Mighty changes are scary: a reflection from #AtoZChallenge

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“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”~Socrates, Greek philosopher
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I’ll admit, some of my Alphabet Haiku posts have been pre-planned, but not this.

I said at the beginning of this A to Z Blogging Challenge that I thought pre-writing posts was kinda cheesy, in the sense that it wasn’t holding true to the spirit of the challenge which is to blog every day. Then I realized doing so gives me the freedom to explore other websites and writers participating in this challenging. So I did that. Then I didn’t. I flip flopped between the two, and today is one of those spontaneous posts.

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I wrote it with the intention of posting on the Haiku Horizons site for the Week 112 prompt, Fear. I choose not to link up there because my self-hosting site adventure is progressing.

Now, to say “adventure” is putting the whole experience mildly. I’m going to focus on the process, my experiences and insights once I move over to the self-hosted site next week. That seems fitting. As of April 23, I’ll no longer be posting to this site, so it will remain a historical freeze-frame time capsule of my humble beginning. I want traffic to direct to that new site, because sending people here seems…well, unnecessary since it will become static soon.

It’s an adventure, and, yes, fear is a part of that. This haiku feels appropriate.

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Interesting ideas in #AtoZChallenge

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“Tell me and I forget. Involve me and I learn.”~Benjamin Franklin, American politician
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Today’s Alphabet Haiku is brought to you by the letter I.

April 11
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Isn’t it interesting?

Intriguing?

Indeed.

One #ROW80 Round2 goal done, but doesn’t change a thing

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If we were having coffee…
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I’m excited to say that it’s officially done: this website is now self-hosted. However, I am not promoting that site. Not yet.

I set up a self-hosted site with a brand new shiny name, but doing that wiped out all of the current formatting that you’re looking at. That’s not the end of the story. Heck, it’s not even the prequel. It’s a story to tell as I share my self-hosting blog experience, a simultaneous point of pride and wide-eyed disbelief. Simply put, I have to do this whole thing over again.

This website thing throws my ROW80 goals into a spin dryer. In no particular order, Goal 5 stated: “Update one thing on my blog each week.” Following this plan would keep my site freshened and current with the updated links-badges-formatting, those makeup touches long overdue. I did not expect a facelift.

1–Complete migrating this WordPress blog to the self-hosted one.
1–Redesign new/old website for launch Thurs, April 21; soft launch to my writers group and others Tues, April 19.
With this timeframe, I get my site launched and looking snazzy before the Rochester Writers Spring Conference on April 23. With two pre-launches, I can tweak anything that is glaringly unprofessional. I hope.

2–New business cards.
Now that my new web address is functioning in a skeletal stage, it’s time to order cards. I need something in my hands by April 18-ish, so design and order this week. My gosh, it’s April 10th already! Yipes! The thing is, I’m okay ordering anything professional-looking right now so I have cards to network with. I can always order new ones before my writerly events in May. A waste of money, you think? First, it’s a business expense, so no. Second–and maybe most important–I could spend $100/month on coffee if I set my mind to it, so re-doing cards is no big deal.

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3–Complete AtoZ Challenge posts for 2016 AND 2015.
Ugh. I lost track of my 2015 posts and had to list out what I needed to write. There’s an unlucky 13 of them. What a pile of poo I was about this last year. I’m staying current with this year’s haikus, and my posts are as long or short as I want to make these days. I have lots of open writing time this week.

4–Catch up and keep up with email.
It’s a nice goal–“Deal with 10-25 emails/day”–but I get at least 50 emails/day before deleting the obvious trash ones and those I have no interest in reading or dealing with, leaving still a net-negative emails in my Inbox.

6–Complete all blog/social media planner sheets for Happy Planner.
I keep creating new ones! I’m spending so much time planning my planning that I’m not utilizing these planning tools. Just stop already *smacks hand with wet noodle* Stop, stop stop!

7–Schedule social media.
See above re: planning planner sheets. I’m thinking on that, meditative reflection with coffee and tea nearby.

9–Put away holiday decorations: 1-2 boxes/week.
Haven’t yet.

