me. I prefer other translations that are closer to the original text, which tell me, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

I am NOT going to feel “happy” mourning. It’s awful losing people you love. But, if I learn to cry, let go, remember the good stuff and latch onto the gifts that those people’s lives gave me? I am definitely BLESSED.

Many times we are blessed yet miserable. 

I can think of a lot of super tough times that made me howl to the heavens, WHY ME? Looking back? Those were the times I grew the most. Though I was NOT happy, I needed the lesson. I needed the growth. I needed to let go of baggage, people, situations that I didn’t realize (at the time) were toxic.

I needed to realize my purpose wasn’t selling industrial paper.

Like, seriously.

Actual image of Kristen's Guardian Angel

Actual image of Kristen’s Guardian Angel

So, I do think semantics are key. We live in a world where everything is supposed to make us HAPPY. Well, kiddos, I hate to say it but most of the stuff that is good for us in the end will NOT make us happy. “Happy” is fleeting, joy is far deeper.

Letting Go

I like to believe I am an Essentialist at heart. I lose sight sometimes. We all do. Don’t believe me? Look in your closet O_o. But life isn’t static. We are slaves to entropy. We are changing and growing and shifting and we are wise to stay on top of what is going on. I cannot DO things the same as a Mommy-Writer with an infant who slept most of the day as NOW when I’m homeschooling a zombie-obsessed preschooler who abducts Cheerios in the wee hours and sprinkles them in my couch.

The goal is to always focus on what is essential. DO NOT COMPROMISE. And you will, but you can regroup. Breathe.

WANA has always been essentialist in nature. What is the point of social media? When we realize the core point, it’s clearer that we don’t have to rely on gimmick, automation or camp on top of “our brand.” The CORE of all social media is simply to create relationships. Takes away a LOT of pressure.

The weird paradox is that the more we let go, the more we can hold. We live in a world that tells us we can have it all. We can’t. Not really. There HAS to be a trade-off if we hope to do anything well (and remain sane).

For instance, I can have an immaculate home or a happy child. My son won’t remember that the house was dust-free in his childhood. He WILL remember playing at the pool with Mommy, or wrestling and playing “Attack of the MOMBIE.” He will remember the times at the park. He will remember Mommy suiting up with him in a gi to go learn martial arts.

The dishes? Eh, not so much. And if he does and this scars him? Well, shrinks need to eat too.

He can talk to his therapist...

He can talk to his therapist…

Choose Wisely

Okay, if you are anything like me you will likely goof this up and need retraining. Why? Because in our New-And-Improved-World, EVERYTHING is important. So give yourself some grace if you get it wrong the first couple tries. With all the options flying at us telling us we can HAVE IT ALL, we might struggle with discernment. That’s OKAY. Remember, life is not static. Just change direction. Make a different decision.

Go AROUND the leaf….

But, if we can look to the CORE of life, what is it? Health, Wealth, Relationships (not in any necessary order), priorities become clearer. As a fun fact, the word priority came from the Latin word a priori which was SINGULAR. It wasn’t until close to the Industrial Revolution that the word was ever pluralized into priorities. What this means to me it that most companies have their collective heads up their butts I need to work on discernment.

What is WANA’s priority? Empowering Writers of the Digital Age. Simple. We have classes, conferences, our own social network and all the tools to do ONE thing…empower. We give low-cost and digitally accessible classes and conferences, then we provide social media outlets so anything we can do can be magnified. Anything that does not align with Empowering Writers of the Digital Age? Not even a consideration.

Not that everything’s been seamless, but it’s sure been simpler.

With my life? Which things are priority? I can make a list—oh, can I make LISTS—but I’m better off focusing everything into a singular CORE a priori.

What is my GOAL as a mother and wife? As a writer? As a teacher?

Believe it or not, it’s all the same. Empowering. I can’t do Hubby’s job for him, but I can make our home a place of respite and peace that empowers him to do the best job he can each day. I can’t force Spawn to learn any faster than he does, but I can empower him to learn the best way for him.

Sigh, yes, even if it involves…zombies.

The Spawn LOVES "Mommy School"

The Spawn LOVES “Mommy School”

I can’t write your books for you or do your social media, but I can teach you all the craft and publishing stuff that tied my brain in knots for years. I can empower you to write faster, cleaner and better and also have a social media brand without going crazy. I can empower you to make the best decisions for your personality and book(s).

Something To Take Away

I am a Work In Progress. We all are. WE ARE NOT ALONE. We have to battle this entropy thing until we die, so what are some tips to keep life simpler? I’ll give a few and maybe we’ll expound later.

No Meddling!!!!

We all have family and friends who seem to collect disaster faster than black pants gather cat fur. BE UNAVAILABLE. I can’t even measure the time I’ve wasted trying to solve other people’s problems when they weren’t interested in solving it themselves. You know who I’m talking about. The people who cry and wail and want advice…and then do what they were going to do anyway and then it BLOWS UP and they need help?

No. JUST SAY NO. Back away. This is just never going to end well.

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When we meddle, we are NOT HELPING. We’re stealing this person’s power. We are stealing the lesson failure provides as well as the feeling of victory they will have by solving their own problems.

And, because most of us stink at priorities and think everything is an emergency, it is likely those around you do as well. So while they’re screaming FIRE!

…it isn’t.

Put down the firehouse and back away.

Take a Day Off

Sunday is my day of rest. Period. I’ve actually only fired a couple of people, but one? She couldn’t follow instructions. Every Sunday she was e-mailing and calling and wanting to talk business despite many times being told DO NOT CONTACT ON SUNDAY. Everything was a priority!

Failure to prepare on your part, does not constitute an emergency on mine.

Rest is WORK

In fact, rest is the hardest work we will ever do because we live in a world that frowns upon it. We’re supposed to be doing a zillion things all at once 24/7 and be available all hours all days. And then others wonder why quality suffers.

