10 Minute Writer

Confessions of a Busy Mom Who Became an Independent Novelist

Mothering And Fathering Yourself As A Writer

I posted this two years ago. In that two years, I’ve had more success in my writing career than I ever would have thought possible. Regardless of that success, I still need balance. Hope you like this. 

 

Was it Stephen King? Or Anne Lamott? Or Julia Cameron? I don’t remember, all I remember is that it was suggested to me by some writing guru, that we should both mother and father ourselves as writers.

As I’ve ruminated over that concept in my mind, I envision part of me treating my writing like Phil Dunphy, when it should have been kicked around by Claire. Or  maybe my writing has had far more attention from Homer and and not enough Marge. (Or maybe I’m spending too much time with my television, which clearly means I need more discipline.)

We need to balance the way that we treat ourselves. We should be equally disciplined (like a father — in general terms) and nurturing (generally like most mothers in a traditional sense — please, I don’t need to have any I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR comments . . .), so that we are comfortable writing, but not so comfortable that we forget our obligations to our art. Too much discipline and order and we get stressed out. Too much coddling and comforting and we get soft and lazy.

Go with me, if you will, into my mind, where the nurturing, soft, feminine side goes toe-to-toe with the task-oriented, masculine side. Which side will win? (And when do I start my counseling?)

Mother:  Aww, you’ve written two hundred words today!  You are so amazing! Have a cookie!

Father: Two hundred words? Come on, you can do more than that! You did 2K a day last November!

Mother: Of course the agents you query will love you. Just do your best. What else can you do?

Father: So what if you get a rejection. Buck up! Try harder! Rewrite that query!

Mother: It isn’t about earning money, dear, it’s about sharing your talent with the world.

Father: Why would you work this hard on something and not want cash?

Mother: Write from your heart!

Father: Write for the market!

Mother: If you get an agent and a publisher, then you’ll have credibility and people behind you, and your books will be everywhere. I can tell my bridge club to buy your book on Amazon!

Father: If you self-publish and get your own books, you’ll have control and more profit and your books will be accessible. I can tell my golfing buddies to buy a copy out of the trunk of my car!

Mother: Social media is not about fame, it’s about relationships.

Father: Social media is about sales, and avoiding those awkward phone calls when I don’t know what to say.

Mother: Nanowrimo is fine, dear. I can do all of your Christmas shopping for you. Just don’t expect me to understand when you leave the Thanksgiving table to get in your word count.

Father: Nanowrimo? If you can write a book in a month, why aren’t you writing twelve a year? You could be rich!

Mother: I loved your book!  It was perfect!

Father: Which of the characters was me?

Mother: So, when you say you’re blogging, isn’t that the same as Facebook?

Father: How about those Red Sox?

So, what do you think? Do you overly mother yourself or overly father yourself? Or are you balanced? Are there any mother/father discussions about writing I’ve forgotten?

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100 Things I Can’t Do, By Katharine Grubb

It’s time for you to judge me!

Naw, not really. But it is time for me to reveal to you some weaknesses and faults. There’s more where this came from. Here’s #101: I can’t get too much more personal without a box of tissues. 

Enjoy!

 

1. Eat popcorn without regretting it.

2. Put something away properly unless I’ve moved it around, stepped over it or stared at it for 4.5 days.

3. Say the “F” word.

4. Drink Diet Pepsi without gagging.

5. Watch my husband’s favorite movie “Wings of Desire” without falling asleep.

6.  Sleep on my stomach.

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7. Whistle.

8. Play any musical instrument with skill.

9. Stop picking my cuticles.

10. Find my Mary Kay moisturizer (I think I left it the hotel last weekend).

11. Tolerate small talk for longer than five minutes.

12. Look at my children without smiling

13. Follow technical directions without a picture.

14. Watch local or national news without feeling nauseous.

15. Endure animals of any kind.

16. Properly take care of plants.

17. Get excited about Google+

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18. See without my glasses.

19. Completely trust others.

20. Give advice without sounding a little judgemental.

21. Take correction without getting just a teensy bit defensive.

22. Ski.

23. Run. Yet. The ankle that I broke last March is still really sore.

24. Figure out an efficient system for keeping track of socks for seven people.

25. Tolerate people who have narcissistic tendencies.

26. Get excited about science projects in my home school.

27. Keep calm when I see a mouse in my house.

28. Remember much about my babies except how tired I was.

29. Express myself on holidays that require an emotional response, such as Thanksgiving or Memorial Day because emotional manipulation is a trigger for my PTSD.