10–Call family members at least once a week.
I’m going to call my Uncle Harold today. After I nap.

12–Continue writing letters.
I’m doing this, and finding inspiration through Write_On, which I’m writing about (ha!) this week. It’s more than a project, too fun to be called a challenge, and more awesome than just a campaign.

BONUS: Write for fun. Y’know, just play with words.
Haven’t done that yet, but this week, I’m okay with that.

—POSTPONED GOALS for April—

5–Update one thing on my blog each week.
Yeah. Addressed above. I’ll revisit this in May.

8–Schedule time to write/edit/promote my two current WIP: My Father, My Friend and Jimmy the Burglar: Thief of Socks.
Postponing until May, after the April blog nonsense is over, or at least contained. I’m hoping I’ll pick up some tips at the conference in two weeks. (Two weeks?!? Yipes!)

11–Contact 2-5 potential editors.
Yep, pushing this off until May when I’ll start with my Alaska contact and Fiverr.

I printed out these ROW80 Round 2 goals and attached them to a dashboard in my Happy Planner. No excuses for forgetting them now.

Are bloggers real writers?

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“I want you to be everything that’s you, deep at the center of your being,”~Confucius, Chinese philosopher
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Hi, my name is Diana, and I am a writer.

I state that up front because despite my published articles, books and national writing awards, people still raise eyebrows at the thought of writing being a “profession.” You know, those people who speak in that quotation tone of voice. Now that anyone with internet connection can expose themselves on a free website, what does that say about bloggers?

Bloggers are writers, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

I’ve been writing since I was four years old, long before computers, so I guess that means I’m a writer who blogs. That gives more justification, I guess, but it’s a crappy deal that “bloggers” need to be distinguished from even “writers.” Like there’s a difference. Someone once compared writing to a coffeeshop. You’d never expect anyone to say, “Oh, you’re a local coffeeshop ‘owner.'”

That offends me. Worse, it annoys me.

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Blogging takes works–as people who participate in the April AtoZ Challenge can attest to–whether you write for personal escape or a professional venture. Deadwood Writers Group, the awesome people in Michigan who critique my work and make me a better writer, started a blog more than two years ago as an opportunity for members to have an online presence, regardless of any other writing they do or aspirations they have.

Some writers use blogging as an exercise towards publishing, be that traditionally or self-publishing. Sue Remisiewicz boldly states, “No matter what happens, I’m creative. I write. I’m a writer.”

So what if you “just” blog? Be proud of your effort. You are allowed to challenge you.

Kelly Bixby writes essay-style blog posts, and says, “I try to make relationship issues, travel stories, grammar rules, and topics of faith each entertaining and/or inspiring,” she says. “The heart of every writer is curiosity, creativity and passion.”

Creativity is the key. Quotation people are afraid of creativity, or were told once that they weren’t creative. I am fortunate that others encouraged me to play with words. It’s never “just” blogging.

Karen Kittrell sums it up perfectly. “For myself, I write to connect. If I succeed, I define that as writing.”

April 1: Art and #AtoZChallenge

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“A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles.”~Mignon McLaughlin, American writer
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Welcome to Day 1 of the AtoZ Blog Challenge. Today I feel more Zzzzzz than Awake. April is just one of those busy months. And, really, how did it become the 4th month of 2016 already?

I chose an easy enough theme this year so I could actually complete AtoZ this year, and I totally forgot what April is. April is National Poetry Month. That I knew, but I wasn’t thinking about that at all when I decided to do Alphabet Haiku as my AtoZ Challenge.

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What I didn’t know is that this year marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. The social media hashtag #NationalPoetryMonth is exploding throughout the creative writing world.

Creating writing and catching up is just another theme with me this month, as I will complete the remaining letters of last year’s AtoZ Challenge: 26 Ways to Distract a Writer. Did you ever have one of those nagging things that you just can’t let go of, no matter how practical or useful it is to do that? For me, last year’s AtoZ is that. I’ll post those new links here as they get posted, which means you’ll have to come back every day if you want to find out how Jayne and her Writerself tale ends…for now.

