Tag Archives: Writing Space

Help for Hump Day

"Looking Up", original drawing by Dave Campbell

“Set your sights high, the higher the better. Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future but right now. Realize that nothing is too good. Allow absolutely nothing to hamper you or hold you up in any way.” ~ Eileen Caddy, Author


Where are your sights set? Can you see it in front of you, now, this very minute?

I’m sitting on my wrap around porch overlooking the river, in a white Adirondack chair crafted by my handy husband. Notebook in my lap, cuppa joe at my side. Ideas swirling, dipping and weaving on the summer breeze, flowing in me, through me. Onto the paper.

I want to write about the old-fashioned meaning of the word queer, before it became an ugly insult. (I’ve been reading Virginia Woolf.)

I want to write about a black bird with flame red markings on its wings; it settles on the roof of a minivan and leaves a permanent curse on the family within. I want to write about the warmth of the morning sun on my face, the time I waited for Dave to finish an emergency alarm security job as I sat in his company truck, scribbling madly of the insane couple that lived there, the creepy grown boy who lurked about, who was watching me from the woods at that moment.

Of course, I have no wrap around porch or Adirondack chair, though my husband had built one in our previous life. I sit in my cubicle, tapping away at keys before my workday begins. The work that brings me a steady paycheck and the security of health benefits. My dream just at the edge of reality…

Is your dream taking shape, living within you today? The more detailed, the more real, the easier to get over the hump of a Wednesday.



Filed under Believe, emotion, Inspiration

Plow through the paper piles

It started with a dining room set…doesn’t it always?

With the stipend I earned for my teaching and speaking engagements, I bought a few inexpensive but efficient pieces of furniture for my dining room.  That purchase resulted in switching around the living room, my bedroom and my boys’ room. Nice and tidy, everything seemed to have its place.


Except the piles of paper, file folders, binders and notebooks which looked even more overwhelming in a “cleaner” space.  I’m a saver. But I needed to purge. So, I used this system, which will be evolving as I tweak and grow with it.

  1. PREP: I moved my desk chair to another part of the room and aimed all lamps to the floor, desk and bookcase I would be organizing. Grabbed a big garbage bag and tall cool drink (water, the wine comes later when the job is done.)
  2. BABY STEPS: My writing and teaching opportunities have grown quickly in the last few months, and with them, the paperwork.  So, I started with one lil’ pile at a time.
  3. CODE IT: I used 4 colored Sharpies (love those babies!) to create an organizing system: code and zone each item properly.  Blue: teaching items; Green: markets for my writing; Yellow: books/resources; Pink: CCYW, the nonprofit organization I volunteer with.
  4. PRIORITIZE: As I color-coded, I sorted out the items I knew needed immediate action (or within the next week) These items were later looked over and given a deadline date and a day on my weekly to-do list with a big green “A” circled on the front for “Action”
  5. FILE: Sorting each item to its coordinating colored “zone”, I used my other favorite office tool: the Dymo label maker, to name and file items simply for easy retrieval later. (i.e. Teaching items were sorted under “Lessons Plans” either as workshops I did or want to borrow from; Resources were those loose post-its and note cards I wrote book recommendations on or links to cool, helpful sites. These were then filed in one big red folder labeled: “Research on-line”)
  6. DIRTY LITTLE DRAWERS: I emptied the two small side drawers and the pull-out keyboard drawer of my desk. I restocked the right hand drawer with post-its, 3×5 note cards, a stapler, Dymo Label Maker and 2 colored highlighters, all for easy reach when I’m in the middle of working.  My left-side drawer holds a big Websters Dictionary and small Thesaurus, my business cards and cute Mary Engelbreit note cards w/envelopes.  The keyboard pull-out drawer holds two piles:  the Action pile and a pile of almost full spiral notebooks, each opened to stories, essays or fillers I need to type up and find markets for. This way, my to-do’s are right where I need them without appearing overwhelming and messy.
  7. AT MY FINGERTIPS: I have  a portable plastic file organizer where I keep my most referenced files. Currently those have to do with my young writers workshops and projects and the Capitol City Young Writers organization which I board (tracking meeting minutes and editing the qtrly newsletter.) I keep this close to me and clear of clutter, so there’s no excuse not to replace a file.  If I seem to get a few paper items all pertaining to a similar topic, it gets a file folder named (i.e. Board Meeting Notes, Events, My Education, Teaching Characterization, Setting, etc.)
  8. BOOK ME: With my  growing library of writing books, I now have a small, cheap but efficient bookcase near my desk to house all of these resources. I no longer have to dig behind my husband’s Dean R Koontz paperbacks to find Writing Down the Bones for quick inspiration.
  9. WORK IT: As my writing goals and schedule changes, so will my set-up. But for now, I can write, read and research in an organized environment. Now, my only time-waster will be Facebook!

