Posted in Creative Living, Lessons Learned, My Process, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized

What to do when things get out of control…

Just when you think you have it all figured out, life throws you curve balls. I consider that to be a universal fact of life. Sometimes those curves are big ones like finding yourself single again after many years of marriage or you have a life-altering accident. Other times, those curves are anticipated, normal, and even just a natural process of life. Consider options like sending the last kid to college, empty nests, retirement, or becoming a grandparent. Change is inevitable. Sometimes, it can overwhelm and cause us to feel completely out of control of our lives. What we do in those times is defining of our characters. And I want to explore some practical ways that I have dealt with feeling like I had no control and got back on track.

Strategy One

Taking to the Journal
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The first thing I do is take to my journal. No, not the blog. I know this often reads like a journal. It is meant to. I do keep a personal hand-written journal that I put my thoughts down in with something that feels like a regular interval to me. It is a place to vent frustrations, talk to myself without feeling silly, and generally explore things that are deeply personal and troubling. Believe me when I tell you that, in the last year, my journal has been put through the wringer. There’s a lot of fodder in those pages. With the lockdowns, starting school, being laid of, the pandemic, and all the riots and political and social unrest there was a lot to unpack this year. Clearing out the mess in my head is beneficial in allowing me to see where there are obstacles and where I’m just overreacting. They are also useful in identifying opportunities that I can pursue.

Being a creative individual, I tend to find a wealth of interests to pursue. So, I’m prone to making lists of ways that I could change things up in my life. Sometimes that’s new hobbies to try or places I want to travel and see. Sometimes it’s about changing my environment or routine. The journaling process helps me to figure out options and to work on making decisions. Sometimes, I write a hypothetical scenario about each option and see where it could lead me and that helps. Just remember to be realistic when you write those scenarios. Consider doing two versions; one where it is perfect and everything goes right for you and the other where everything goes wrong. This is just an exercise. Chances are taking any of your options will land somewhere in the middle of these two. Doing this will help you decide what is likely to be next for you.

Strategy Two

Making Lists

We can’t always change our goals. Long-term goals are often lofty and worthwhile but it is easy to lose our motivation and direction with them. To that end, we often have to remind ourselves why we took on that goal and then decide what we can do to stay the course. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point. I end up there frequently, if I am perfectly honest. Sometimes a book idea isn’t panning out as I planned it. Other times, I just lose interest in a project. Day jobs get boring or unfulfilling. Making lists is a way to help realign with your visions and your goals.

Yes, you can make a list of new things to try or new goals to consider, if that makes it easy for you. But, I think more of this step when I want to continue my work on goals I have previously set. This means it is time to revisit those goals and evaluate where I am in the pursuit, evaluate the next steps to those goals, and then, put down actionable steps I can take to move into the next level.

Photo by Miesha Maiden on Pexels.com

For example, I’m in the process of writing a new book to release (hopefully in the spring). I am also looking at new avenues for promotion of the books I already have on the market. (You can find them here.) So, those two goals, while entertwined, require separate courses of action to reach them. My checklists may look something like this:

For Writing
  • Finish research on setting/location for (book)
  • Complete character sketches for main recurring characters
  • Character sketch for main antagonist
  • Complete mapping/details for primary settings
  • Write Chapter 1-3, 4-6, 7-10 to complete part one.
For Marketing
  • Create New Graphics for Ads
  • Start gathering elements for book series trailer video
  • Research contacts for promo spots & interviews
  • Book Vending Space for Comicon, Paracon, and Local Festivals
  • Inventory Book Stock
  • Order new business cards & promo materials
  • Post to social media for sales
  • Create & pay for ad campaigns
  • Start a list of contacts for Series launch partnerships.

These steps are all things that will help me to reach bigger goals for sales and for producing more content for my readers. You can apply this to your own goals though. Want to start a business? What do you need to do? Are you a student? What are your next steps to finish a paper or study for a class? Want to do more volunteer work? Where, with who, and how can you do that? Taking up a new creative hobby? Make lists of supplies to purchase over time, classes to take, tutorials and videos that will help you learn, or plan a project list you want to do. Trying to be more social? Make lists of events to attend where you can meet people or friends to reconnect with over zoom, phone, or emails. Plan a get-together or meet up if you can.