If you want an idea of what Jayne is up to, read about her first day on the procrastination journey here.

Art is something I’ve struggled with lately, from Artist Trading Cards to Zentangle. I was an active member on ATCs For All, a delightfully creative online site for people to trade art with other artists. One of the most delightful events there was the monthly Bizarre Holiday Swap. Even my husband enjoyed seeing those cards! This is a mixed-media card I made from one of the those swaps:


Today’s Bizarre Holiday: One Cent Day. One cent and the 1st day of April. No April Fools here.

It’s been awhile since I’ve created art like that. I stepped back from that because I lost the interest and the thrill. I know when I feel the pull of it again, I’ll enjoy it even more.

For now, I’m enjoying my poetry journey. I hope you do, too.

Making Big Decisions: my #ROW80 Round 2 goals

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”~John Ruskin, English writer

I have a lot of To-Dos in my life, but listing 17 specific goals is leaving me scatterbrained.

I had this awesome blogposts written, expounding the virtues of A Round of Words in 80 Days, and then I overwhelmed myself.  Not that that’s a hard thing to do some days, but I needed to re-examine things.

Let me first say that ROW80 is a good kick in the butt to get organized and be productive.  By breaking down big-idea goals into measurable steps, you can get your Big Picture items done in small steps.

I tried Round 4 in 2015 and let it fade away. I accomplished Round 1 this year, and by accomplish I mean that I followed along with my goals even if I didn’t complete them. I received such encouragement on my Round 1 wrap-up post that I knew this was the direction for me to continue in the second quarter of 2016. “I hope I can scrounge up about 10-12 easy, accomplishable goals,” I said to myself.

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So many to-do ideas scribbled down

I struggled to narrow my originally outrageous 25 ideas into even 17 daunting goals.

I know myself well enough to know that I don’t do well with overwhelming lists.  Being too ambitious means I’ll fall harder for failing to achieve all the tasks.  What do I do?

I revisited the ROW80 site to read the “rules” of this challenge again.  The key idea here is measurable goals, and that’s the part I skimmed over, which is odd because this approach fits in with my exacting, to-do-lists-on-sticky-notes personality.  My Motown Writers Network challenges every member to set 30-day challenges and report the successes and struggles at next month’s meeting.  Regardless of how much I accomplish, I feel empowered.

Keeping items too broad, however, strangles people.  Kait Nolan’s post from 2011 resonated with me: “these aren’t goals they’re end results.”  Since I’m not always a big picture kinda gal– I like of seeing the little pictures–I was overthinking things.  I need a balance of wishful idea with specific action steps.

With all that in mind, here are my many-times-revised Round 2 Goals, beginning Monday, April 4:

During April:
1–Complete migrating this WordPress blog to the self-hosted one. I’m about 75% there, so I plan to aside one evening–hoping that’s all it takes–to make it functional enough to navigate because…

2–New business cards. Might as well make sure the new blog is up and hosted before sending people to that site. Spend 2-3 days between April 4-9th checking prices on MOO and Vistaprint and studying designs. I have writerly events coming up in April and May, so I need cards ordered or in my hand by April 18.

3–Complete AtoZ Challenge posts for 2016 AND 2015. Those 2015posts are hanging over my head and I can’t let them go. I have to finish them. Period.  That means draft write and/or finish 1-3 posts/week, starting today!  Set aside some of my Monday and Wednesday scheduled writing time to deal with 2015, filling with haikus where I can.

After that, my goals are in no particular order

4–Catch up and keep up with email. Deal with 10-25 emails/day, grouped either by date or by theme/sender.

5–Update one thing on my blog each week. I saw this goal from Shan Jeniah Burton in Round 1, and thought it sooooooo enlightening.

6–Complete all blog/social media planner sheets for Happy Planner. I don’t have many more to finish designing, so at least 1-2 per week so that I can…

7–Schedule social media. That’s a big, open-ended goal, and I’m not sure how to break it down right now. I know posting to Facebook (*shudder*) is high up on that list because I’m only on FB because everyone else is, not because I want to. Whatever it is, develop a schedule of posts/posting times of days during the week.