We have no problems putting gas in our car, plugging in our phones or laptops into a power outlet. Why are we last on the list? We need JUICE, TOO. Recharge and stop running on 3% battery.

Just so y’all know, I have one finger pointed at you and the rest pointed at ME. Lately, I’m learning to say no, turning off phone, doing more yoga and taking more power naps. I NEED for my brain to just chillax.

What are your thoughts? Do you struggle and have too many “PRIORITIES”? Do you lose your focus? Do you struggle with energy vampires who always have some new drama? Are you learning to put down boundaries with yourself and others? Do you feel guilty resting, taking a nap or even—GASP—A VACATION! YOU SLOTH! Have you gotten better at making you and your WRITING a priority? THE PRIORITY? What tips or tools could you share?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE here’s my newest social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

I have a new class series GOING PRO—Craft, Business and Brand. Take one or all three for a discount. Also use WANA15 for $15 off. Each class discusses the CORE ESSENTIALS. What is the essence of great writing? What is the heart of a brand/social media? What are the basics of publishing when so many options are available?

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56 Comments

Zombie School, OCD & How To Keep Modern Life from KILLING Us

The Spawn LOVES "Mommy School"

The Spawn LOVES “Mommy School”

Back in 2013 I wrote a post detailing The Parable of the King Who Forgot to Pay the Internet Bill and All The Kingdom was Super-Sad….also known as The Parable of TKWFTPTIBAATKWSS. I’ve had a lot of challenges lately. After Spawn being fired from nursery school for his over-zealous love of zombies, I’m home-schooling.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s FUN and Spawn has come LIGHT-YEARS. I take him to the museum, we study space, and explore fluid dynamics using water guns. We built and launched his own rocket (which he christened The Nebula because its mission was to find “baby stars”).

He still loves zombies (a lot). He plays a zombie, shoots the zombies (and sometimes he mistakes ME for the zombie, though that is totally understandable and hard for me to be too judgy). He carries his zombie NERF guns EVERYWHERE. He makes up songs about zombies, poems of zombies, tales of zombies…

I need a nap. I really miss six hours of quiet time to work. Especially because the constant interruptions and not finishing???? *left eye twitches* Yes, I AM SHELDON.

Spawn being home-schooled? Yeah. I get the living room clean, turn and BOOM! My need for closure is being tested to the MAX.

And sometimes?

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 8.01.28 AM

Anyway, my old schedule was already hectic but with Spawn at home? I’m out of my mojo and have done some DUMB stuff…namely when I scheduled the Antagonist Class, I was looking at a JULY calendar.

Seriously? *hangs head*

What a Week

Also, after Spawn got booted from nursery school, I put him in Karate. I then signed up at the same dojo to show Mommy Support (and maybe get a workout). I took Brazilian Jui-Jitsu because I used to teach Jui-Jitsu (though I will say BJJ is very different and I am a total noob).

Last Tuesday, I was sparring and went to pin my opponent in a choke hold. He countered with a leg sweep to escape that I countered…with my FACE, breaking my nose.

S-E-X-Y!

S-E-X-Y!

Now, the nose wasn’t that bad, nothing that some ice, tape and Ibuprophen couldn’t handle. In fact, a broken nose can be awesome family fun. I chased Hubby around going, “My nose is CRUNCHY! Touch it!” And he screamed like a girl and climbed up the back of the couch faster than a cat high on catnip.

…then yelled something about me being a freak and I am rather shocked that after six years he’s just now figured that out.

So last Friday I’m running errands for the other family business and, of course my phone was DEAD because Spawn likely broke into my iPhone to play Angry Birds and ended up booking a flight to Dubai.

…and my class was in our digital classroom waiting. And Jay was calling. And no one answered :( .

Where is Kristen?

Um, duh *rolls eyes*. I was totally preparing for class on SATURDAY.

The ANTAG class is MY FAVORITE to teach, so I’d been looking forward to it more than a 6-year-old wanting a snow cone. Looking back, I probably should have rescheduled the class anyway because I didn’t sleep for three days because I’m a belly-sleeper and that doesn’t work so great with an injured face. But, I tend to just press on (like I continued sparring 30 more minutes even with a broken nose).

Sigh.

I need a cone *hangs head*

I need a cone *hangs head*

Which brings me to a new parable. The Parable of the Teacher Who Couldn’t Read a Calendar and All the Students Were Super Sad. I sent out a mortifying embarrassing professional note of apology to the abandoned attendees *weeps*.

Those signed up will get extra cool add-ons provided they forgive me. But good news is the class is RESCHEDULED for this Saturday and Jay has sent the NSA “Ice Cream Truck” to make sure I’m present.

I know it’s a holiday weekend for Americans, but 1) a lot of attendees are NOT in America and 2) we have a recording if you can’t attend in person. And, if you can? I can think of NO BETTER people to hang out with than you guys on a holiday.

What Does This ALL Mean?

Man, I was hoping you guys could tell me. KIDDING! No, just that the life of a modern writer is uncharted territory. A lot of you are moms, dads, single parents, grandparents, etc. You have day jobs and kids and maybe your laundry also owns cloning technology.

Maybe you’ve been through illness, deaths or are caring for a loved one who is sick. I’m helping care for my grandmother who just had two strokes and has dementia that’s going downhill faster than my heart can bear.

We might be writing late at night or early in the morning. We just about go to pat ourselves on the back that we’ve got everything under control, when something we forgot PATS us on the HEAD…with a hammer.

Some Tips:

Write It DOWN—When I fail to write lists and get this notion that “I can totally keep this in my head”? That’s when I get in trouble. For instance, I might have SEEN the error in dates if it was WRITTEN on an actual calendar.

I can be in the middle of working and be assaulted with a NERF sword. This breaks concentration—Ya think?—and then it goes downhill from there. A written list is invaluable and Jay is going to teach me Excel which, frankly, is like Sanskrit to me

But I WILL say, Modern Society kinda ticks me off sometimes. They hand us an app or a tool to “get more done” and instead of it freeing time? I just get loaded with more stuff to do. When we get to where we’re sorting e-mail in the bathroom? Time to back away from the smart phone.

