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Monday, January 23, 2017

 

Making Lists that Work

I have always been a big believer in lists. Grocery lists. Chore lists. Guest lists. Gift lists. And yes,
writing lists. Because writing encompasses so many things the lists can get long: ideas of things to write about, assignments to finish, things to read, research to do, proposals to send out, edits to complete. The list never (and I mean never) seems to get any shorter not matter how many things I would complete and cross off of it. The lists in the other parts of my life feel helpful but lately I've been noticing that I don't feel that way about my writing lists. Instead, they make me feel overwhelmed and hopeless. What was going wrong?

According to several organization experts, I've let my lists get too long. Apparently, priorities are an important part of effective lists. Yes, it's OK to have a grocery list that is a page long. Not so much with a to-do list. Most recommend that a daily list have only three things on it.

Imagine that! Three things. I could definitely get three things done in a day. But what about all those other things beyond the three? Have three lists:

  • Daily list: three things to do that day. Make sure you're realistic about time frames. "Edit my first draft" should never be on a daily list. This is not something you could do in one day. Instead try something like "Edit 10 pages of my first draft" Your daily list should be something you can accomplish in one day so break big jobs down into manageable chunks.
  • Soon list: list of things that should make it on to your daily list in the next week. 
  • Someday list: you want to do them, you should do them, but the world won't stop if you don't get to them until next week, next month, maybe even next year. I feel like this list is more to make you feel secure that you won't forget something you want to do but not putting any pressure on you to do it tomorrow.
In order for this to work you can't spend time agonizing over the lists. Each night you should make up the daily list for the next day. I've found using post-its is helpful since they are already small -- you can't squeeze more than three things on the list. Plus there's the added bonus of being able to stick it to your computer, bulletin board, kitchen cabinet...wherever works for you. You should mull over your weekly list, adding things and crossing things off just once a week. Again pick a predictable time -- for me Sunday nights work.

Last is the Someday list. You're going to be tempted to take it out and stare at it, count the number of things, maybe even get a little depressed that so many things are on it. Stop that! You can take it out to add something to it but don't take time to study it. Just make your additions and lock it back up in it's desk drawer or computer file. Once a month you can take it out to refresh your memory so you don't forget anything. Just don't forget to tell yourself that "someday" is a long time so even if this list is long that's OK.

I'm still tempted to add just one more thing to my daily list or pull out my longer lists "just to look them over". But I've been resisting those urges and sticking to my daily list. And I definitely feel like I'm accomplishing more in the long run (no more avoiding writing and those impossibly long lists). Try it and tell me if it works for you!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

 

You've Got to Stand for Something

Growing up I loved this song and it's empowering words by Aaron Tippin "You've Got to Stand for Something or You'll Fall for Anything".




Let me give you a little backstory before I begin: I love social media and I avoid getting into debates. I actually have a strong opinion on everything from infant carseats to politics, but I don't feel social media is a good place for me to get into conversations about anything controversial. Social media is my happy place. Without it, I can say I would be lonely since I spend most days on the farm, behind my computer, or caring for babies. That said, I've seen a lot on social media when it comes to politics, the recent Presidential Election, President Obama's farewell, and just yesterday, the Women's March. This post isn't about any particular position on these happenings. This is just a quick explanation of how these happenings prompted me to do something fabulous for myself!

There's plenty of speculation about political positions, ulterior motives, and questions about what people stand for. I like to be informed. I like my children to be informed.

In my quest for information, I came across a great website for at least one of the aforementioned Women's March on Washington was incredibly well thought out and the Mission, Vision, and Organization was well done. While reading through the information I could only think of the individual women behind these well written statements. It reminded me of the importance of my own mission and vision in life. I wrote them years ago and my intent was to let them guide me through life to help me stay on course.

Unfortunately, life got busy and I forgot about them a few years in. I've decided I need to get back on track and the first step is to revisit my own purposeful statements of Mission and Vision. Of course, I'm a share-ee type person, so I recommend you revisit your own, or create your very own life statements. Don't worry, I'm not going to stop at that simple recommendation.

There are some great websites to help you build your very own Mission statement for yourself, your team, or your family. When I wrote my initial statements, I used the Franklin Covey website and if you are starting from scratch, you can head there for all the help you'll need.


Since many of you have writing skills of your own, you'll be able to build some amazing statements to help guide you through 2017 and beyond. The questions are:

Where will you keep your Mission Statement?

Who will you share your Mission Statement with?

How often will you revision your Mission Statement?

How will you use your Mission Statement to keep your writing on course?

Who will be your Mission Statement accountability partner?



