Monday, October 27, 2014

6 Tips for Staying on Task

Last week's post discussed distractions that keep us from writing and other important tasks. I asked you to share what distracts you and what you do to stay focused. The internet was the biggest offender and solutions ranged from ignoring it to writing elsewhere (on paper, a desktop with no internet access, etc.). Other offenders included chores and phone calls. Thanks for all the input!

It's an ongoing battle, filtering out distractions and defying procrastination. As I considered your comments and insight, I thought about the next step. Even with the best of intentions, writing time isn't always as productive as we'd like. How can we keep writing and life balanced yet stay on task?

1) Prioritize - Everything clamors for attention, so weigh things in order of importance. When in doubt, pick an item, do it, and cross it off the list. Voila! Progress.

2) Set Goals - Daily, weekly, or whatever works best. Without a target, we wander aimlessly and get little done.

3) Deadlines - Even self imposed ones can motivate and build self discipline and productivity. The feeling of accomplishment after meeting one? Priceless.

4) Budget Time Spent on Social Media - Assess where time is spent (Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest?) and set reasonable time limits. Little "deadlines" like this can help us work more efficiently.

5) Utilize Unproductive Time - I heard Roger Palms (author and former editor of Decision Magazine) speak at a conference years ago. He stressed the importance of taking advantage of unused time. We aren't always aware of it - five minutes here, ten minutes there - while waiting for a call or before leaving for an appointment, etc. I call these potentially productive stretches pockets of time, and use them to write a paragraph or two, visit blogs, do internet research, etc. They provide opportunities to chip away at the to-do list.

6) Keep Moving Forward - We reach our destination by taking one step at a time. Meeting a goal provides a sense of satisfaction. This stifles doubts and boosts confidence.

What would you add to the list? How do you stay on task?

Happy writing,


 Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, October 20, 2014

Close the Window

It's funny how a deadline can reveal weaknesses in one's self discipline.

It makes you a little more conscious of how many times you raid the kitchen for a snack or walk out to the mailbox.

Then there's the desk straightening, and the sudden need to vacuum the dust bunnies underfoot. And the refrigerator. Just look at how dirty it is! It needs to be cleaned out. Right now, of course. 

What does one do when faced with so many distractions?

Here are a few things that have helped me: 

1) Ignore the phone. If nothing else, I screen calls. (That way, if someone calls to say I won a big writing award, I won't miss it.) I also mentally set aside "working time" and don't answer the phone.  Too many calls can hijack the day.

2) Dismiss the chores. I'm not saying that we should ditch housework, but sometimes things can wait. The sun will still rise tomorrow if the carpet doesn't get vacuumed today. But we won't get paid for the article if we miss a deadline because we got sidetracked chasing cobwebs. 

3) Reschedule the must-do-now distractions. The bookshelves that scream to be alphabetized? Tell them to hush. The overflowing file cabinet that's mocking you from the corner of the room? Don't stress over it. They will be there tomorrow.

4) Close the window.  The internet is by far my biggest distraction, like a tangent waiting to happen. I get WAY more done if I close it. 

These simple actions help me better manage my time. With a good balance of determination, self discipline, and flexibility, my writing stays on track.

What keeps you from your writing or other projects? Do you close the window? What helps you stay focused and get things done?

Happy writing,

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chatting with Maria Morgan

Maria Morgan and I met through blogging a number of years ago, so I was excited to hear that her book Louie's BIG day! was released last month. I'm looking forward to sharing the story with my grandson. :)

What was your inspiration for writing a children’s book? Why did you choose to self publish?

A couple years ago when General Mills sponsored their Spoonfuls of Stories contest, I wrote Louie’s BIG day! and sent in my submission. My story wasn’t chosen, so I set it aside. A year later, I shared it with my writer’s critique group. They loved it. So while I was waiting for a different manuscript to be reviewed, I went back and added a few things to Louie’s story and decided to pursue publication. I’m glad the Lord slowed me down so I would pay attention to His leading.

Slowing down can be a good thing. :) Can you give us an overview of Louie’s BIG day!

Louie is a bright red lawnmower who used to live at the hardware store with his friends: Ruthie Rake, Eddie Edger, Bobbie Blower, Terri Trowel, and Henri Hose. Recently he was purchased by a man and his wife and now he’s on his own.

Louie misses his friends, but it’s time to find out if he can do the job he was made to do. Join Louie for his BIG adventure and discover the surprise that awaits him at the end of the day!

I had the privilege of reading Louie's story. It's cute! Will we be seeing more of Louie in the future? 

Yes, you will. Louie’s adventures are just getting started and will be chronicled in the Louie the Lawnmower series. He and his pals have a second book, Louie & the Leaf Pile, coming out early next year.