Strategy Three

Focus On Self-Care

Look, the last year has been rough on everyone. It’s okay if you don’t feel okay right now. In the midst of all this pandemic isolation and mask craziness, we’ve all changed how we’re living our lives. So many found these changes jarring and difficult to deal with. Many of us lost jobs. Many were forced to be without things that made them happy or able to escape the mundane for a while. For introverts, this was a bit less jarring. We like our houses and limited interaction with the outside world. Even introverts, like me, have been left feeling out of sorts and at a loss for how to deal with all the changes to our lives that don’t seem to be lifting at all. So, focus on what you can control.

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

Take a moment to consider what you can do to take care of yourself. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I need to feel better about my appearance?
  • What would make me feel better about my health?
  • What do I need to feel better spiritually?
  • What do I need to feel better socially?
  • What do I need to do to feel better financially?
  • What do I need to do to feel better about my relationships?

The answers to these may surprise you, if you answer them honestly. Starting to implement changes to feel better about all of these aspects of life will be a step in a direction you’d rather be going.

Final Thoughts

You may have noticed that all three of these strategies work in tandem. I’m a writer. Journaling comes naturally to me. This isn’t the case for everyone. So let me give you some variations to try.

If writing isn’t your style, consider video journaling. Most laptops have a webcam and most smartphones have a camera you can use for this. Open it up, ramble on, and then take time to review it later. I don’t like to watch myself on camera, personally, so I would be more likely to use voice memo or a microphone with a free program like Audacity to do the rambling. Whatever method you choose, think of this as communication with yourself. It’s crucial to being able to live your best life in any circumstance. The ability to reason, communicate, think, evaluate our position, and change (when needed) is part of the human experience.

It isn’t always easy to make a change in a positive direction. But there is never a better time than what you find yourself in to do it. And it is never too early, or too late, to make a change and live your best life.

Posted in Creative Living, My Process, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized

Productivity & The Creative Process

It’s two weeks into a new year and I’ve been busy juggling all the hats I wear. There is schoolwork to keep up with. I am also working on a new book, outlining, drafting, plotting, and editing one that I hope to be ready to get out in April. I am also looking at getting back into the game when it comes to in-person events like conventions and doing book signings. So, I’m putting the marketing hat on more as well these days. Just trying to keep living the dream and build a better life for myself by being creative and keeping my focus on the things I can control. Which isn’t always an easy task.

New projects are usually a motivating and exciting part of the creative life. However, eventually, the excitement wanes and we find ourselves floundering trying to finish the project we’re working on instead of just moving on to another. In my 20+ years as a writer, I’ve found that nothing is quite so important as motivation. It is the thing that keeps you going on a tough day, helps get you unstuck when you’re facing a roadblock, and yet, it is often the most difficult thing to identify because it is different for every artist. There is no quick fix and no guarantees that what works for me, or any other artist, will work for you. What an article like this can hope to do is give you some ideas to try. Ultimately, it is up to you to find what works best for you.

Photo by Amina Filkins on Pexels.com

Some people like routine and stability. Having a dedicated space that they can go to that is static and rarely changes help them get in the right frame of mind. They surround themselves with things that are comforting and inspiring to them. The familiarity of space and an active routine are part of a sort of ritual that helps them to be productive. They have a favorite mug, beverage, and a favorite tool they use. The same music helps them get into a sort of “zone” and thus a cycle repeats and they continue as creatures of habit at their computer, easel, instrument, or desk.

Other artists work better under pressure. They like a deadline they can use as a competitive edge. Maybe they prefer working with an audience around them. Coffee houses are full of people on laptops. Libraries have long had tables and carrels for students and those doing research or work. Groups meet for write-ins both in-person and online. Artists get together for sessions in a park or at a local art museum. Musicians often come together to collaborate in jam sessions for inspiration and to get feedback. And many find that’s for the better.