30. Help feeling a little sorry for myself after reading this list.

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31. Say the phrase, “You go, girl!”

32. Listen to pop music for even a second.

33. Get excited about “what dog I am” quiz on Facebook.

34. Imagine life without Costco.

35. Picture my husband with hair.

36. Ever get a tattoo. I know it’s trendy. I know I probably have a high tolerance for pain after five kids, but I think I would keep wanting to wash it off.

37. Wear pierced earrings for longer than a day without my ears getting itchy.

38. Visit my hometown without having an anxiety attack.

39. Drop my r’s like a Massachusetts native. “Mahc, pahk the cah!”

40. Find southern country sausage in local grocery stores.

41. Use an electric pencil sharpener without it eating my pencils.

42. Give up my Burberry handbag I found at a thrift store for $10. It looks more winter than spring, but it’s big and classy and I love it.

43. Balance a checkbook.

44. Keep from wearing my heart on my sleeve.

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45. Remember to wash my kids’ faces before we leave the house.

46. Hold my alcohol.  I’m good for two drinks.  Then I get really sleepy.

47. Eat hot dogs.  They make my stomach hurt. (30 fat grams each! No loss there!)

48. Eat bologna. Same reason.

49. Get excited about smoothies.

50. Tolerate artificial sweetener.

51. Watch “Frozen” again.

52. See myself without a specific faith.

53. Believe how enjoyable my children are.

54. Believe that my oldest kid may be taking college courses next year as a high school junior.

55. Make pizza from scratch without questioning if it is really worth all the trouble.

56. Look at all of my millions of freckles without suspicion.

57. Bear the thought of sending my kids to school.

58. Tolerate over-attachment to stuff.

59. Scrapbook.  I have photos in chronological order.  That’s the best I can do.

60. Read Better Homes and Gardens without intense skepticism. Particularly the articles about parenting!

61. Watch violent acts on television or in movies.

62. Look at the last 400 pages of Les Miserables as my cure for insomnia. Hm, maybe I can?

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63. Swim well.

64. Feign interest in Harry Potter.

65. Enjoy myself fully in a crowd of more than four or five people.

66. Get to 2048. I got as far as 1024 a few times though.

67.  Get all of the jokes or references regarding the Boston Red Sox that are mentioned at my church events.

68. Find a working ink pen in this house.

69. Hike for a while because of my ankle history.

70. Seem to get through a Sunday at church without someone sticking their stuff in my bag. “I’m not your locker, people!”

71. Enjoy orange soda and hamburger relish.  Separately. And together.

72. Go anywhere without a notebook and a writing utensil.

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73. Run my household without the help of my children.

74. Find matching comforters for my boys’ beds that I like.

75. Use my wedding china.  It’s been in storage for seven years.

76. Sew.

77. Seem to acquire enough shoes.

79. Go to my local thrift store without buying something pink.

80. Have a Martha Stewart Christmas — even though my intentions are good.

81. Stand Whoopi Goldberg

82. Send or keep Christmas cards.

83. Think about flying without getting a little anxious.

84. Enjoy a church service when my children are touching, grabbing or holding me.

85. Help but stick my nose in my daughter’s script-writing projects for her puppet shows.

86. Homeschool without the internet.

87. Identify any birds by their songs.

88. Buy my children socks and underwear for Christmas.

89. Wear anything with writing on it.

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90. Actually type in ‘LOL’ or ‘ROFL’.

91. Tolerate the flavor of children’s toothpaste.

92. Work in my kitchen without wearing an apron.

93. Find my children’s birth certificates.

94. Help but suspect that all of my friendships are hanging by a thread and one careless word from me will destroy them forever.

95. Find any peace in that last statement.

96. Give myself a pedicure.

97. Afford a professional one.

98. Believe all of the nice people I’ve met through this blog. I am blessed!

99. Have sandwiches for lunch. We’re out of bread.

100. Touch my dining room table, my boy’s hands or handles on my kitchen cabinets without feeling a mysterious stickiness.

There’s a lot more. But I’m going to stop at 100. What can’t you do? 

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Top Twelve Reasons Why My Romantic Comedy Is Better Than A Latte

Oh, coffee! We love you! We love your dark, rich yumminess! We love your gentle ritual every morning. We love that you are a sensory delight. But do you know what we love even more?

Good books!

Today I’d like to argue that my romantic comedy is better than coffee. Specifically a latte.

 

Wait a minute . . . . THIS isn’t a latte! You’re right! It isn’t! I spent my hard-earned money on the copy of a great book and made my coffee at home! (You should too!)