8–Schedule time to write/edit/promote my two current books: My Father, My Friend (memoir) and Jimmy the Burglar: Thief of Socks (humorous crime fiction). That’s also a big goal, and I’m not sure how I want to fit that into my schedule.  This is part of my #7 schedule social media goal.  I’ll break it down as I go along.

9–Put away holiday decorations.  If it’s just me doing this, then 1-2 boxes/week.

10–Call family members. Do this at least once a week.

11–Contact 2-5 potential editors. I’ll start with my Alaska contact and Fiverr.  I may do this in May when other deadlines pass, unless I can fit it in.

12–Continue writing letters. Serendipity arrived in the mail today with the Write On campaign, something I’ll share in a future post.

BONUS: Write for fun. Y’know, just play with words.

I have other goals that I so, so, so want to include in this list, but I wanted to cut that list down to a baker’s dozen. I classified the others as to-dos at this point.

A fishy Easter #WeekendCoffeeShare

If we were having coffee…

Wasn’t that coffee tasting fun?

I know, you may not be such a Starbucks supporter, but these monthly events are now something my husband and I look forward to. So far, I’ve learned that I do not like Latin American coffees, and African ones are hit-or-miss. You heard me ask Barista Dean about the types of coffees I like, and it’s the Asia-Pacific ones that seem to offer the mouth feel that I like. The roundness, was that what he called it? You’d think me a coffee drinker fresh out of the womb, but it was an acquired taste, born from the sleepiness of 5:00am film crew calls. That’s a story for another time. I want to tell you about last night.

My husband and I went to a Lenten fish fry.

This was my first fish fry since my Pittsburgh childhood. Oh, memories.

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Our current Peeps haul is larger than this…

Tomorrow is Easter. We’re already overflowing with Marshmallow Peeps, a childhood tradition and a joke between me and my husband from my 2009 article about the History of Marshmallow Peeps. I’m saving my one Cadbury Creme Egg for tomorrow, another family tradition.

And maybe I’m being extra-reflective because of the blogs I’ve been reading lately. Yes, I actually made time this week to read blogs, a lot of goal-setting between the ROW80 Round 1 wrap ups and A to Z Challenge Theme Reveals (you can currently find me at #493).  It’s the Throwback Thursday historic posts that have focused on family and memories in addition to goals. I’ve commented on these with my own family memories, which brings me back to fish frys.

Catholics typically don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, the weeks that lead up to Easter. Regardless of my parents’ health, what state I lived in or current religious activity, my family always observed meatless Fridays during Lent. It’s ingrained in me, so when I found this fish fry back in February, I so wanted to go.

There are so many pleasant memories about that. Riding the PAT bus through the neighborhood to St. Benedict’s, a school and a monastery. As we walked up the hill, what felt like a mountain, I always wondered what made a nun want to be a nun. Neither Mom nor Dad could tell me, but Dad would regale stories of his schooldays that every year involved nuns and wooden rulers on finger knuckles. The brick building with the ramp I had to go up instead of the steps. The stark hall, dull with tan walls yet screamingly bright from industrial overhead lights. The hum of chatter, voices laughing, saying hellos. The fast-food smell of cooking oil. A buffet line, find your seats first. White cardboard plates heavy and soggy from the river of coleslaw juice running under fish pieces. Sitting with Mom, Dad and my aunt. It was a party, and since we didn’t eat dinner out often, this was an event.

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Military rather than religious, it could almost be Pittsburgh

It took us until Good Friday to finally make it. We drove past a fish fry on the way to this fish fry. Who knew? At the VFW in Plymouth, we had the choice to sit in the Hall, which could’ve been my Pittsburgh memory plopped down in Michigan, or in the VFW Bar. 

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Baked and fried fish options at the modern-day fish fry

My husband chose the Bar. For the ambiance, he said.

We sat at a table across the room from the pool tables, next to the jukebox. It was the 4th Friday so live music started at 7pm and the pitchers of beer came out.

This was not my childhood fish fry.  It was still a good one.

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