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle of all that. I try to give myself a combination of routine and new that keeps things fresh and exciting. Sometimes that looks like a simple conversation over the phone with a friend or a chat through a messenger service. I’ve been known to take my laptop to a favorite coffeehouse in town and find a quiet table where I can do a combination of work and people watching. I’ve also been known to change things up in my own space. Lately, this has helped me really get back into the groove.

My Desk Courtesy of and copyright by the author

Part of my holiday gift to myself was a bit of an overhaul to my desk space. I’ve had a more traditional set up for years now. I wanted to give my little hand-me-down desk a bit of a facelift and personality that matched my own. So, I’ve invested in a few items to do just that. Simple changes in color and design along with some added functionality for organizing the multitude of stationery that I’ve accumulated over the years. I have different lighting, switched most of the plastic pen cups to rose gold metal ones. And I added some extra storage drawers and trays. It arrived after my photo session but I also got myself a new mechanical keyboard in white with a rainbow of backlighting options.

These small changes, a bit of time organizing, and then taking time to write down some goals and plans have helped me get motivated and be more productive. This weekend I’m planning to get out and go to my favorite coffeehouse for a bit of time in “the wild”. I need some interation with people again. So, I’ll pack my day bag and get out for a cappucino and a caraffe of Earl Grey tea while I plod away on my laptop. Then I’ll come home to this light and lovely new space to put on some jazz and work a bit more. That’s my way of keeping productive.

It looks different for everyone. I’ll post about more productivity methods in the next post. But I’m curious, tell me in the comments what your creative space looks like and what you think it needs to be even more inspirational and motivational for you.

Posted in Lessons Learned, Reviews, The Currents, The Writer's Life

Planning for change…

In an effort to be transparent, I might have a slight addiction to stationery and planners. They are my most-purchased items when I go to the store. I have wishlists on my Amazon dedicated to pens, notebooks, planners, stickers, journals, and the like. I’m a girl who is more excited by a gift card to Staples, Office Depot, or Hobby Lobby than I am jewelery. I know, many will find this strange and unusual. I also know that I’m not the only one out there.

I’ve spent the last week sitting down with some of my tried and true planning products to consider goals for this year and how to reach them. I want to write about my goals as a matter of keeping a record, but I also want to give my fellow planner addicts and those who are looking to get more organized my recommendations for tools based on what works for me. I’ve tried so many over the years that I know I can give you some great feedback on these. I’ll likely also do a video review at some point in the future as I pursue another goal. Right now, I’m not an affiliate for any of these products. They are simply honest recommendations based on my personal experience.

There are two major considerations for me when I choose a planner now; functionality and cost. As a student I need something that is affordable and will also allow me to track all the things that I need to for my schooling, business, and life in general. I need a planner that serves as a place to document life and creative efforts while also being easy to use and take with me. I personally prefer a pen and paper planner to a digital one. I love my iPad and I have experimented with a digital planner but, when all is said and done, I keep going back to the paper versions.

For the creative focused with plenty of time on their hands, nothing beats a BUJO. Bullet Journaling is the epitome of cusomized planning systems. There are no hard and fast rules for it. It is also probably the most affordable at the minimalist level to get started. I adored the versatility of this and honestly, if I weren’t so busy, I would keep doing my own because it is a hybrid of journal and planner that you create with a simple notebook and pens. Sure you can embellish with washi tape, stickers, and stencils. There are some awesome artistic examples out there. And if you search on YouTube there are loads of tutorials. Some of the best notebooks I’ve used for this have been the EXCEED brand that I’ve found at Walmart for about $7-$9. But you can also adapt any notebook you choose for this purpose. The biggest con for me was the amount of time it took to set it up and actually do the planning every day. I decided to find something that already had a basic usable structure for my use.

