Monday, July 10, 2017

The Value of "Pockets" of Time





While brainstorming about how to use my time more efficiently, I was reminded of a tip I gave my three kids back in our homeschooling days. I'd tell them to look for bits of spare time, or "pockets of time", and to use them to their benefit. You see, on occasion, there were bouts of lollygagging and numerous wasted minutes. Imagine that!

(If you aren't familiar, lollygagging, a term my parents used when I was young, means wasting time, procrastinating, sometimes at its most extreme level.)

I'd encourage my gang to use those pockets of time during the day, for example, to read, review spelling words, study for a test, or work on projects. It wasn't all about being a hard taskmaster, I simply wanted to raise their awareness of how they spent their time, and of course, to encourage its wise use, building good habits that would last a lifetime.

Like the kids then, I have plenty of unused pockets of time now, (on hold for a call, waiting for a haircut or dentist appointment, or just hanging out at home, to name a few). And although I like to think I use time efficiently, I still often waste much of it - getting sucked in to social media, etc. So I'm talking to myself here too, just so you know. :)

What items can be accomplished in these moments?

General tasks might include:

  • Sort mail.
  • Plan a menu. 
  • Write a thank you note.
  • Delete unwanted emails.
  • Make a grocery or to-do list.
  • Clean out a junk drawer. (Skip this if going to the salon/dentist or similar. Hauling the drawer along is usually frowned upon,)

Or how about these writing related tasks:

  • Write a book review. 
  • Draft a blog post calendar.
  • List character traits/a sketch.
  • Brainstorm about...anything! 
  • Pen an outline for your next article.
  • Research potential writing markets.
  • Create questions for an author interview. 
  • Conduct research for an upcoming project.
  • Make a list of interesting or unusual words.
  • Review a chapter/article/blog post rough draft.
  • Read bookmarked articles or an online writing newsletter.
  • If out, observe and note the surroundings/people/activities. 

While tasks might not get finished in that particular span, it can lay the groundwork and offer a great head start to new and ongoing projects. I've found this to be an extremely helpful habit, often fitting writing in on the busiest of weeks.

Bottom line - it's about an awareness of how we spend time. It's about balance, too. No need to go overboard, filling every spare minute. We need time to devote to family, friends, and commitments, to think, decompress, daydream, and rest too. These daily segments merely provide opportunities for heightened general productivity.

Have you ever spent time lollygagging around? How do you use your pockets of time? Have any exciting plans for the rest of the summer?

I'm taking a break to work on projects and regroup. Will return on September 18. Have a great summer! :)

Happy writing,
Karen

Monday, July 3, 2017

Sparkling and Celebrating




The plan was to share a sparkling and thought provoking post this week. (Humor me - it would have sparkled in my head, at least for a moment, anyway!) However, I got swept up in the busy tide of activity recently, helping someone move, among other things. I realized late Saturday night that I still needed to do Monday's post. Oops.

Hoping to rest a bit on Sunday, I needed an alternative plan. Since we celebrate the 4th of July, aka Independence Day, this week in the United States, I thought a "Sparkling and Celebrating" theme would make a good substitute.

As for the Sparkling part - our writing can shine upon learning the craft and polishing skills. Do you agree? I enjoy observing, stretching, and implementing techniques during the process.

And as for Celebrating - we have abundant blessings, don't we? There's always something for which to be thankful, and to celebrate. I'm grateful for the saving grace of Jesus, my family, and in particular my husband, whose birthday falls midweek.

Now it's your turn to jump into this theme. :) What makes your writing sparkle? What are you celebrating and thankful for this week?

Happy writing,
Karen

Monday, June 26, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday




How's your summer going so far? Getting much writing done? It's been a while since I shared a few links, so thought the beginning of summer was a good excuse. :) Hoping you'll find one or two that you like.

The Insecure Writer's Support Group site offers great info, blog posts, books, contests, marketing tips, and more. IWSG is all about supporting writers of every level and genre. One recent blog entry is Lynda Young's thoughts on 10 Ways to Maintain Writing Momentum. Good stuff.

The Coffeehouse for Writers offers year round opportunities to stretch writing skills. From fiction and blogging to editing and ebooks, they have an assortment that appeals to writers at most any level. Check out their offerings here.

Though aimed at fiction writers, K.M. Weiland's post, Learn How to Make the Most Out of the 5 Stages of the Writing Process shares valuable insight and tips for other dedicated scribes, too.

