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

Doing the prep work…

Anything worth doing takes preparation as well as determination. We all know this. That’s why people spend years in school getting a degree, a year planning a wedding, or even years writing a book. So it is no wonder that the release of a book also takes preparation.

I decided to take time to really prepare my space for writing success. I’ve realized that it is far too cluttered and hindering progress. So with my recent refund from the IRS, I decided to invest in my current set up to make my space both inspiring and condusive to progress and productivity. For me, that means installing shelves and various organizational items but also a bit of frivolous spending as well.

I upgraded my phone which was a much needed item. I chose the LG Stylo 3 Plus which suits me quite well. The size isn’t easily lost in my purse or bag. The camera is a much better quality than my last phone. Incidentally that was also an LG. Android has many options for me as far as apps and working on the go as well. The stylus is a wonderful touch for those times I want to write a note or even do a bit of photo editing on the go. Overall, I find that I love it. It seems to be a perfect fit for my life without breaking the bank the way an iPhone or Samsung would have on my budget.

I also went to Amazon to get new a new external hard drive. I opted for a 2 TB by SeaGate. Which I hope will serve my back up needs for video, photo, and manuscript projects. I made a trip to Target and got some new pens and various stationary items. All good things for a writer when they are facing a battle with writers block.

But my real prize in all of this is something most people will find perfectly silly.  I bought myself a mechanical keyboard with “clicky keys”! Yes, that means that I get the feel of the typewriter that is so nostalgic.

You have to understand that this makes me so giddy happy that I’m all smiles and laughs upon getting it out of the box and realizing that it really does have the sound and feel of the old electric typewriters I started out on. Yes, I’m extremely nostalgic at times. And I can’t really explain why this makes me so stinkin’ happy but it does.

I have a laptop stand and a dust cover for my laptop keyboard on its way too.  And I got those noise-cancelling headphones I have been talking about for quite some time now. Perfect for the gym and for when I need to eliminate the distractions of a noisy pup. I am just too excited about the overhaul on my space. I have big plans for this year and I think that all of these changes prepare me for a very productive year and all the wonderful things that come with spending your time doing something you love to do.

Now, to get all of the organization part done and find the time to take a writer’s retreat to focus on what I really want to be doing.

So what are you changing in your life to inspire you and help you be more productive? I would love to know.  Share in the comments below! And do let me know if you would be interested in seeing the completed workspace after I do some spring cleaning and set up.

Posted in The Currents, The Writer's Life

Creative Projects 2018

The first full week of 2018 was hectic for me. The day job was crazy busy. That wasn’t so surprising though. First of  the month and after a holiday, I had to expect it. But, I don’t think it is every something I am really prepared for. By the time I was able to call it quits on Saturday I was burned out and ready to come home and relax. Hence no Saturday post because, I didn’t prep it in advance.

A lot of my posts are on the fly and fairly raw for you. This is my way of really giving you my first impressions and the best window into my little slice of the world.

My weekend was nice and relaxing. After the week I had, I really needed to decompress a bit. Being a crafter, I have a couple of projects lying around that I am working on in my spare time. There is a particular one that I ordered to do as a gift for my mother for Christmas. Unfortunately, it didn’t arrive in time for me to complete it. In fact, it didn’t arrive until the 30th of December despite ordering it in November. But let me show and tell you a bit about it.

My mother is very into peacocks at the moment. It is a decorating theme in her living room and kitchen. So, I try to find unique things from time to time for her. This ad showed up on my Facebook feed for something called “Painting With Diamonds“.  They had a sale going on and I decided to buy a kit when I saw this Azure Peacock. I thought it would be a lovely gift for my mother.

Now, I will say that I was disappointed in how long it took to arrive. And, yes, I contacted their customer service and was very happy with the result. So I will definitely order again because this was absolutely meditative and almost addictive once I got started on it.

The whole process is simple really. It is akin to a paint by number or counted cross stitch project but I think the results are a bit more stunning really. Now, I’ll have to post an update once I am able to frame it for hanging but, here are a couple of the process.

Now, I think that it is a great start for someone who is looking for an inexpensive way to start something creative. Why? Well, several reasons.

  1. The images are beautiful and inspiring. They have many to choose from.
  2. They are affordable. This small one was $19.99 and they have a discount code available for additional savings. (HINT it is DIAMONDS so use it when you check out.)
  3. Small or large is your decisions. They all come in various sizes. This was a relatively small project and all said, I’ve likely spent about 48-50 hours to complete it. Which is great for me to think about other things going on and get mental plans going.
  4. It is easy to start and stop and doesn’t requite a lot of space. I placed everything into a gallon ziplock bag when I was done at the kitchen table. 
  5. They provide most everything you’ll need. The only additional supplies that I used were scissors and some Ziploc bags, and a Sharpie to mark what number was in the bag. BTW I recommend snack size instead of sandwhich like I had.
  6. You have something gorgeous to frame and say ” I did it!” when you’re done. And that, my friends can motivate you to do other things.

Number 6 is probably the most important of those. Why? Because that momentum is what you really look for. You start with something small and then you branch out from there. This time it might be the diamonds. Next time you may buy a canvas and some paint and brushes. The idea is starting where you are and finding something to kindle that fire for passionate creativity.

I am working on an article that I want to offer my email subscribers that is a list of ways that you can start being more creative on a daily basis. As soon as I figure out all the back end things for putting it all up, I’ll let you know. It’s on my list this week to get those details worked out.

As I get ready to head back to the office I hope that you all have a great week and find some time of your own to decompress.

In the meantime, you know where to find me!

Posted in Book Reviews, The Writer's Life

Nightstand Reads #2 : The Folcroft Ghosts

I am a sucker for a good ghost story.  How else did I get started writing the sort of fiction I do?

That being said, among my Amazon recommendations was this author I had never read before or heard of. So, with a $3.99 price tag on the kindle version, I decided to give it a shot.

I have to say that I was delighted with this gem of a read. From start to finish, the whole book was engaging for the imagination. In fact, I would place this squarely in the mystery genre since you spent most of the book piecing together clues with the main characters, a brother and sister duo in tragic circumstances.

Written from the perspective of the older sibling,  Darcy Coates’s style was captivating as it provided a window into how she coped with the incapacitation of a single parent as well as how she unravels what to do when faced with dangerous circumstances. As an older sibling myself I could easily relate to the girl and the sense of duty that Coates easily portrayed.

Well written and engaging, I was pleased with the read. I found myself reading this one in a matter of a couple of days between work and my other obligations. It helps that I had some slow time to read at the office. I would recommend this to readers both in the adult and the young adult audience spectrum. I thought it was a fairly clean read with a well-developed plot that had plenty of twists and turns before it was concluded.

Over all, I give this one 4 stars on Amazon and GoodReads.

Be sure to follow me on GoodReads, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter for more reviews, releases, and news. Indie authors, keep watch for news on how you can have your book reviewed by me in upcoming Nightstand Reads Posts.