Another affordable option that is highly effective in terms of goal setting and task management is maybe a surprising one. Momentum Planners by Productive Flourishing (found here) was a surprising find for me. The price point of $18 gets you a digital, full-featured, printable planner that will help you stay motivated to reach those goals by tracking progress on tasks. They are minimalist in design focusing more on function making them great for people who like a less artistic approach. This one works well for business needs, academics, and even for writers. This allows you to get a year overview of your goals, break it down by quarters, then monthly, weekly, and finally daily. The pros to this system are a big list really. What I would take away is that you have the ability to make changes as needed without all the erasing, white-out, and correction tape. Simply print out a new blank page. The form-fillable PDF also allows you to keep things neat despite character limitations in most fields. They do offer a printed and bound version of this in limited supply at the end of the year prior. For my money, I like the PDF and being able to print what I want. I use this one as a worksheet to get the goals down, actionable, and generally keep a relevant copy of the yearly, quarterly, and monthly printed and with my other planners.

I’ve used the Erin Condren Life Planner for years. However, recent experiences with their customer service and delivery have really ruined a great product for me. So, while I find it useful and stylish, I think this will be my last year investing the $60 in this planner. It has served as a way for me to do a bit of goal setting, planning, calendar keeping, and memory keeping. But I am looking at other options for 2022. I’ll post about those later. The Life Planner is great because of the customization. There are different layouts to choose from and custom covers that are personalized. I have a number of these and I admit that I will be sad when I’m not using them anymore. Space for reflection and goals was a plus for this year’s edition. But that $60 price point is a little steep in my opinion.

As a daily planner, I’ve been using the Daily Passion Planner. I have to say that I think this is a great option for someone who likes the BUJO but needs something that already has a structure to embellish if they’re up to it. The compact sizing is great for on the go in a purse or backpack but also gives ample writing space by putting a great layout for schedule, goals, tracking space for mood and emerging ideas, and still giving the opposite page in a dot grid for journaling or lists as you need them. I feel like this will end up being a go-to for me. It has a yearly and monthly calendar along with a prompted check-in and goal worksheet. While it hasn’t replaced my usual journal, I do feel like this gives me a more focused idea of where my time goes and thoughts on various projects and ideas for changes based on how the days go. The only drawback I’ve found is that the book is designed to last 3 months, not a full year. However, they offer a buying discount if you get more than 3 at a time. So, that helps. Plus Passion Planner in general has free printable downloads so you can try the format first. They also give a planner away for every one that is sold. So, it’s a win-win in my opinion. I know plenty of start-ups, artists, and students who can use that help. Monochrome makes it easy to print off a version of your own if purchase isn’t an options. You can find them here at Passion Planner. They do have a larger format Annual version that may become a go-to for me in replacement for the Erin Condren product though. Definitely check them out.

I admit that, being new to the iPad, I’m not familiar with digital planners and I’m open to options if you have suggestions for me to try. Given some of the changes in plan for me, I might find them useful. So, I’d love suggestions for those that you use and love. I’m juggling multiple goals this year including writing new books, writing the blog, and a full-time course load with school. So it is important for me to keep myself on track. What planning methods do you use to keep yourself accountable and on track for your own goals?

Posted in My Process, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writing & Publishing

Starting Where You Are…

Welcome to 2021 everyone!

I could do a whole post lamenting the woes of 2020. It was a complete disaster in so many ways. Yet, looking back doesn’t serve my purpose today except that we should take it as a lesson that life is not always certain. With that being said, we have an opportunity for a fresh start here. I encourage you to sit down for a moment today with a piece of paper or a journal and put down your thoughts about what you would like to accomplish in this new year. I realize the task is daunting for many. For me, I’ve realized that all the floundering of 2020 has failed to serve a purpose. I’m tired of feeling like my life is on hold. So it is time to get on with the process of seizing opportunity instead of focusing on the limitations.

For many people the idea of starting something new is at the back of their mind. Immediate needs take a front seat in difficult times. I think it is important to realize that this may be the very time you should put the effort into a creative endeavor. Many of us still find ourselves looking for work, stuck in lockdowns, and trying to cope with our changing world. It’s the perfect time to consider starting your own side hustle and create something that you can be proud of.