1. I am an independent publisher. By buying my book instead of that latte, you’re supporting small business, encouraging local growth and supporting the arts. If you buy a cup of coffee, you’re lining the pockets of corporate America. Vote with your conscience, people!

2. I had a reader keep track of all the smiles, guffaws, LOLs and giggles she got from my book. She stopped counting so she could enjoy the story. Has your coffee ever made you laugh? I think not. Unless it was made by a clown.

3. Coffee does wake you up and satisfies you for a short time. Yet a book entertains you for hours and when you’re done, you don’t have to go to the bathroom.

4. No delicate rain forest was harmed in the creation of my e-book. I didn’t even go near a rain forest. I didn’t even think about rain forests. E-books are environmentally friendly.

5. My book asks the question: Who has the most power in a relationship? The lady? Or the gentleman? My last latte asked me no questions at all, but I think it did look at me a little funny.

6. When you’re done with coffee, what do you have to show for it? An empty cup. It is so sad. What do you have when you finish reading my story? A happy ending! And then perhaps sadness because it’s over. And then maybe happiness because you can read it again.

7. My book has poetry in it. Mostly Tennyson. A little Frost. I highly doubt your coffee is so well-read.

8. You can read my book on your iPad or other reader. There are few places in this world that you can’t take your device. Coffee on the other hand?  Can’t even take it through airport security. Or the library.

9. You can’t spill my book on your lap and sue me because it’s too hot. I’ve written and rewritten those love scenes. If anything, it’s not hot enough.

10. You rarely hear a barista say: “Making a good cup of joe has been my life long dream.” Whereas, the publication of this book has not only been a dream come true for me, but it’s opened up door after door for me as a writer. You’re not just reading a book. You’re reading my destiny! 

11. Lattes are Americanized versions of an Italian drink. My book is written by an Americanized descendant of Scotch-Irish dirt farmers and misplaced Cherokee Indians. My people have suffered more.

12. Books are cheaper than coffee. For the price of a designer drink at Starbucks you can buy books from independent publishers from all over the Internet. So, put down your latte and support your local indepedent writer today!

If you do buy my book, please leave an honest review here. I’d appreciate it.

 

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How A Box of Knock-Off Grape Nuts Taught Me About Relevance (And The Internet!)

We are a single income family of seven, so it is no wonder that we buy the cheap stuff. One purchase, a box of store brand Grape Nuts, not only was good for our budget, but it also, proved to be very educational. 

The back of it said, “The Internet and How It Works.” It went on to explain such unfamiliar terms as “email” and “emoticons” and “HTML”.  My children and I read every word (and I totally regret in the telling of this story that I didn’t get a good enough photograph so you could see all of its glory.)

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We mocked this. We mocked it over and over. What was the most fun, however was seeing my 12 year old son hold his head and shake in mirth. It was hilarious. “I didn’t know this!” He wiped the tears away. I could understand his perplexity. He was born as a result of his parents meeting on America Online back when they had to explain email to people.

We asked ourselves. Just how old is this box of cereal anyway? Does Market Basket sell boxes from 1994?  Where’s the nutritional pyramid or the advocations of a cartoon animal wearing clothes encouraging us to get exercise and eat right? Why this?

Was it a marketing department’s modern solution to the prize at the bottom of the box? (Kids love the Internets!) Have you been to a Market Basket lately? They’re not exactly bastions of modernity.) But then I realized that maybe the problem wasn’t the cereal box, maybe the problem was us.

Then it hit me. The Market Basket people think we’re 70. Who else buys Grape Nuts? Most families like us buy either brand name sugar cereal or designer organic gluten free vegan pops from Whole Foods. Who buys generic grape nuts?  The retired?  People who may have a keen interest in fiber? People who don’t get on the Internet!

I get it now. The poor misunderstood designers of this cereal box are trying to educate the generation of people who neither need the internet nor care about it. They’re trying to make changes. They’re trying to get my parents to jump on Twitter. (#itwillneverhappen)

I wondered if future boxes would explain Tumblr or the necessity of Google+? Would the fake Cheerios tell us how to monetize Goodreads? Puffed rice would instruct us when the best time of day to pin stuff on Pinterest?

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 The back of cereal boxes could, be, if we really wanted to stretch it, kind of Wikipedia for the older set. They could get more information on important topics, like How Not To Alienate Your Adult Children and  You Lived Mad Men, You Don’t Need To Watch It.  Put This Box Aside And Talk To Your Spouse of Forty Years; You Never Know, One of You Could Be Dead Tomorrow.