Okay, I know none of you have ever done that. Just me. I own it.

Delegate/Ask for HELP—I’m struggling with this one big time, but baby steps. I’m a workhorse and I kid you not, it usually isn’t until I’m exhausted and in tears that I realize I could have possibly maybe asked for help.

THIS is how the keys end up in the fridge and the mayo in my purse.

Laugh—Is it embarrassing to make mistakes? OH YEAH. But mistakes help us learn and keep us humble. Just about the time I think I am all super-smart? *winces*

And this isn’t an excuse for me to just goof off and not strive for excellence. But, if I keep focusing on where I blew it? Definition of unproductive.

Give Grace—Every magazine ad or commercial tells us where we suck. It shows us we are old, have too many wrinkles, big thighs, a messy house and our kids aren’t properly prepared for college (even though the kid is only THREE).

The thing I’ve learned is that perfect people are 1) boring and 2) lying. Imperfect people are real. REAL=AWESOME. We have good days and bad days and OMG WHY AM I ALLOWED TO LIVE/BREED days. But it’s just a day. It passes and one day it will be a great story ;) .

…like The Parable of the Teacher Who Couldn’t Read a Calendar and All the Students Were Super Sad.

And if I don’t blog again this week? Happy Fourth of July!

The laaaand of the FREEEEE! And the home of the…

Next.

What are your thoughts? Do you have days where you couldn’t find your own butt with a team of sherpas and a GPS? Do you struggle to balance life, home and writing? Are you sometimes too hard on yourself? Do you have a hard time discerning giving yourself grace versus making excuses? Does modern society vex you too? Oh, there’s an APP for that. How about a NAP APP?

Are you a Sheldon too and when life changes, you have a hard time adjusting? Have you caught yourself answering/deleting e-mails in the bathroom on your phone because it’s the only place the kids/pets can’t chew through the door? Okay, probably just me.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JUNE, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

THIS SATURDAY is my  Antagonist Class  PINKIE-SWEAR!JULY 5th). Use WANA15 for $15 off. This class will help you guys become wicked fast plotters (of GOOD stories). The GOLD level is personal time with me either helping you plot a new book or possibly repairing one that isn’t working. Never met a book I couldn’t help fix. This will save a TON of time in revision and editors are NOT cheap.

For more help with your social media/author platform/author brand, please check out Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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Can’t Find Your Butt with Google Maps? A Powerful Tool that Can Help Writers Become Organized

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

If you are anything like me, you VOW EVERY NEW YEAR’S DAY that THIS YEAR you are going to be more organized. Six months later we can’t find the Post-Its and the bag of paper clips have been sucked into the same vortex that eats half the socks. Our treasures purchased at The Container Store on January 2nd are lost (likely still in the BAG) and our cute pocket organizer hasn’t had an entry since January 15th.

*head desk*

*Note to Self: Dust Pocket Organizer*

As writers, we need to research and to be able to keep track of that research. We also have lives. Many have mates, pets and kids who’ve grown accustomed to being fed *rolls eyes*. So needy. We’re juggling so much that we actually hope a fanatical fringe group of Calgon Terrorists really will “take us away.”

When I launched my business WANA International, I was on the hunt for the best teachers for ALL aspects of a writer’s life. Since organization is a big part of what will help us be successful and accomplish more in the finite time we’re given, the choice for the best teacher was crystal clear.

Jenny Hansen writes, blogs, works multiple consulting jobs, teaches, gardens (and then flaunts her KALE on Facebook). She balances so much and is happy, generous and fruitful. She is also one of the few people on the planet who has the talent to teach technology and translate into Writer-ese.

Feel free to set down your paper bags as Jenny takes us on a brief tour of one of the most powerful tools we have for keeping everything organized and accessible in ONE place. I know that I used to use OneNote before I switched to Apple and it was fantastic. I’m thrilled to hear it’s now available for Mac products and will be with you for Jenny’s class because my keys can only end up on the freezer so many times….

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

I’m a software trainer by day so I have several “true loves” in the software realm. But as a writer, my hands down favorite is OneNote, especially after this week’s announcements:

  1. It’s now free across all platforms.
  2. Yep, you heard me…it’s now available for the Mac. (Move over, Evernote!)

To put it simply… I. Heart. OneNote.

And I know what some of you are asking: What is it, and where do you find it?

OneNote is a planner and note taking software. It lets you easily capture text, images, video and audio notes, and keep important information readily available across all devices.

If you’re the organized type, it’s likely that you have a binder with all of the research information and pictures for your book. OneNote allows you to keep this information in the same format electronically so it’s searchable.

You’ll find OneNote in your START menu.

I could do several posts on the topic (and I probably will) but when I stopped to think about what I use the MOST in the program, it was pretty easy to come up with my Top Ten Fave Features.

#10 – ToDo Lists

OneNote allows you to insert handy checklists. You just check off the item when you’re done and you can keep it for posterity or edit the list as you move to a new day.

How To Do a Check List:

Click to type in your OneNote notebooks page (top tabs are sections, right side tabs are pages) and type “Ctrl+1”

  • In the top middle of your Home ribbon in OneNote, there is a “To Do” button
  • Type your ToDo
  • Hit Enter
  • Use the Ctrl+1 shortcut key again to add more checkboxes

Click here for the latest OneNote and Microsoft updates that affect writers.

#9 – Tag and Find Important Items

Why is this exciting? One Note has a series of Tags that you can add to any page that are easy to search by with the “Find Tags” button on the ribbon. I’m copying and pasting a screen shot of the Tags drop down to the right but there are even more than are listed. This feature makes me SQUEE!

#8 – Sync Up OneNote Between Your Phone and Computer

Yes, you heard me! If you have a smart phone, it can synchronize with the OneNote on your computer. Sign me up!!