Do you have any organization or spring cleaning tips to share?

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Filed under Advice, emotion, Organization, Writing Space

FREE Workshop by bestselling author Brooke Noel!

changeyour-life Did I say this was going to be the Year of Zen, or what?!  Facebook has its advantages and one was being invited to join a week long free workshop offered by Brooke Noel, author. But you can go to her site to sign up for free!

“Join bestselling author Brook Noel for a free week-long interactive workshop to help you manage time, hone in on your goals, live by your priorities, reclaim energy, and create contentment.

rook Noel shares how simple change can be with six proven and practical strategies to help women manage time effectively, get organized, decrease stress, live by their priorities, and get 2009 off to a balanced and exciting start.” (Courtesy of maketodaymatter.net)

Interested?  Go here! to sign up.

Want to hear more from Brooke Noel?  She’s appearing on Chicago Morning News tomorrow, Sunday Jan 4 at 10am CDT on CBS, Channel 2

Here’s to success, health and happiness in 2009!

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Filed under Education, Give Aways, goals, Inspiration, Organization, Writing Space

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Happy New Year!  If you’re still spinning your wheels on the the right way to set yourself up for a successful and fulfilling 2009, read on!


When setting goals, large or small, you need to be S.M.A.R.T.  We use this method in my day job to measure our performance.

S.pecific: Don’t generalize. Write down a specific goal. i.e. I will write 500 words every afternoon when the kids are at school. Not: “I will write everyday.”

M.easurable: Put a number on it! I will send out 3 queries per month or I will blog 4x week. Referring back to the “I will write 500 words/day”, to me is more specific than “I will write for 1hour per day.” Some days we work slower than others and “writing” for an hour may melt into checking email, posting on a blog, downloading a free writing program. This way, 500 words is MEASURABLE.

A.ttainable: Your goals should be challenging, but realistic. And you should have an action plan, or steps, that help you reach that end goal. i.e. Last year my goal was to begin a young writers’ group. The steps to do this were: contact the right person in the Junior Room at the library, write a rough plan of what my classes will cover, get help from others who teach writing on ideas and lessons they learned, find resources on writing exercises for kids; examples of young published authors; bring the right attitude! Voila!

R.ealistic: Again, start small and work your way up with step-by-step directions. You can’t build a house without a blueprint. Of course we all have those WILD goals, more on that later!

T.imely: Set a deadline. Some goals will not take the entire year to reach them. Say, you want to write a column for your local paper – give yourself a deadline on when your first article will be in print and work backwards to discover where to start. For those goals that will be  a long journey, recognize the milestones as you trek along.  Reward yourself in June if you’ve consistently sent out 3 queries a month.

A few more tips:

  1. Write your goals down now, today. Don’t wait for that epiphany to hit on the perfect goals and steps to get there. It’s trial and error.
  2. Think of reasons for the inevitable “excuses” and head them off.
  3. Go in with the right attitude. Attitude is EVERYTHING! Why not write down all of your accomplishments from 2008 to give yourself a boost?
  4. Commit to it! on paper, verbally with yourself and others.
  5. Ask for help: swap babysitting to give yourself uninterrupted time to conduct that phone interview; ask your spouse to take the kids out for an afternoon so you can tap into the deep seedlings of creativity; find a writing buddy to hold you accountable and check in weekly.

Let me know your goals! I’ll post mine soon…

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Filed under Advice, Believe, goals

Ready to write?

How do you prepare your mind and your muse to write? Do you have a routine? A certain nook in your home or maybe a booth at the coffee shop? Do you hand write first or go straight to the keyboard? Do you have a schedule and deadlines or whenever the page is calling?

For me, I hand write my fiction in cheap spiral notebooks (back-to-school sales are a great time to stock up!) and I type my nonfiction; maybe because I’m toggling between my word doc and the internet for facts and names. Either way, I have created a safe haven: at my dark wood writer’s desk in the niche under the window in my bedroom. The courtyard spreads in front of me, a sweet summer breeze blows in through the screen and my two rambunctious sons pop in every twenty seconds. “Mom, can I go on the computer?” “Mommy, can you pour me something to drink?” “David hit me!” “Sam erased my saved Zelda game!”

I may never have that perfect place, time or desire to write. But something in my blood calls to me: Go in your “happy place,” turn on the white noise in your mind and write with stopping.


Filed under Writing Space