 What I thought was just a dumb idea, was in fact a brilliant one. The designers of this box are  trying to tap into a untapped audience. Instead of mocking them, I should be following their example.

Just because it’s relevant to me, doesn’t mean it’s relevant to others. I put a lot of thought into Twitter on a daily basis. I blog. (Obviously) Social media/the Internets is always at the front of my mind. When I crawl out of my cave to talk to people in real life, sometimes I wonder why they haven’t interviewed writers in New Zealand or chatted with a BFF in the UK. What are they missing? Apparently, there are a lot of people who have happy, fulfilled lives without ever writing a tweet. I need to appreciate this. Not scratch my head in bafflement.

Just because it’s irrelevant to me, doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant to others. I don’t need to know exactly how the internet works (We all know it’s the LOLCats running in little treadmills.) But I suppose that there are plenty of people out there who really don’t know and want to know. Who really don’t know what it means when I say I DMed my friend in Ohio or am charging my Macbook Air or got repinned for the 800th time on that cake recipe and yet nothing on my writing stuff. If you read the back of a cereal box (which probably has more staying power than a copy of Reader’s Digest) to understand these things, then great! This is unintrusive. You don’t look stupid by asking your grandchildren. You are empowered just a little more. Instead of thumbing my nose at it, I should be applauding.

The creators of this appear to have figured out where to go to meet the needs of their core consumer. Am I thinking so outside of the box? (Or rather, on the back side of it?)

My apologies to you, Market Basket, for your daring public service on the back of your cereal box. Let’s hope that an entire generation of seniors (or at least Grape Nuts lovers) have their world expanded because of the happy wink.  :-)

 

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Why Modern Writers Need Poems (Or Why Poems Are The Equivalent of Kale Smoothie)

Everybody hates the guy who tells them how to eat. Except it’s not usually a guy. Usually, it’s a conscientious, often neurotic mother, who while having very good reasons to monitor her family’s needs decides that everyone else in the world need her wisdom too. She may criticize your gluten, your sugar, your GMOs or your 99 cents a pound hot dogs. Her answer to everything is based on her research, her scouring of local farmers and her refrigerator full of raw dairy. And she’ll be happy to tell you what you’re doing wrong.

I’m going to be that mom today. I’m going to say, you should read more poems. It will be good for you. 

 food mom

Poetry is portable literature. Poetry is seasoned metaphor. Poetry is the literary equivalent of a take-out gourmet sandwich shop. Poetry is a vitamin-packed smoothie. Taste one! Sample it! Savor it!

What kinds of poetry should you read? Read anything you love. Subscribe to a poem website and get their daily poems. Commit them to memory. Start with the familiar and move on.

Joyce Kilmer on MorgueFile? Score!

Joyce Kilmer on MorgueFile? Score!

Memorize all you can.  Memorize it for the sake of the discipline of it, of committing something to your soul, of tasting the words as they come off the tongue, of subconsciously realizing that these poems were put together with great care and craftsmanship. This is Longfellow! Tennyson! These aren’t slapdash inklings of a self-absorbed teen. This is something you can carry with you.

What do you take from a poem? If you have the literary nutrition of a poem daily, the you can  appreciate rhythm, imagery, metaphor, meaning, communication, pathos, story telling and good craftsmanship. Analyze it while you thinking of it, much in the same way you would analyze a novel. What is the poet trying to say? Why did he make the choices that he made? What emotions are you experiencing as a result of the poem? What insight do you have that you didn’t have before? Why was this so important to this poet? What literary elements, like alliteration and repetition and assonance are used here? What does this poet want his reader to take from it?

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 I make my kids memorize poems. I pick long, rhythmic poems that have some sort of concrete elements to them, like the repetition in Charge of the Light Brigade or the story described in Paul Revere’s Ride or Ballad of the Boston Tea Party, and then Casey At The Bat just because it is fun and perfect for opening day. We’ve memorized William Blake, Robert Frost, Robert Louis Stevenson, tons of Jack Prelutsky and Mary Ann Hoberman. I knew I was on to something when my ten year old son looked at my bookshelf and said, “You have the complete works of Emily Dickinson, but you don’t have Rudyard Kipling!”

(Need a website to go to? Try PoemHunter. It’s easy to manage & create your favorites list!

The study of poetry is, sadly, a neglected one. And in today’s literature, a good dose of this isn’t such a bad idea. Novelists can benefit from the lessons taught by the great poets. We’re so busy making our characters likable and our plot points believable that we leave out the metaphor, the pathos, the art.