Those are all very personal questions you'll have to navigate on your own. Feel free to share if you'd like, but I do have a few questions I'd like you to answer in the comments of this post:



If you have a Mission or Vision Statement in place, what prompted you to write it? How do you use it? How could you use it better?

If you don't have a Mission or Vision Statement, why not? What's holding you back?

If you are moving forward with creating a Mission or Vision Statement after reading this article, may I ask what it was that spoke to you personally? 
What is your intention with your completed statement?



Thanks as always for spending a few moments with me today! You are absolutely wonderful! As you build your statements, go ahead and belt out a few verses with Aaron Tippin because well, you know...You've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything! (I still tend to fall for silly jokes, but I also stand for a lot of things too! Carry on!)

Hugs,
~Crystal



Crystal is a church musician and secretary, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 3, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

When she's not doing that, she's baking bread and cookies for her friends and neighbors. She says "the coffee is always hot and you're always welcome here!"

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

 

Size DOES Matter--There Are Times When Shrinkage is a GOOD Thing

Okay, so I'm working on a manuscript. A historical novel for middle grades. I began it on November 1st as a NaNoWriMo project that I did, surrounded by my middle-schoolers. They wrote every day. I wrote every most days.


Let me introduce myself. Hi, I'm Sioux and I'm a slacker. It's been 32 days since my last revision.


I checked on my revision history on my NaNo piece, and I haven't done a single solitary thing with that WIP since December 19. Part of why I'm in a rut is my fault. I'm wallowing in a I'm-stuck-and-I-can't-get-back-up attitude. Part of it is someone else's fault. (There’s a person who has access to a crucial primary document. I've called repeatedly and left messages. I've emailed him even more repeatedly. Short of physically stalking him--he's in D.C.--I'm at a loss.)


In the meantime, there is something I can do… I can shrink down my manuscript, so I can see the whole forest instead of just the individual trees. This can be done in a few, simple steps, but it will take some time.


  • Make your margins as small as you can. The font, too. 8-font will allow you to still read it. Single-space it. This will result in a 200-page manuscript getting reduced to 30-50 pages.


  • Spread out the pages. If you live in a tiny “starter” house like I do, you might have to do this in sections. If you have a large open space that you can block off from snooping spouses, galloping dogs and curious cats, you can lay out the whole thing.


  • Choose some things you’re going to look for. I’m going to check on some character threads. I have some real-life characters who appear in the beginning in a minor way, and then in the end I plan on tying them into what happened. I want to make sure there is an occasional mention of them in the middle, so the reader doesn’t think, ‘Whoa, who is this?’ at the end. Using a highlighter, perhaps I’ll color those parts green.


       Getting mired into the history and ignoring the characters is also a concern. I want to track
the inner dialogue of the main character, to make sure those moments are evenly
interspersed. Maybe with my highlighter, I’ll color those parts blue.

photo by katemessner.com



           Humor, too. My piece focuses on a dark subject, a bit of our history that should cause us a
lot of shame… and yet it’s not well-known and it’s not in any history books. Occasionally,
I'm going to need a little levity to lighten things up.  I think I’m going to mark all the funny parts pink.


I remember a while long time ago, a blogger friend (Margo Dill? Mary Horner?) wrote about this technique. I was reminded of it last night when a group of teacher-writer friends met. We’re reading Kate Messner’s Real Revision (it’s on page 72-73) and it hit me upside my head. I should do this. It would get me doing something, and maybe pull me out of my rut.
          Darcy Pattison, another writer, has some guidelines that she uses. She calls it the


All this revision talk makes me curious. What revision tricks do you have up your sleeve? Stuck-in-a-rut minds want to know...



Sioux Roslawski is a St. Louis freelance writer, a member of the infamous WWWP writing critique group, a dog rescuer for Love a Golden Rescue, a wife, a mother of two, a grandmother of one and a middle-school teacher. Like many educators, she delights in great ink pens, Sharpies, highlighters and free Krispy Kremes in the teachers' lounge. If you'd like to read more of Sioux's stuff. go to Sioux's Page.





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Friday, January 20, 2017

 

Friday Speak Out!: To All Those Who Have Lost Their Creative Thinking Caps

by Jenna Brandon


We've all been there. You sit down to write. You expect the words to flow, knocking down everything on their way, but the writing just...well, it just doesn't happen. It is not a shame to admit that time has come to fill your creative thinking tank with some fuel. In fact, I have never heard of writers who churn out novel after novel and never face a writer's block.

Some writers prefer to listen to music or exercise in order to deal with this writing paralysis. Some meditate or simply have a glass of wine to distract and boost creativity. These are all good tried and tested methods, and they do work, but what else can you do to help your mind get creative?