Note: You need to first set up the app on your smart phone and you must also set up OneDrive (used to be SkyDrive), which is helpful to do anyway. OneDrive is only available with OneNote 2010 and later! It will not work with the older versions.

Tips on setting up your OneDrive in OneNote and getting the iPhone app are here (along with a ton of other amazing OneNote answers).

#7 – Ink to Text (There’s also “Math to Text” now, but hello? We’re writers!)

Ink to Text is a gift for creatives. You could go one further and get a Livescribe pen if you want to be able to upload longhand writing to OneNote first. If you have a tablet with a stylus, you can write right in OneNote, highlight it and choose Ink to Text to convert your scribbles into searchable text.

There are many, many ways to take notes, as you can see from the graphic below:

OneNote_ManyWaysToNoteTake

#6 – Hyperlinks to Anywhere

You can copy or create hyperlinks from any page, anywhere, and put it in your notebook page. I’m thinking of keeping an active writing notebook with tabs for each topic to store the amazing links that I run across in my web surfing. My bookmarks tend to get lost because there’s so many.

#5 – Print to OneNote

When researching, you can send a whole page or part of a page directly to OneNote. Choose File > Print and your page is sent to an unfiled note in OneNote, which can be moved to any section or page.

#4 – Send Whole or Part of Any Page to OneNote With a Shortcut Key

Imagine surfing the web and pulling up a side note by either pressing the Windows logo button + N or clicking the N (OneNote) icon button in the task bar (down by the time) and being able to jot down your notes to keep in your book’s OneNote binder. This shortcut automatically files it in the Unfiled Tab in OneNote, which you can move around.

#3 – Audio and Video Files

OneNote will also add audio or video files to your notebook pages. It can even record the same right into a page! Now that we’re in conference season, I’ve made the goal of adding my meeting and class notes into OneNote, and then recording those extras things that I didn’t get down in my notes.

#2 – You Can Attach Files to Any Page in OneNote

Can you writers say character charts? Photos? I thought of moving this higher on the list, it’s so sublimely amazing.

From your Windows Explorer, click and drag any file onto a OneNote Page. You will get the following dialog box:

You can insert a hyperlink, or choose the second option to have an icon on your page that you double-click on to open the file. But the last choice (to insert the file as a printout)? LOVE IT! I used this with a conference handout to make my notes next to the speakers content. It saved me a ton of time.

And My #1 FAVORITE thing in OneNote is:

OneNote doesn’t have a Save button. OneNote automatically saves your work on an almost constant basis in the background. This means I don’t lose work, even if forget to save.

Helpful Links:

Does OneNote sound like it would be helpful to you? Do you have questions, or shortcuts you’d like to share? We’d love to chat with you in the comments!

Where can you get more of Jenny?

Her blog information is below, but she also teaches online. For all you writers and OneNote/Evernote fans, in fact she is teaching a class for WANA next week!

Next week’s class details:

      • Course title: OneNote: The Simple (Kinda Sexy) Organization Tool
      • Course time: webinar next Monday March 24th at 7 pm EST – it’s available OnDemand afterwards, so don’t worry if you can’t make it.
      • The initial webinar is followed by two weeks of online time where we cover the material and create notebooks. We finish with another quick webinar recap.
      • There are various levels for the class, depending on if you just want the knowledge or if you need active one-on-one help setting up your notebooks. Be sure to click the course title link above to see what’s included for the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels.
      • Use the discount code MORECOWBELL for $10 off!

Lastly, we’re going to have THREE special things for this kickoff class:

      1. A member of the Microsoft OneNote team will audit the class to answer any questions on the technologies and features that are still new.
      2. A drawing will held to give away a subscription of Office 365 to one lucky attendee.
      3. Any interested authors will be entered into a drawing to be a guest author for the Office blog – in return for the description of how OneNote helped you “get it done,” Microsoft will promote the winner’s novel at the bottom of the post.

Really, y’all…how can you beat that? (You can’t! This inaugural class is the only one that will have all this, since it comes so quickly on the heels of Microsoft’s rollout.) Click here to sign up!

****

Thank you, Jenny! Are you like me and struggle to keep organized? Do you have passwords for your passwords? One giant bag with all the mail so you have at least a good starting place for locating the electric bill? Or do you use OneNote and can attest to its powers? Do you have questions for Jenny? Confessions?

I LOVE hearing from you guys (and comments for guests count DOUBLE)!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

About Jenny Hansen

Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after her toddler Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.

When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA and at Writers In The Storm.

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75 Comments

Get What You Want Part 2—The Power of TNT

Original image via Wikimedia Commons.

Original image via Wikimedia Commons.

Back when I was in sales, we had a saying, Fail to plan and plan to fail. I have a lot of people ask how I manage to get so much done, and much of it boils down to planning and TNT. We can’t use TNT if we don’t plan.

What is TNT?

Aside from the explosive stuff Wile E. Coyote employed in his many unsuccessful attempts to snag a roadrunner, TNT is Today NOT Tomorrow (a great acronym I learned in Peg Pickering’s book, The Art of Getting It Done).

The world will never reward us for what we intended to do.

In Part One, we explored the notion of being busy versus fruitful. I also shared a neat, yet scary bit of math. We can miss out on a lot of great stuff because of five minutes wasted. Just wasting 5 minutes, 12 times a day adds up to over 340 hours in a year (over TWO WEEKS or 31.6 eight-hour work days).

Why Plan?

Planning helps us maintain focus. I can tell when I have failed to plan and make lists. For instance, I had a WAY off day yesterday. Many of you might have noticed this because it’s the first time I have failed to post a blog in four years. Anyway, I went the store (no list) and forgot the three main things I went for, yet managed to buy $100 worth of stuff. Yes, I needed the “stuff” but I REALLY needed new dishwashing gloves, dog food and envelopes.

Also, since I didn’t make a list, I forgot to bring the two things I needed to MAIL (ergo why I needed envelopes), which would have been simple to mail since the post office was on the way HOME.