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 10.10.24 AM Poets also worked on their poems for months. I think in our rush to self-publish that we forget the necessity of the time required for good craftsmanship. As long as we don’t take a lesson from Coleridge and use drug use to create a Kubla Khan, (which I think should be an exception, not a rule.)

 I think we’re so busy sometimes worrying about being clear that we make it too easy on our readers. A little nuance, a little subtlety, a little mystery a challenge may do them some good. We can learn this from great poems. Will we lose readers? Maybe. But my books weren’t for everyone anyway.

Why do we need it poetry? Because it is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of art out there. Writers who savor poetry become better writers. 

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I just watched this Ted Talk recently. Very inspirational!

 We shouldn’t let our own voice sink to the lowest common denominator. We should, instead, nurture it with great words like those found in the poems of the past and present. We imitate what we have before us. If all we read is junk literature, the latest pulp novel, a sappy, uninspired romance, then our work will could potentially be stuck in the pedestrian and the common. One way to fight this is to surround ourselves with the wholesome, the healthy and the literarily nutritious.

 Read poems every day. Your mind and your words will thank you. 

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The Terrible Things My Work-In-Progress Says To Me

 

I have a work-in-progress and I think it hates me.

Every day I sit down with this project and put in at least an hour. When I sit down with it, I feel it come alive. It is a non-fiction book, so it’s not like it’s alive in the sense of genre or character. It’s alive with the ease (or lack of ease) that comes with the drafting and sculpting of each chapter, the way it seems to fight against me.  Some days, it is sterile and compliant; I’m the boss. I put one word in front of the other, much like writing a blog post, and by the end of my hour, I can see the work that was accomplished.

But most days, my work-in-progress is anything but sterile and compliant. It’s the boss. And me? I’m just the miserable minion that has to do its bidding.

WIP

Sometimes my WIP is a wild animal. It responds to me with claws and fangs. It hardly comes when I call it. It requires a chair and a whip and possibly raw meat in my pocket. I hold my ground with it, flicking the whip with confidence. I have to remind it that my name is on the contract. (Wait, no that’s not a strong argument. WIP’s name is on it too!)

Sometimes my WIP is a diva. It demands of me to rewrite the sentences that have been rewritten dozens of times. It has high standards that I’m not sure I can meet. It withholds affection from me and turns up its nose at the ideas I bring or the structure I’ve suggested. This IS a book about writing, it sighs to me. How original can you expect to be? And then the dark glasses go on its face and I am dismissed.

Sometimes my WIP is a spoiled teenager. I often sit at my desk wanting to be other places and my WIP (who lives in my computer and never goes out) rolls its eyes at me and whines. “Let’s go swimming!” “I’m so tired of this!” “How much longer do we have to work on this project?” I can beat teenagers at their eye rolling game. I say, “until it’s done. An hour a day in 10 or 20 minute increments.” “Stand up straight”, I tell the WIP. “Let’s get it over with. I’d rather read a book too. And you realize I have a delete button at my fingertips, don’t you?” WIP, in teenage fashion, slams the door behind it.

Sometimes my WIP is an exhausted toddler (which is the same thing as a spoiled teenager, only less articulate.) Tears are usually involved. I can see my WIP holding its fists in anger and screaming. “I DON’T WANNA!” I don’t tolerate this behavior. I didn’t when my five kids were little and I don’t now. I slip into my teacher voice and yank that WIP by the ear and say, “Sit down! Hush! There is no reason to act like that. We are going to get through sixty minutes of drafting and if you give me one more whimper, one more whine, one more tear, I swear to you, I will change the font to comic sans! Do you understand me?” Then the WIP wipes its snotty nose on my sleeve and sits up straight. When my hour is up, I pat it on the head and send it on its way.

Sometimes my WIP is a harpie. This is the worst one of the group. Its only attack is to mock me. Years ago, I would have responded by running away, by quitting, by believing all the lies that it was telling me about how this is a waste of time. It’s not going to sell anyway. How is this book different from what others are saying? They only asked you because they knew you’d work cheaply. After you finish this, you’re done, you don’t have any more projects in you. But I’ve changed. When I see my WIP cross its arms and hold its nose in the air, I stand a little taller. I’ve learned that most bullies back down because they’re cowards at heart. I slip into my best Dirty Harry voice: Get. Over. Here. And then I may or may not slap it upside the head, (depending on how graphic you want this story to be and how believable it is that I actually take a whack at my computer. Hmm. Not very.)

