Monday, February 23, 2015

Stretching and Polishing

What's the best way to stretch and polish writing skills? Ask a dozen writers this question and you might get a dozen answers that include:
  • Writing 
  • Reading 
  • Continued education  
  • Joining a writing group 
  • Reading writing books/blogs
  • Feedback from critique partners

These helpful tools provide opportunities to exercise and strengthen writing muscles, meet other writers, and gain valuable insight.  

Each item on this list can lead me in a myriad of directions, rabbit trails even, so I aim for "big picture" balance and assess what's applicable not only for long term growth but for current projects.  

For example, when working on an article or book draft, sometimes I use an exercise I require of my teen students

It goes like this:

Read the sentences in the first paragraph of your current project. 

List these sentences on paper, one per line. 

Examine and consider:

Do they relate to each other? 

Do they tie into the theme?

This can reveal gaps, typos, and awkward spots, or affirm that all is well. It provides a different perspective and a breakdown that makes sure the content is focused on the main theme I do this with all or various portions of a project, especially when struggling with the overall picture. 

Speaking of writing exercises - not sure if they are worth the time? E. J. Runyon offers insight in Take Your Writing Further: How to Get the Most Out of Writing Exercises. It's a quick and interesting read that hits the topic from a different angle. 

Is there anything you'd add to the list above? What helps stretch and polish your writing?  

Happy writing,


Photo credit: Free Images

Monday, February 16, 2015

Procrastination Central

To the casual observer, my writing space looks like any other home office.

Sometimes though, it is known as Procrastination Central.

Yes, I admit, I am quite often a procrastinator.

My office is not only used for writing, it's where I facilitate online writing classes and work as bookkeeper for my husband's/son's carpentry business. So there's much happening there, with great potential for procrastination and distraction. As much as I like to get right to a task, I often circle around them, wasting time.

Can anyone relate?

After a few super crazy weeks, I felt the need to revisit my strategy. These tips should help convert Procrastination Central into Productivity Central.

1) Ignore the internet. I often compare the internet to an abyss. It's too easy to fall in and get lost. Ignoring it for a while is a must. 

2) Minimize potential interruptions.  Take care of pressing must-do items (like paying a bill), set the phone on silent, etc..  
3) Assemble resources. Place snacks, beverages, files, books, etc. within reach.

4) Set small goals. Break tasks into segments. Progress, even in small chunks, offers a sense of accomplishment and motivation to press forward.

5) Set the timer. This correlates with #4, and provides a catalyst for productivity. 

6) Dangle the carrot. Set mile markers and include rewards. Meet a small (or large) goal and celebrate with chocolate, a walk, or something equally fun and exciting. :)

7) Apply the principle of sowing and reaping.  Build good habits by exercising self control and perseverance. Sow discipline and determination, reap productivity.

What would you add to the list? What's the craziest thing you've ever done when procrastinating?

Happy writing,


Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, February 2, 2015

Avoiding Blog Burnout

Blogging is good because: 

  • You meet great people.  
  • It can sharpen writing skills.
  • It's an opportunity to give back. 
  • It acts as a forum to interact with other writers.
  • It provides exposure for our writing and other pursuits.

My December 15 post discussed why we blog, and it was unanimous - the perks, particularly the people, are great. 

A good blog doesn't just happen though. Anyone who says blogging is a breeze probably hasn't been at it very long.   

Writing posts, visiting blogs, maintaining the site, related social media - it all takes time. Add blogging to other writing, work, and life's commitments, and our plate becomes very full.

After a while, blogging can bog you down.

How can we avoid burnout? 

  • Take regular breaks. Stepping away frees time for other activities. This change of pace can offer breathing room and inspiration.
  • Share guest posts. A guest post offers a reprieve for the host and a bit of variety for the readers. It also helps promote other writers.
  • Consider posting less frequently. Blogging consumes regular writing time (as in, you don't get to other projects). 
Stepping back to gain perspective can help restore and maintain balance. This is always a good thing.  

Visiting a Friend 

The gracious and lovely author Becky Lewellen Povich is hosting me on her blog. If you have a moment, please stop by and see us

Taking My Own Advice

Speaking of balance, I am taking a break to catch up on projects. I'm also getting ready for my 6th Blogoversary celebration in March. The party will include a few special guests and giveaways. I'll be back from break on February 16. 

Do you take blog breaks? How do you avoid burnout in any area of your life?

Happy writing,


Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, January 26, 2015

Miscellaneous Monday

There is an endless supply of great resources waiting to be discovered! Here are a few that I've found lately.

Now that 2015 is in full swing, are you in need of writing inspiration? Jean Fischer shares a few quotes on her blog to lend help for the day at a time.

Have trouble with active versus passive voice? Check out this post on Marsha Hubler's blog. She offers a great breakdown with helpful examples that illustrate the concept nicely.

Need help managing your email? Check out 3 Tips for Purging Your Email and Your Mind over at Susan J. Reinhardt's blog.

Are you wasting readers' time with apologies? Edie Melson makes an interesting point regarding taking time off from social media over at The Write Conversation.

What are you writing these days? Have any links or tips to share?

Happy writing,


Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Depth of a Name

Names intrigue me.

They often spur a memory, reminding me of a person, place, or an event from the past.

Last names can reveal a bit about a person's heritage, such as nationality or the profession of their ancestors. First and middle names might reflect the decade in which one was born, a significant family name, a parent's interests or creative bent, or a meaning of historical or Biblical significance. A "Junior" or "The Third" might follow tradition, paying tribute to a relative. When choosing a name, some parents consider initials or potential nicknames.

My Mom told me that she and Dad wanted our first and middle names to complement our last name. Makes sense. She also said that she pictured my sisters and me at graduation, to "listen" to what our names would sound like when announced in public. Don't misunderstand, she was not so vain as to think her daughters would be all that. I guess you might say that she planned ahead to avoid burdening us with names that sounded awkward. 

Karen Lynne

That's what Mom and Dad gave me. I must admit, it did sound nice when I graduated. :) It also served a great purpose, for when I heard my full name, I knew I might be in trouble...

What can names do for our writing?

They can spark ideas and insight for articles, interviews, stories, poetry, and blog posts. Who hasn't heard a name that reminds us of a schoolmate or a funny or endearing event? We might associate a name with character strengths or weaknesses based on people we know.

These thoughts can grow into a story or humorous essay. We might use an interesting name to brainstorm and cluster ideas, or as a starting point for Hemingway's Challenge, those famous six word stories. They can take us on rabbit trails that reap delightful discoveries.

For additional insight through the etymology and history of first names, check out Behind the Name. Their Random Name Generator provides interesting possibilities; it explores masculine or feminine names from various nationalities and other categories. This just might help find that character name or bit of inspiration you are looking for.

Do names interest you? Care to share your first and middle name with us? Have names played a role in your writing?

Happy writing,


Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wise Words



"Inspiration is a gift, 

and like all gifts it must be treated 

with gratitude and responsibility."

Do you agree with Ms. Weiland? 

What inspires you? 

Happy writing,
Karen  :)

 Photo credit: Stock Exchange