1. Exposing yourself to some kind of absurdity allows to unlock your subconsciousness and stimulates non-trivial thinking. Therefore, one of the ways to get rid of the writer's block is to experience something absurd. You may want to visit a contemporary art gallery, read a book like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard (my favorite) or even famous Alice in Wonderland, or listen to some cosmic music.

Apart from that, there's one absurd technique that is supposed to boost your out-of-the-box thinking. All you need to do is find a big box and sit near it. Yes, literally sit outside the box. If anyone did it, please let others know in the comments – I really wonder if that works.

2. Another thing that helps me come up with original ideas is taking pictures. Whenever I feel like i need to recharge my writing batteries, I go out and just wander the streets with my camera. I helps me notice small things I would have missed otherwise, concentrate on details, and link many different ideas together. Photography works for me personally, but you can find your inspiration in cooking, painting, or doing crafts.

3. Mark Banschick, a famous psychologist, suggests equipping your very own creativity room (or creativity corner for small apartments). It should be a place where you can unleash your imagination, paint on walls, laugh, dance, dream, and create. I do have a whiteboard for brainstorming and a corner where I put pictures and sketches, and my brain automatically turns on its creative mode when I surround myself with such things.

Albert Einstein once said: “Creativity is intelligence having fun”. I couldn't agree more. The best ideas are born when you set yourself free and open up to all the fun and excitement of the world. Do not be afraid to play, listen to yourself, and let your mind wander. Savor the life and creativity will find you!

* * *
Jenna Brandon is a blogger, content writer, and editor at Writology.com. She’s on a never-ending quest for excellence in writing and photography.When she is not writing or taking pictures, she travels the world together with her husband. 
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, January 19, 2017

 

Brainstorming: Consistently Generating New Ideas Pays Off

Throughout the month of January, I’m taking part in an idea generation challenge called Storystorm. Participating writers agree to come up with 30 new ideas in 30 days. The ideas can be for picture books, adult novels, magazine articles or whatever you write.

While I’m never entirely without ideas, I have to admit that the first few days were a challenge. Yes, I came up with an idea a day but it was a struggle. Still, I read the blog posts, scrolled through photos on Pixabay, and piddled around until I came up with my daily idea.

I’d often heard the advice that sitting down to write on a regular basis opens a creative tap. Sit down to write 10 minutes a day and for the first few weeks those ten minutes may be torture. But eventually the words will come more easily and you’ll find yourself writing for 15 or 20 minutes. Before you know it, you’re writing two pages at a time.

I’m here to tell you that the same thing applies to brainstorming. Not only is coming up with my daily idea much easier this late in the month but I often come up with more than one idea per day. During shavasana in yoga one day, I came up with not one idea but nine. Granted that wasn’t great for my shavasana, a pose that is supposed to be a time of relaxing meditation, but it was amazing for my idea list.

Brainstorming regularly is also paying off in terms of my problem projects. I’ve been beating my head against a novel for quite a while now. About a week ago, I got out my outline and realized that the ending just did not work. And the beginning? Awful. Horrid. I gave up. I dramatically announced it to my family. I told my critique group.

And the next day while I was on the treadmill the PERFECT opening scene popped into my head. Yes, I still need to fix the ending but the new beginning? It contains the solution for a lot of the pacing problems, it notches up the stakes, and more. I only have two pages written so far but that’s two pages more than I had before I quit.

Brainstorming. It’s definitely a good practice to develop and I’m going to be doing it long after the challenge ends on January 31st. I may not need 365+ new story ideas in one year, but it seems to be shaking loose a range of creative energy. Who can say no to that?

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.
Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults which starts again 2/6/2017.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

 

Accomplish Your 2017 Writing Goals With this Perfect Solution!

So I was about to toss a bag when I realized it had something inside, a small chalkboard with “Prayer Requests” written across the top. I get a lot of prayer requests but I am forever forgetting them. I looked at that board and thought how serendipitously perfect!

I just needed to find a spot for the chalkboard. And as I walked from room to room, I had another revelation: I had to put the chalkboard in a place where I’d see it all the time. So I headed straight to the kitchen because the door to the garage is off my kitchen. My lovely screened porch and deck is there, too. And fine, I’ll admit it, I’m a grazer. So there sits my chalkboard on the kitchen counter and literally dozens of times a day, I pray for friends and family. No more forgetting all those requests!

It’s perfect!

And then one morning, shortly after New Year’s, I passed my chalkboard and thought what if I put my writing goals someplace where I’d see them all the time?