Despite my complaints, I’m blessed and grateful that I have this gig. I’m learning a great deal, growing in discipline and already meeting people who might benefit from this book. But this is hard work. Every day is a battle of will and discipline, and not just mine.

Someday this book will be done and sitting on the shelf beside me. It will be powerless to mock me, torment me or roll its eyes. Instead, it will bring in royalty checks and open doors.

And then the scars, tears, discipline, hard work and ridiculous metaphors will all be worth it.

 

 

 

 

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Writer Moms’ Survival Guide: How To Maximize Those 10 Minutes With Little Ones Around

On June 19, 2014,  I led a Twitter chat about this subject. Now, these are just notes. The Q1, Q2, was part of the tweet to keep the readers organized. If you’ve got questions, just ask! This is only how to address the issues of time management — not what it’s going to look like for you.  Join us every Thursday at 9PMEDT #10MinNovelists for more practical tips, encouragement and community for time-crunched writers. 

 

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SURVIVAL TIPS FOR WRITER MOMS

 

This is about evaluating your life, home & family, to maximize your time so you can write for at least 10 minutes a day.

I am a homeschooling Mama of five (now ages 8-16).Single income family. Lived in expensive urban Boston.

I’m going to explain how you can be PROACTIVE to find time and keep your home organized, rather than REACTIVE.

This takes 4 steps. Organize time. Organize expectations. Organize people. Organize personal vision.

I’m going to go through each step & explain how to do this. You could take a week for each step & evaluate your family’s needs

 Organize your time. On paper, track your time. Little bits here an there can either add up or slip through your fingers.

Budget time in the same way you budget money. First thing to commit to is sleep.

Go through your schedule.

First thing you cross out is sleep. Do your best to get 8 hours. Don’t cut corners here if you can help it.

Work needs. Yours and your spouse. Include your commute.

School needs. (I’m fuzzy on this since we homeschooled. Our homeschool schedule was in stone.) You should make the school calendar your best friend.

What’s left over?  Play, church, sports, etc. You should have a little wiggle room. If you don’t, you’re over committed! Stop right where you are and rethink this.

Organize your household expectations

1. What is your standard?

2. Know this and agree with your spouse on food, cleanliness, clothing, extracurricular activities, bedtime rituals, etc. We are freaky clean around here, but we have simple bedtime routines. All of our food is homemade, but we eat sugar, not too much dairy or nuts.

3. Make decisions about this. Your standards may be so high that you no time to do anything else. On the other hand, your standards could be so low, that you have no order, no plan and you just put out fire after fire. Think through this.

 Organize your people. This is your greatest asset. Tell them so. 

1. Explain your vision to your spouse. Ask for help. Work as a team.

2. Delegate to chores to children over 6.

a. Show them how.

b. Set them up to succeed

c. Be patient.

d. Encourage them

e. Model a good attitude — MOST IMPORTANT FOR THE LONG TERM

3. Train children under six to love chores.

4. Organize Your Personal Vision

1. Have low expectation. 10 Minutes a Day

2. Have a space that’s just yours.

3. Have a plan.

4. Have order so you can sit down and work with the less fuss as possible.

 

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Tips To Make Your Blog Tweet More RT Worthy (Gentle Suggestions For Participants of #MondayBlogs)

Author’s note: I published this post a year ago just as I was seeing the wonderfulness that was #MondayBlogs. I still believe in this meme and still think a little shine and polish on our tweets could make the difference. Agree?

 

I participate in a meme on Twitter called #MondayBlogs. The idea is brilliant. On Mondays, anybody who wants to can post a link to their blog and those who follow that hashtag can find new blogs to read and new writers to enjoy. In theory, those who participate read each others’ blogs, RT and favorite the heck out of them so that the whole world can discover this new talent. I have found dozens of new readers this way and I love doing this. (Unfortunately, I’m not very good at RT-ing back. Monday is LAUNDRY day for this family of 7, I’ve got a LOT to do!!)

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I would LOVE to RT and favorite everyone who participates in #MondayBlogs, but honestly, often the headlines or tweets that contain the link are so lifeless and dull that I’m not the least bit interested in them.   I wonder if with a few changes in the tweets, all of us could see good results. I’ve listed a few things I’ve noticed (and things I try to implement) —and I’ve written some over-the-top silly blog title headlines to get the point across.

