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