Because if you’re the goal-driven type like me, I’ll bet you write down a goal—or goals—in a journal or even a daily list. (I’ve done that.) Or you type ‘em up and print ‘em out and post the list near your desk. (Done that, too.) And still, I don’t accomplish my goals. Not because I’m incredibly lazy. (I am a bit lazy.) Or that I’ve gone overboard with the whole goal-listing. (Though I can sometimes have unrealistic expectations.) But mostly, because I just forget my goals. (Yeah, it’s embarrassing.)

So now, instead of writing up my daily To Do list and leaving it on my bedside table, I carry it around with me. It travels with me to my desk first thing in the morning. I’ll bring it downstairs and set it on the—where else?—kitchen counter. It may join me on the table next to my big comfy chair when I’m watching my favorite show. And finally, it will end up next to my bed, where I’ll happily see that I’ve almost always checked off all the goals!

It’s a writer breakthrough, y’all! We’re not lazy! We’re not unmotivated! We’re just forgetful!

So maybe you have just one major writing goal you’d like to accomplish this year. List it on a BANNER and put it somewhere you’ll see it multiple times a day. Sure, it might annoy you—but that nagging banner will get you working on actionable little goals to achieve the big goal. Or if you’re like me, an inveterate To Do lister, give the portable list a try.

It’s such a simple solution. Put your goals where you’ll see them all the time, then watch out! You’re going to accomplish more in 2017 than you ever imagined.

It’s perfect!

~Cathy C. Hall
Accomplishing Goals Since January 3, 2017

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

 

Meet Flash Fiction Runner Up, Shelley Wood!

Shelley Wood is a medical journalist and aspiring fiction writer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Antigonish Review, Room, the Nashwaak Review, the New Quarterly, carte blanche, F(r)iction, the Cobalt Review, and Bath Flash Fiction. In 2016, she won the Tethered by Letters F(r)iction contest and the Frank McCourt prize for Creative Nonfiction. She divides her time between a job in New York City, and a man and dog in Kelowna, Canada. Find her at shelleywood.ca and on Twitter as @shelleywood2.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Summer 2016 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Shelley: I read a blog post listing some of the best flash fiction contests and WOW was one of them so I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’ve only really started paying attention to flash fiction in the past year and I love the challenge of telling a small, surprising, story in so few words. I’m a terrible poet, but I like to think flash fiction is helping me get closer. Also, any spare time I’ve had for fiction-writing these days has gone into a new draft of my novel-in-progress, which feels so sprawling and unwieldy. It was a real pleasure to take a break and work on something tiny and tight.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story Mourners at the Grave of the Other Dr. Johansen?

Shelley: I attended the funeral and reception for a friend’s father earlier in the year, which was moving and sad. At the end of the evening some of us stood around swapping quirky memories about funerals and loved ones we’ve had to say goodbye to, the kind of thing you do to raise the spirits of those grieving—everyone standing around laughing softly and wiping at their eyes. My friend told the story of his late father attending a funeral years earlier of a man with the same name. It made me want to write something that captured the same mix of sorrow, loneliness, introspection, and zany coincidence. The looming WOW deadline was impetus to try.

WOW: What key elements do you think make a great piece of flash fiction?

Shelley: The best flash fiction I’ve read includes minimal shifts of scene, an absolutely consistent voice, and ideally a single pivotal character. I’ve had three flash fiction stories published and what I’ve realized is that all three are character studies that twist abruptly at the end, ideally bringing the reader back to some element of the story she’d passed over earlier without realizing how much that detail mattered.

Also, I’m a sucker for really precise language that can capture a gesture or a scene in as few words as possible and make it seem sharp and simple. Done poorly, this just looks verbose and showy, but when I see it done well, it’s like a compact, sparkling jewel.

WOW: So what’s it like dividing your time between New York City and Canada? You must have favorite things about each place.

Shelley: It is amazing—I’m lucky to have the job I do—although it makes for a lot of to-and-fro across the continent. I love the big-city feel of New York, walking through busy streets to get to my office in a part of town where I couldn’t afford rent if I actually lived there full-time. The energy and rush of the city, the diversity, the food and theatre, the layers and layers of life: it’s amazing.

In Canada, I live in a small-ish city in the interior of British Columbia with mountains and a lake, and most important, my husband and dog. As much as I love running the reservoir in Central Park, I’ll take a rocky trail in the Coastal mountains any day of the week.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Shelley. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Shelley: Read writing tips and advice! Every time I read those “Top 10 Tips from Successful Writers” I realize everyone struggles with the same problems and the same crushing self-doubt. The ones who succeed push all that aside, put their heads down, and work hard to get better.

***

Our Winter Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN
For details and entry, visit our contest page.

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