It’s all in the headline. Consider your #MondayBlogs Tweet as a headline of the original post. The more concise and clear, the better. “My Thoughts on Dyeing” is terrible. Be specific. “Why I Dread Coloring My Hair This Summer” is much clearer and much more interesting. Don’t know where to start? Start with “Who” “What” “Why” or “How” and fill in the rest!

Follow headline rules, like Capitalize Each Important First Letter.  This makes your tweet look more grown-up and polished. Tweets like “five ways to get your cat to sing” are wimpy and indifferent and I certainly wouldn’t be interested. But “Five Ways To Get Your Cat To Sing” at least looks like you’re trying.

As tempted as you might be, don’t say “New Blog Post”.  Duh. We know. Just leave us a link. We can figure it out.

Put as much thought into the headline as you did into the post itself. Use vibrant verbs. Keep it Short. Pretend for a minute that it isn’t a blog post, but a magazine article and these first few words are on the cover of Cosmo. (It would be best, though to keep it rated G, unlike Cosmo). “Tips To Make Your Blog Title More RT Worthy” is a little long, but it’s clear. I could have also gone with “Your Blog Title Sucks. So Fix It!” But I’m trying to be helpful. And nice.

Use numbers. I asked someone a few weeks ago what their biggest pet peeve on Twitter was and they answered that seeing this: “Eight Ways To Use Your Crock Pot for Cleaning” and “Top Ten Toothbrushes for Dogs”  – the numbers in the title seemed to be too much. A pet peeve? Really? Folks, this is good headline writing. If you can quantify the contents of your blog post into a list and then use that list in the title, you’ve got something interesting.

Exaggerate a little. “Folding Chair Options That Will Change Your Life Forever” Well of course, it won’t exactly change my life, but the exaggeration might compel me to at least click the link and see what the fuss is about. I love the fact that Twitter is so casual, you can get away with a little exaggeration and hyperbole and it may make you all the more charming.

Be Funny. Now not everyone can do this well. But if you can use humor in your headlines or tweets do it! Humor is powerful. If you can get a smirk or a chuckle or a LOL out of someone, you’ve won half the battle. If you can be funny consistently, then you are building a reputation for wit and comedy that can bring readers to you.

Sell You, Not Your Book. As tempting as it is to say, “My Romantic Comedy for Ninjas is $.99 today” for #MondayBlogs. Please don’t do it. I personally find this off-putting. We all have books to sell. Instead, tell me something about you, something you’re struggling with, something that demonstrates how much we have common. Then, after I get to know you, and discover how awesome you are, I’ll be happy to buy your book and maybe even interview you here about it!

Study other headlines. Spend twenty minutes and read all the headlines in your magazines and newspapers. See if you can make your blog titles just as pithy and pointed as those writers did. There is a REASON why headlines are designed the way that they are and professional writers are trained to capture readers’ attention. Learn from them. If you call yourself a pro, then act like it!

Consider the blog post itself. If your having trouble writing a headline for your 1500 words on your writing angst, then there may be a reason. Keep your blog posts simple and to the point, then you’ll see that the titles are much easier to write.

And do a little research on your own! Here is a fascinating article on Forbes about headline writing. And another list of very practical suggestions from author Jeff Goins.

And a whole honkin’ bunch of articles from Copyblogger. Really, after all this information, there’s no reason why your headlines need to suck.

So what do you think? Am I off the mark here? Do you think I’m expecting too much? Do you have any suggestions to add?

There has never been a better time in history to be a writer. But the downside to that is that we are competing against each other for readers. We must be willing to  be our very best with every tweet, every status update, every blog post. Don’t get lazy with things like this. Put your best foot, uh, I mean tweet forward and see what happens.

 

 

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The Magic That Happens When We Chase That Fickle, Unpredictable Muse

The words have always been inside you.

The words inside of you have been prodded and poked, jostled awake. They were dreaming of the melodies of a hundred poems. But now they are awake, raised their sleepy heads to hear the call of a muse.

Follow me! (1)

The muse is back and she has something to show you. You must have your words or you will miss it.

You and your words now leap out of your slumber to stumble along, tripping and trapping, catching glimpses here and there of that voice that beckons you to follow.

And follow you do. The muse leads you, sometimes along easy paths, worn down by writers before you. You know this! This is easy. And you march your words together in an orderly cadence. They are rhythmic and harmonized and beautiful.

And then, just when your confidence is at it’s strongest, you let the grasp of the muse slip from your hands. You thought you were forever tethered to her, but you are not.

Follow me! (2)

You are lost once. You spin and turn, calling out her name, but in the silence of this isolated wilderness you are aimless and dark. Your voice is silent.