Now, I have to go BACK to the store to get the envelopes and go to the post office. This is easily 45 minutes I blew because I didn’t take FIVE minutes to make a list.

Planning can feel very counterintuitive. We feel like we are wasting time sitting down and making lists and agendas. Yet, a little bit of preparation can give a major return on investment.

Your Time is Valuable: How Are You Spending It?

Time-effectiveness studies conducted by DuPont demonstrated that, for every one minute spent planning, the time required to complete an activity is reduced by 3-4 minutes. Spend 10 minutes, reduce completion time by 30-40 minutes. Spend an hour, reduce by 3-4 HOURS….When properly used, 15 minutes of planning can effectively control your time for an entire day (The Art of Getting it Done, pg 64).

Planning Prepares TNT

Ever had a day where you know you did a lot, yet you were miserable because you felt like nothing was truly accomplished? Humans tend to take the path of least resistance. We will fold laundry or tidy the fruit bowl instead of tackling the hard stuff, the stuff that scares us.

The ugly stuff usually:

Involves doing something out of our comfort zone.

Doing something out of our natural skill set.

Tackling something overwhelming in size.

Yet, the ugly stuff is also what gives us the best returns. These are what Brian Tracey calls FROGS, and they must be eaten FIRST. Unless you’re from the bayous of Louisiana, the idea of eating a frog makes us cringe…so we put it off….and off…and we will do it Monday or start next month.

BITE ME!

BITE ME!

Uneaten Frogs Cause Depression, Anxiety and Procrastination

Whenever I start feeling “depressed” I stop myself. Am I really “depressed’ or am I overwhelmed? What frogs are bouncing around out there that need to be eaten? What is scaring me? Uneaten frogs hop around in our heads and distract us. They keep us from sleeping well.

My FROGS this week? Final planning for WANACon, taxes (UGH), finalizing a paper version of Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World. 

I am a relatively new entrepreneur. WANACon is a revolutionary conference that brings all the best of a writing conference to YOUR HOME for a fraction of the cost (only $119 if you sign up before the 15th). Real, live interaction with top-tier professionals, NYTBSAs, editors, Amazon, etc.

But we have to train speakers to use the technology, recruit shepherds/moderators, and create forms to systematize our processes (NOT my area of strength).

I am new to self-publishing (part of why I recruited Amazon to present at WANACon). I’m slow because I don’t understand as much as I need to. I’m used to being fast, confident and in control. Now? I feel like a moron (but I’m learning).

Taxes scare me. I once had a panic attack on the phone with a lady from the IRS who practically had to talk me off a ledge, and they owed ME money.

Frogs Require TNT

When we plan, we need to be honest. Write down the BIG stuff, the stuff that scares you. Then employ TNT, Today Not Tomorrow. Some frogs are bigger, grosser and uglier and maybe they can’t all be eaten in one day. Break it up, then blast each part with TNT.

As an example, I was injured in college and couldn’t work for a time. I had to use credit cards to live. Debt piled up. How did I eat THAT Frog of Debt? I listed all the credit cards and payed the minimums on all except the smallest. I focused all my efforts paying off the card with the lowest amount. I worked from smallest to largest, eventually paying them all off.

Did the same with the medical bills. No, I couldn’t pay off the $3,500 ER bill, but I could pay $30 towards it. I could then pay OFF the $68 x-ray tech fee and work my way up until even the big stuff was eaten.

Why smallest to largest? Because we need to feel accomplishment or we get discouraged. Small victories add up, and give us energy and confidence. Make planning and TNT-Frog-Eating a habit? You’ll be shocked how much you will get accomplished.

What are your thoughts? Are you discouraged? Overwhelmed? Have you struggled and found a system that helped you slay your frogs?

I love hearing from you!

Since it was such a HUGE success and attendees loved it, I am rerunning the Your First Five Pages class SATURDAY EDITION TOMORROWUse the WANA15 code for 15% off. Yes, editors REALLY can tell everything they need to know about your book in five pages or less. Here’s a peek into what we see and how to fix it. Not only will this information repair your first pages, it can help you understand deeper flaws in the rest of your manuscript.

My new social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU–including the LEGEND Les Edgerton. 

If you REGISTER NOW, you get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE (and all recordings) for $119 (regularly $149). Sign up today, because this special won’t last and seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

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Get What You Want, Part 1—Are We Being Busy or Fruitful?

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of elaueverose.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of elaueverose.

We live in a society that feeds us a lot of lies. The biggest one is about TIME. Oh, if I only had more time, then I could (fill in the blank). The truth is we are all given the same amount of time—24 hours a day. Of course the next big lie that’s easy to believe (and I’ve been guilty) is Well, if I only work HARDER, that will get me where I want to be.

That’s crap.

More time doesn’t equal MORE AWESOME.

Thus, today we’re going to look at some of the lies and time-stealers and ways to be masters of time, not slaves to it. We need to be vigilant and proactive so we don’t fall into Hamster Wheel Management. We’re called to be fruitful NOT busy.

Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

We Can’t Find Time, We Can Only SPEND Time

One of the most common phrases in the English language? “If I could only find the time…”

Okay, sorry to break the news but time isn’t hidden in the couch cushions like loose change, Cheerios and that remote control we haven’t seen in a month. We can’t find time. We’re given time. How we spend it’s our choice.

Via Flikr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Via Flikr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Write a Clear Mission Statement of What We WANT

Feel free to have multiple mission statements: Faith/Spiritual, Family, Health, Finances, Work (Writing). For templates of how to do this, I recommend Habits of Highly Effective People.

Mission statements are a lot like the log-lines for our novels. No log-line for a novel—ONE sentence that clearly states what our book is ABOUT? Easy to drift off down a bazillion rabbit-trails because every wild idea that pops in our brain seems worth giving a try. In the end, we’re more likely to end up with a mess than a masterpiece.

Same in life.

Without a clear picture of what we want, it’s impossible to spot the time-wasters versus the sound investments.