Ever wonder how the ISBN factors into publishing?  L. Diane Wolfe, owner of Dancing Lemur Press, provides an overview in Why ISBN Ownership Matters.

How much do you know about authors and literature? Literature Trivia and Quizzes will test your expertise on famous writers, fiction, poetry, and books.

What are you writing this week? Do you have any special summer plans?

Happy writing,

Karen

Monday, June 12, 2017

Writing & Hockey - 5 Things They Have in Common



"You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Wayne Gretzky



Most of you know that I like hockey. My sons played ice and roller hockey in their teens, so I got hooked while doing the hockey mom thing. Was thinking recently how the game is similar to the writer's life, and since The Stanley Cup Finals just concluded, I thought it a good time to explore the similarities. 


1) Practice is Imperative

If a hockey player doesn't practice, he/she won't improve. No getting around that fact. Skating, shooting, scoring, and learning the rules of the game elevate their skills and level of play. The same applies to writers. If we don't make time to write, edit, revise, learn new things and polish our skills, we'll never communicate as effectively as we might have, had we invested practice time.

2) It's a Team Effort

A lone hockey player has never won The Stanley Cup on his own. It takes a talented group of players working together to achieve this coveted goal. Likewise, although writing is a solitary activity, dedicated scribes need support and input from fellow writers, teachers, editors, and others in the industry.

3) Taking a Shot Can be a Good Thing

When my husband coached our sons' hockey team, he'd often tell the players to "pick up the trash around the net". He wanted them to be alert - a loose puck was an opportunity to score. As writers, are we mindful of the opportunities around us? Or do we allow fear, procrastination, or other obstacles to keep us from expanding our horizons? We gain nothing when we don't take a shot on occasion. Wayne Gretzky's words come from years of experience. He's one of the greatest scorers of all time.

4) The Fans 

A hockey player once told me how important supportive fans are. He cited an instance where his team faced elimination in the playoffs, and cheering fans spurred them to rally and win. Even better - they went on to win the series' championship. Writers' fans, of course, are readers. While many writers would still write even if they didn't have an audience, readers can play an important role. They motivate us to educate, inform, meet a need, entertain, or fill a niche. Readers also can provide valuable feedback - whether positive, negative, or simply constructive. The satisfaction of a job well done, our success in writing something worth reading, this is what our fans offer us.
 
5) Eyes on the Goal

No matter the obstacles, whether it's defensemen hindering the offensive line, or a goalie blocking shots, a hockey player's ultimate goal is to score and win. A writer faces similar obstacles, from undeveloped skills or well meaning family (When will you quit writing and get a real job?) to rejections and bad reviews. Dedicated writers need realistic and attainable goals in order to move forward and succeed.


Even if you're not a hockey fan, these similarities can teach us to persevere, grow, and push forward. The writer's life is a journey. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And one worth investing the time and energy to reap great results.

What do you think? Do you agree with Mr. Gretzky? Are you a sports fan? 

I'm taking a break until June 26. See you soon!

Happy writing,
Karen

Monday, June 5, 2017

More Timeless Writing Advice



You'll notice a theme on timeless writing advice these last few weeks (see May 22nd's post here)...I hope you don't mind. Figured you can't go wrong with this topic, right? :) 

About 10 years ago, I asked Brian Ianieri, staff reporter from The Press of Atlantic City (in New Jersey) what advice he'd share with my teen writing students. Upon reviewing it recently, I was reminded of how it applies to writers of all ages and stages. This was his reply:

 "From my standpoint, the key to writing is rewriting.

Our first drafts are never perfect.

We often use too many words.

This is referred to as “dead wood.”

Chopping those words and using precise terms clarifies writing.

The rewriting stage offers the best opportunity for this.

Often, we view rewriting as a quick check for spelling mistakes.

Devote time to this process, and it becomes a much more important tool for writers—even for reporters on strict (and I mean strict) deadlines.

I suggest “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. It’s a thin, easy-to-read book that provides practical advice for sharp writing.

My only other advice is – tell your students to have fun." 


Do you agree with Brian? What advice would you offer my teen writing students? What's the best writing advice you've ever received?

Happy writing,

Karen 


Photo credit: Free Images

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day






Happy Memorial Day!  


For those who have served/currently serve in the military, 

thank you for your service and sacrifice. 

My family and I appreciate it! 


Do you have any Memorial Day plans? 

What projects are you working on this summer?

Have a great week!  


Happy writing, 

Karen 



Photo credit - Free Images