Yet you try again. You hold on to the optimism that today will accomplish more than yesterday. You follow a path and step by step, create word by word, you make progress. A sentence is formed, then another, then a paragraph. Then the you find the path clearing and start to run, forward, passionately toward idea after idea.

Then, at a cliff, you find you are lost again. The words around you seem weak and useless.

And yet you start again.

This is exhausting. You find comfort in a bit of rest.

You  jump start your brain with a little coffee or tea and get those fingers moving on that keyboard. You are going to read, but not just read, you are going to immerse yourself into a hot bath of words and let them swirl around you. You are going to take deep breaths, a syllable here, a sentence there, and absorb their beauty. You are going to relax and remind yourself  that you can only get better, that we all started somewhere and whatever setbacks and discouragements you had yesterday are only opportunities to get better today. You are going to open your mind up to new ideas and new inspirations, new ways of telling stories, new points of few, new structures, new plots.

And then that fickle, merciless, enchanting muse returns, just as mysteriously and magically as she did before.

Muse looks at you with a confused tilt of her head. Where were you?  She asks. You sigh, despising her impudence. The question is, where was she? You were in place all along. You were the one who was faithful.

She gathers up your words together. They are slippery and fall out of her arms, wanting to escape. YOu take them from her. They are rightfully your words, not hers. You crack your whip and they shriek in fear. You corner your characters and listen to them with tenderness and then poke them into submission. You aren’t afraid of their teeth and claws. You cut, you add, you subtract, you rewrite, pushing, pulling, stretching and folding until they are unrecognizable. This takes hours. Days. Weeks. Years.

Muse claps her hands in delight.

Follow me! (5)

The words will submit to you. They will. You will line them up according to their meaning, according to their rhythm, according to their power and then they finally sing for you in a sweet chorus. The music swells in your ears and as you sing along, you choke a bit. This was hard work. But you’ve mastered it.

You are the creator of this song. And the whole world sings it with you.

And the muse? She’s slipped away. Perhaps she’ll come back tomorrow and whisper something new to you. Perhaps she’ll forget you for days or weeks (she’s like that, you know, visiting your friends frequently and your enemies far too often.) And when she returns, you’ll remember the battle and the journey.

You won’t be afraid.

The words have always been inside of you. You are their master.

And you will, most certainly, create again.

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Dos and Don’t For Meeting A Deadline In 10 Minute Increments

Recently I promised my publishing friend that I would have a manuscript for her.  Well, it wasn’t completely ready, so I implemented the 10 minute method to get it done.  From 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM, I stayed in my kitchen, alternating work every ten minutes. Ten minutes on the computer, ten minutes either washing dishes, making a meal, folding laundry or baking bread.  I am happy to say that everything was satisfactorily completed.

But there were a few mishaps. I would like to call this “Deadline Do’s and Don’ts”

In 10 Minute Increments

1. DO:  Try to keep your children busy while you are working.

DON’T: Decide hours after the injury that the bruise on the 2 1/2 year old’s chin should have been treated with ice.

2. DO:  Use your favorite appliances to help with dinner.

DON’T:  Set the rice cooker basin in the sink (with rice in it), turn on the water and get distracted by children who are not doing their afternoon chores.  You will likely make enough rice to feed your entire neighborhood.

3. DO: Be attentive to your husband as he comes in and out of the kitchen, preparing for his day at work.

DON’T: Forget to wash your hands while making bread. He will, most assuredly, ask you to go get the dress pants in the closet. He will then realize that there is flour on the pants.

4. DO: Be cheerful to everyone in your household.  They are not on deadline, only you are.

DON’T: Get frustrated with your husband when he asks you for a wet-wipe to get the flour off his pants.

5. DO: Have the children help out around the house.

DON’T: Send the four year old to the basement to bring up a new gallon of apple juice. He will undoubtedly drop it, causing a hairline crack in the bottle, of which you will not notice, until an hour later when the contents of said bottle have drained out the bottom, all over the counter top, down the counters and onto the kitchen floor.

6. DO:  Ask the children to have self control in the house.

DON’T:  Scold the 6 year old for running like a wild man and falling because of a lack of self control.  He just slipped on a puddle of apple juice that Mommy didn’t know was there, even though it was eight inches away from her.

7. DO: Make your work work around your life.

DON’T: Make your life work around your work.

8.  DO:  Learn from your mistakes.

DON’T:  Ever complain about being on a deadline.  This is what real writers do.

For this assignment, this worked. Everything got done and I was happy. If I can work my family around my work. You can too!

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