Make at Least TWO Lists

We’ve talked before about the Pareto Principle, also known as The 80/20 rule. Twenty percent of all our decisions will have 80% of the most return. This is a fairly universal rule. If you have employees, 20% will produce 80% of the output. If you run a volunteer organization, 20% will do 80% of the work.

Conversely, 20% of employees (customers, friends, volunteers, family members) can create 80% of our headaches. Limit time with psychic vampires and focus more on spending time with those who add value. Even being alone is better than leaking 80% of our time on stressful, counterproductive people/activities.

With the 80/20 Rule in mind…

List #1—The Boulders

The boulders are the BIG stuff. These are the actions that will make 80% of positive impact. Being a career author (need a finished novel). Becoming debt-free (need a budget). Possessing a healthy spirit, family, mind, and body (need boundaries and rest).

With a clear action plan, anything that gets in the way of these big goals can be easily spotted, rerouted or removed. No plan? We are reactive, wasteful and spend most of our time treading water.

No item on the BIG LIST can be done in one day, but we can write out steps that get us closer to that BIG goal every day. Remember, small actions over time add up. Those steps to our BIG GOAL are what we tackle FIRST.

Every day, I have a list of 2-6 BIG things that need doing, often stuff I dread. But the day isn’t complete until these items are knocked out (so many pages of research, writing so many words, writing a critical e-mail, creating a spreadsheet, etc).

In the meantime…

List #2—The Pebbles

The BIG LIST are boulders. They will take steady chipping away over time. Between time? Pebbles are easy. Too many people focus all their time on pebbles—which NEVER go away—at the expense of a few whacks on the boulder. Or they focus all on the boulder, then wear themselves out and become overwhelmed and discouraged because they’re buried in ignored pebbles.

Or they ignore/avoid the boulders AND the pebbles with useless activities that will never bear fruit.

Pebbles are small, worthwhile tasks that take less than 20 minutes to complete (most about 5).

Every day, when my main blog is finished, I call my mother and close friends. I believe in healthy relationships. But, while on the phone, I tackle a bucket of pebbles (stuff on my #2 List).

I sort laundry (5 minutes), empty the dishwasher (5 minutes), put a chicken in the crock pot for dinner (15 minutes), tidy the silverware drawer (5 minutes), sweep (5 minutes), or wipe down a counter or two (5 minutes), and have great company while I work.

If I have to pay a bill and they put me on hold? I read research, fill the cat bowl, or jot down ideas for blogs.

5 minutes a day reclaimed ADDS 30 hours a year

10 minutes a day reclaimed ADDS 60 hours a year

15 minutes a day reclaimed ADDS 90 hours a year

30 minutes a day reclaimed ADDS 120 hours a year

60 minutes a day reclaimed ADDS 340 hours a year

It’s easy to waste an hour a day 5 minutes at a time. Take those minutes back, and we can add 31.6 eight-hour workdays to our lives (Via The Art of Getting It DONE). And all this time we wondered where our vacation time went? ;) It’s leaking away unless we are proactive at plugging holes.

I’m not here to make you guys multi-tasking robots. I’m here to help you invest in the future you want.

Time with family, naps, relaxation, downtime, vacations and rest are essential for genuine success (the kind that doesn’t have us living off energy drinks, Xanax and screaming at the kids). If we’re conscious to be fruitful instead of busy, we’ll find we accomplish far more with less effort.

Focus increases confidence, offers a sense of authentic accomplishment and relieves anxiety. Focus will also free up time for more fun stuff (and more writing). Activity can be diffused like white light, or it can be a laser (which is MUCH of what I teach in my new book).

Do you feel eaten alive by your life? Is your To Do List a Frankenstein monster wrecking your life? Do you feel discouraged and overwhelmed? Have you learned to prioritize and set boundaries? What are some tips that have helped you regain control?

I love hearing from you!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Winner of 20 page edit. Troy Lambert. Please send your 5000 word Word Document to kristen at wana intl dot com.

Since it was such a HUGE success and attendees loved it, I am rerunning the Your First Five Pages class SATURDAY EDITION. Use the WANA15 code for 15% off. Yes, editors REALLY can tell everything they need to know about your book in five pages or less. Here’s a peek into what we see and how to fix it. Not only will this information repair your first pages, it can help you understand deeper flaws in the rest of your manuscript.

My new social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU–including the LEGEND Les Edgerton. 

If you REGISTER NOW, you get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE (and all recordings) for $119 (regularly $149). Sign up today, because this special won’t last and seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

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56 Comments

Are You Being Busy or Fruitful?

Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

We’ve talked about entropy a lot lately. How the dishes are never done and the laundry multiplies when left alone too long. My inside sources (The Dust Bunnies) tell me the dirty laundry, when left too long to their own devices start forming cults, particularly “The Whites.” According to The Bunnies, laundry apparently must sacrifice a sock to their god—Dry-Er—every load so Dry-Er will not smite them.

Um what else did you think Dry-Er lint was made from?

With the proper sacrifice, the laundry can be fruitful and multiply. “The Reds” have been known to give a blood sacrifice on occasion. Yes, your husband’s undershirts will be pink, but the laundry is then blessed with more generations of progeny.

The Dust Bunnies swear on their lives this is true, so they’ve bought a little time. That and the vacuum bags Hubby ordered don’t fit.

So aside from the occult activities happening in your hamper, there are a lot of other distractions in life. Namely? LIFE.

No one gets out alive.

Don’t you have days that you are simply exhausted? You’ve been running, running, running all day, but have nothing to show for it? There’s a difference between busy and fruitful. Here’s some tips for being fruitful.

Multi-Tasking—Do At Your Own Risk

I do a lot of multi-tasking, but it needs to be one “thinking activity” and one “mindless.” I make the beds and pick up toys while checking in with my mother each morning. Relationships take effort, and so does keeping the bottoms of our feet from being shredded from matchbox cars and Legos. This is being fruitful. Listening to a sermon or self-help podcast while dusting? Fruitful. Folding laundry while watching movies (good for writers–clean clothes and stories)? Fruitful.