That sounds like another fun story. I'm sure that before long, Louie will have his own fan club! What do you hope to accomplish with the series? 

It’s SO important to take advantage of every opportunity to teach our children biblical truths. I’ve designed the Louie the Lawnmower series to do just that: teach concepts from the Bible in a kid-friendly way, and conclude each book with questions to foster parent/child discussion.

I agree. Where can we find Louie’s BIG day!

It’s available in both print and Kindle versions. You can order a print version here and order the Kindle version here.

Thank you Maria, for stopping by. Wishing you all the best with your book!

Thanks for hosting me! 

Maria's Bio 

Maria I. Morgan was born with an active imagination. Originally an inspirational author and speaker for adults, Maria has widened her circle to include kids. She lives in the muggy South with her husband, two retrievers, and two Maine coon kitties – the perfect mix to fuel her creativity for years to come!

Connect with Maria

Connect with Louie

Do you have any questions for Maria? What book was your favorite when you were a child?

Happy writing,


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Write for Life Blog Tour

I am hosting a mini blog tour this coming week to kick off the release of Write for Life Volume One, complete with a little giveaway and blog hopping. Be sure and check out the Rafflecopter Entry Form below for giveaway details.

Thanks to all my writer friends who are helping me to spread the word. Here is the list of writers who are participating:

Monday 10/13 - Robyn Campbell at Robyn Campbell 
                                  - Yvie at Gypsy Road 
                                  - Gena Mayo at I Choose Joy
Tuesday 10/14 - Susan Sundwall at Sundwall Says
                                  - Gena Mayo at I Choose Joy
Wednesday 10/15 - Sandy Sieber at PA History
Thursday 10/16 - Carol J. Alexander at Everything Home with Carol
Friday 10/17 - Susan J. Reinhardt at Christian Writer/Reader Connection
Saturday 10/18 - Jeanette Levellie at On Wings of Mirth and Worth: Soaring, Never Boring

An Overview of Write for Life 

Write for Life: Volume One: Writing the Research Paper

This book offers ready to use lessons for grades 7-12 that guide students through the process of writing the research paper. Suitable for homeschool families, co-ops, or other student groups, these eight lessons break down the process from start to finish with helpful instruction, encouragement, and practice.
Lesson topics include:  

  • MLA style research paper basics, topics, and sources
  • Thesis statements
  • Outlines
  • Developing content
  • Rough and final drafts
  • Citing sources

No matter what we do in life, good communication skills are an important ingredient for success.  Strengthening students’ writing enhances verbal and other interpersonal skills and helps prepare them for a lifetime of good communication.

Since 2005, Karen Lange has used these lessons to teach homeschool teens at the Homeschool Online Creative Writing Co-op. She believes that everyone can improve their writing skills with a good balance of instruction, encouragement, and practice. 

Purchase Write for Life on Amazon

If you have a moment, I invite you to leave a comment, enter the giveaway, and stop by the participating blogs. (The Giveaway begins tomorrow.) I appreciate your support and encouragement. You are a blessing to me! :)

I also invite you to join me tomorrow (10/13) when Maria Morgan stops here to discuss her new children's book.

Happy reading and writing,

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 6, 2014

Watch Your Tone

One issue I have with email and texting is that you can't always interpret the sender's tone. It's usually difficult to judge inflection and emotion unless the sender adds emoticons or a longer explanation. Have you ever received an email or text that seemed aloof or impatient? While email and texts serve their purpose, they aren't always the best way to communicate. 

Writing on the other hand, can provide a better avenue for us to employ an appropriate, reader friendly tone. One definition for tone is how our writing feels, sounds, and is interpreted. It may form through word choice, sentence structure, and a writer's attitude and style. The writer’s tone can be sarcastic, serious, humorous, sad, or a combination of these and other qualities. I believe that tone factors into a writer’s voice.

When discussing tone with my teen writing students, I have them consider an exercise where they imagine two actors trying out for a part. Each actor’s only line is to say the other actor’s name two times. 





Then I have them repeat the exercise and ask what it would sound like if Patrick and Clarabelle were afraid or surprised, angry, confused, or happy. I ask students then to consider how the characters communicated each emotion.  

We may not always directly consider tone during the process, but it does factor into the mix. The revision process can help us assume the correct tone for our writing.

When in doubt regarding tone (and other details) before I submit, I rely on:
  • Considering the audience and publication
  • A second opinion from critique partners
  • Reading my work aloud to better hear how it is "heard"

Do you consider tone as you write? How do you think others view your writing tone?

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Stock Exchange