When people ask me what I do and I tell them that I’m a novelist, the thing I hear most often in reply is something similar to, “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book.” When I inquire as to why they haven’t the answer is usually that they wouldn’t know where to start. And it’s the same of many creative avenues. People love to paint, sculpt, or create crafts and they are envious of those who make their way into creating a business around it. The truth is that a little ingenuity and passion go a long way. There are people out there who can help take your ideas and give you the path to turning them into a reality. The question is are you motivated to do it (whatever that “it” is for you)?

For the aspiring authors out there, working with a coach can be just the catalyst needed to finish that book and get it out to the readers who are waiting for it. A lot of things go into creating a novel or a series of novels. It isn’t a sprint to write a lengthy piece of fiction, it is a marathon. Completing that race takes time, dedication, training, and moral support. While a coach can’t replace a writer taking the time to put the words down, they can help with moral support and providing direction on a project. As someone who has completed the process of writing several books, I can say that I would have benefited from hiring a coach early on in my efforts. With specific feedback on a manuscript while writing it, I could have avoided time-consuming rewrites due to holes in my plot or flat characters. With accountability and encouragement, I also could have completed projects faster and with more motivation to put them out to readers which only would have served to get me to this point in my career faster. Now that I’ve completed several novels of my own, I’ve decided that I would be open to coaching other aspiring authors. If you’re looking for that sort of support, definitely feel free to get in contact with me via email.

I can’t remember where I heard this but, it made a lot of sense. “If you do something that you love, you will never work a day in your life.” It’s true. I know what it is like to feel weighed down by a job that just sucks the life out of you. I’ve worked at many of them. It’s something I have learned I really don’t want to do again. So, I’m doing what I love and pushing this year for it to be a primary source of income for me. But doing that isn’t always easy for everyone. There are expenses to any business start-up. Shoestring budgets are a real thing, especially for those of us who are without jobs thanks to the events of the last year. But, you start where you are, with what you have, and you figure out how to make it work as you go along.

Being an author in the 21st century is more than just writing a book though. To that end, I need to make some changes to my approach as well. Yes, there are books to write. There are also other things that I need to put the focus on in terms of getting known. Books don’t sell unless people know about them. So, this year will be about blogging, vlogging, and getting more interviews and reviews for the work out there as well as the new projects coming out. I’m preparing for filming and regular blogging here. I’m also blocking time for new projects, collaborations, and generally being more active in my approach to online marketing. God willing, I’m also trying to book some in-person events for the year. Hopefully, the events of 2020 will stay in 2020 and not follow us too much into this new year.

If you think about it, the past year took our whole world virtual. We met in Zoom Meetings, Google Hangouts, Facetime, and through Skype. We shopped virtually, had our food delivered virtually with apps like Grubhub and DoorDash, and we even went to school virtually en masse. This change alone should give us all a bit of pause to realize that being at home doesn’t mean we have to be alone or unable to do things. We just have to be a little creative to get the same results. People still need to shop, be entertained, and figure out ways to keep in touch. And while it sometimes feels like we’ve all suddenly become agoraphobic, I think we can all appreciate the time we do get to be together now.

2021 will present her own challenges. That’s something I’m certain about. I think it is important to focus on what we all can do to make our lives a little better as we go through it. So, connect when you can. Pursue something with a passion. Reach out when you need help coping with whatever life throws you. Live life as best you can and let the rest go.

Leave me a comment and let me know what your goals for the new year are. Is there some project you hope to finish? Is there somewhere you would like to go or someone you want to spend more time with in 2021? What’s the current plan to do the things you want to?

For me, I’m continuing my education efforts. Still planning on being a teacher in the next few years. I’m also making it a goal to put out two books this year, launching a new series. I’m going to start a YouTube Channel / Vlog as well. So, if you have questions or topic suggestions, I’m open to those. And I would like to work with a few aspiring authors this year to help their writing dreams come to reality.