When I get into trouble is when I try and do two “thinking” activities.

I once accidentally drove to Missouri. TRUE STORY.

I was in sales, and I did a lot of driving, about 1500-3000 miles a week. I had a nine-state territory and Northern Mexico, meaning I drove to Mexico about every six weeks. So I was on the road most of the time, and often quite tired (and bored). I had certain “routes” I drove. I’d drive to Wichita, Kansas, then work my way down. Next day Tulsa, next day OKC, then back to Dallas.

This day, I finished my morning appointment in Kansas and then my late afternoon appointment in Tulsa and ate dinner. By seven I was on the road. I was really fatigued, but I wanted to get to OKC by around nine so I could pass out and be rested for my early morning meeting.

Ah, add in a cell phone.

I knew I was in for a long stretch of NOTHING, so I called my Mom. Unbeknownst to me, I got on the turnpike going north instead of south. So I am talking away for mile after mile then finally I see a sign, “Joplin 20 Miles.”

Joplin? Joplin, Oklahoma? That doesn’t sound right.

Since I was really tired, I said to my Mom, “Joplin? Joplin’s not in Oklahoma.”

“Baby, you’re in Missouri.” *head desk* #epicfail

I finally made it to OKC at 2:00 in the morning, since I had to drive all the way to Joplin to escape the turnpike and turn around, then drive from Missouri back to OKC.

Yes, I have peeled the banana, kept the peel and tossed the banana. I’ve put my cell phone in the freezer, my keys in the fridge. But accidentally driving to Missouri? I think I get bonus idiot points for that.

Multi-tasking, for the most part, can just make a mess. So, yeah, fold towels while talking to loved ones…just don’t put the towels away. They could end up in the garage.

Make Lists

Write out a list of the most important things you need to accomplish. Lists help us focus. They also help us see the most efficient way of doing things. Can we pick up the cleaning on the way to pick up kid from school, then stop by pharmacy on the way to the grocery store, then swing by the post office on the way home?

Fruitful.

….And Goals

If we sit down and just write, that’s good, but word count or page count goals are better.

Set a Routine and GET SLEEP

When I get out of my routine, everything just seems to go sideways. I write the same times every day. I find when I don’t stop working by a certain time, it affects my sleep. I can’t wind down. The perfect routine is to work 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m., go to gym. Do another hour of work, say, 5:30-6:30, then make dinner, then practice guitar 30 minutes, then a level of XBox with Hubby, then TV until 10:30 then sleep. If I stick to this, I wake up refreshed. I don’t?

This stuff happens.

I lost the nacho chips. Why didn't I think to look in the REFRIGERATOR?

I lost the nacho chips. Why didn’t I think to look in the REFRIGERATOR?

Yeah, yesterday I was as good as worthless. Because I took out niece to dinner for graduation, I couldn’t get to sleep until after MIDNIGHT. I was the walking dead all day.

So WANA MAMA Says…

Eat good stuff, drink water, get enough sleep, limit multi-tasking, and make lists so it’s easier to be efficient and prioritize. Otherwise, life will feel like you are strapped to Hell’s Tilt-A Whirl….or like this little guy, Zippity.

What about you guys? What are some of your multi-tasking mishaps? Bet you can’t beat accidentally driving to MISSOURI. What tools do you use to be productive instead of just busy?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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65 Comments

Authors of the Digital Age–What It Takes to Be a Real Author CEO

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Were you doing something? I’m bored. Can I help? I’m hungry.

I do a lot of reading of other blogs, particularly blogs that aren’t about writing. I think this keeps my information fresh. As many of you might know, financial blogger Steve Tobak is one of my favorites, and he regularly inspires my writing.

This past week he had a neat post What It Takes to Be a Real CEO, and there were so many of the principles that applied to being a Digital Age Author. We are now Author CEOs, no matter what path we take. So what does it take to be a REAL Author CEO?

Passion for Work

We must have a passion for writing and a willingness to work hard. To be blunt, being a professional writer is a lot of HARD work. Writers are CEO of a company of one, and many times our writing work is on top of a day job, family, children, and other responsibilities. Going pro isn’t all floating around on a unicorn cloud hanging out with the muse.

All professional authors have to read, learn the craft, make work count, finish the books, and be ruthless and relentless in our edits until the work is complete. We have to build a platform, promote, keep up with taxes, accounting, deductions, receipts, spending, write-offs, mailing lists, etc.

This means we need to get up earlier and stay up later than most people, and we will have to sacrifice a lot. This is why we need passion. Passion takes the sting out of sacrifice. While others are whining, we are working.

Relentless Pursuit of the Dream, Even When Others Think You’re Nuts

In the beginning, this is particularly important. No one will take you seriously. Accept it and sally forth. Brush the dust from your feet.

Others want us to fail, because if we succeed, then we are proof success is a choice. Others will resent us because they want to believe they aren’t in control of their futures. They want to keep their victim mentality because it’s safe and absolves them of personal responsibility for their own futures.

Expect push-back.

Courage in the Face of Adversity

The new paradigm is changing and can be just as scary as the old one. Those who choose a traditional path know the odds of finding an agent and landing a publishing deal are not the best. Most writers who query will fail.

When it comes to a non-traditional path, we have to learn so many new things and wear frightening and unfamiliar hats. Again, the odds are better, but competition is staggering, discoverability is a growing nightmare, and the workload is daunting to even the best of us. But, we must have the courage to do what scares us if we want the dream.

Stickwithitness

There will be setbacks, and again, there is a lot of hard work ahead. When writers complain that all they want to do is write, I understand. I wish all I had to do is write books, too. Would be much easier. But that isn’t reality and we have a lot of other non-writing work that needs to be done every single day.

One foot in front of the other day after day. We must hold fast to the idea that days become weeks, weeks become months and months become years. We are what we do. Behaviors become habits, habits become character and character becomes destiny.

Willingness to Do Other Jobs that Aren’t Writing

The competition is steep. If we want to stand apart from the crowd, then we need to be willing to do what others won’t. We can’t have everything. This job involves sacrifice.

I’ve had one date night with my husband in a year and a half. Instead of a night on the town, we play XBox together for an hour each evening because it costs less time (I need) and money (we definitely need). I blog 5 days a week here, once a week for my city and once a week for SocialIn (29 major cities) all different content because I am sowing seeds for success.

I run a full-time family business, I tweet, I FB, I write books, teach, travel, speak, and write fiction as well. I give this job all I have, and it has a price. I work 14 hour days, 6 days a week, and I don’t get a lot of days off. I don’t watch a lot of television. I see a mall three times a year, and only when my shoes wear out so much they are no longer wearable. Don’t ask me about the laundry or my closets and yes, my Christmas tree is STILL up. Apparently after Valentines Day, Christmas Trees transform into Bogan Trees.

***Bogan is a word for “white trash” in Australia *waves to Cole Vassiliou* :D***

Stop standing there like a GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE and get me a BEER!

Stop standing there like a GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE and get me a BEER!

But all of it is worth it because I love my job and am willing to give up the extra stuff to do what I love.

Determinedness to Overcome Never-Ending Obstacles

New level, new devil. It will never get easier, only different. We grow in some areas, cheer 5 minutes then find ourselves tipped head-first again into alien territory. Goes with the job.

Last year, we had someone working for us who was very integral to our family business up and quit with no notice. We nearly lost the business and it cost months of doing double-duty and calling every favor I could to salvage and rebuild. I am better and stronger for it, and though it seriously sucked at the time, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Our job will always have obstacles, often BIGGER obstacles. Get used to it, expect it and train for it. It will toughen you for the next level.

The Ability to Make Smart High-Risk Decisions

As the paradigm shifts we have to be educated to make the best decision for our career. Yes, I am a fan of non-traditional publishing, but it fits what I write. I support all authors, no matter the path. I merely want it to be the path that’s best for YOU. Indies will all think traditional authors are taking a risk going with big publishing. Traditionals will generally feel indies are insane going it alone.

Again, it depends on preparation and the author. Publishing is now no longer a One Size Fits All Snuggie, but no path is a panacea, either. All decisions carry risk and we need to educate ourselves, be honest, and then DECIDE. Choose a path, then give it all you have.

What are your thoughts? Opinions? Experiences? What have you had to sacrifice to live the writing dream? Do you have friends and family who sabotage or give you a hard time? What kind of push-back have you been through? How did you triumph or are you still struggling?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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87 Comments

Writing Conferences Mommy Style: WANACon–The Answer for Writing Moms

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Today we are super fortunate to have a guest post from one of our WANA International Artist Instructors. Natalie left her life in PR to become a multi-published author, blogger, and mentor to writing moms all over the world. Those of us who write while juggling babies, diapers, laundry and bottles know that we have unique challenges. People like Natalie are a real treasure. She dedicates her life to teaching writing moms how to balance life, work, writing and family and not go off the deep end.

Take it away, Nat!

***

I love conferences. I enjoy dressing up in my beautifully professional suits, meeting new people (or maybe agents) in the Starbucks line, going over and planning my workshops out to detail that could rival my old college course schedule and yes, I really love laughs with new friends at the bar.

That was the outlook of my younger self. Now I have one BIG issue keeping me from most conferences and it’s comes in a small, blond and highly energetic package.  Conferencing it up as a mom is very difficult. However, thanks to the wonderful World Wide Web, conferences are becoming more virtual. Parents are finding it easier to maintain a professional presence while cartoons blare from the next room.

WANA International, which “empowers artists of a digital age” is hosting the first WANA Con: Worldwide Writing Conference starting tomorrow. This is a conference that accommodates writers that may not be an easy flight to a big city. I definitely understand if you are shaking your head to this one; I live and work from Saudi Arabia. WANACon is the perfect conference for writing moms (and dads, too) who can’t easily leave because of a child, dependent furry children and/or needy spouses.

Sure you pay a registration fee but look at the money you save on travel, food, that pretty new “power suit” you’ve had your eye on, etc. From the comforts of your home or as WANA Mama, Kristen Lamb says, “a party in your P.J.’s, the ultimate writer fantasy.”

And you’ll still get that networking feel (just provide your own “adult” beverage.) WANA A.I’s or “artistic instructors” will be in the virtual “hallway” and “classrooms” chatting with attendees. You’ll have web time with instructors of various topics. This is a great opportunity to learn about future workshops prior to signing up. There’s no better person to ask such questions to than the instructor.

WANACon also is bringing the benefit of agent pitches right to your computer. Really! You are getting those benefits of a great conference experience without leaving your home!

So when you’re tired, struggling to write thanks to your third cup of coffee and praying your toddler honors their bedtime, take a big breath. There is a conference for you that no tantrum can ruin. Dust the Cheerios from your shoulder and brush up on those pitches. It’s time to sign-up for WANACon.

P.S. Anyone who signs up for WANA Con is eligible for a special discounted rate of my upcoming “Writing Moms (and Dads!)” workshop as well as the consultation component. Just let me know when you want to sign-up for my workshop and I’ll ensure you get the discount.

Oh and there is a pajama contest during the conference. Yep, you don’t want to miss this! Sign-up for WANA Con!

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Natalie C. Markey is an author, mommy, wife, animal lover and chaos manager extraordinaire. After a career in professional dancing and public relations/television in New York City she successfully turned her part-time writing career into a full-time career. She is the author of ‘Caring for Your Special Needs Dog’ and speaks on the topics of time management for writing moms and busy artists.  She also writes YA and MG fiction with a new non-fiction dog book on the way and holds numerous local and National freelancing contracts. Natalie graduated from Baylor University. She is thankful for the support of her husband, daughter, dog and two very hoppy bunnies.

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