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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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.”

Plants and kittycats for #AtoZChallenge

AtoZ-LetterB-2016AtoZ-LetterC-2016“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that makes happiness.”~Charles Spurgeon, British
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I’m combining Days 2 and 3 of the AtoZ Challenge today because, by pure coinidink, my “C” haiku relates to this week’s Haiku Horizons prompt, Cat.

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AtoZ meets Haiku Horizons #110 “Cat”

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I wrote my alphabet poem before I saw the topic, a match made by obvious telekinetic mental abilities…or else I’m just being mental. Believe what you will.
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I am not a gardener by any means. I am humbled by the lawn art my friends accomplish, but endless cycle of pulling weeds is not worth it for me. Houseplants are as green as my thumb gets, and I’m quite adept at keeping my plants thriving. Tree was once on life support–two or three times, actually, but we’re not counting–but she has been groomed and trimmed, and last year birthed the cutling, Sprout, who is pictured in Haiku B. Curious about their growth and transformations, then check out the Instagram hashtag #TheWritersTree to follow the amazing journey of life and death and life of my 18 year old tree.

Be sure to visit other blogs on the AtoZ Challenge to see even more delightful topics.

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.

Marshmallow Peeps, ghosts and friendship: a #ThrowbackThursday post

I’m happy I stumbled upon the Throwback Thursday Link Party.

There’s a lot of #tbt flopping out there on social media, but a lot of it is selfish. Look at me! Me me me!! It’s all about me!! People post their photo or whatever and then go away until next week.

If you don’t connect with the person directly, a lot of that stuff is “so what?” Blog hops are places that encourage people to visit and perhaps connect with other bloggers–you know, people…the interacting part of “social” media. Bloggers travel through their treasure trove of historic posts and share something written 30+ days ago. In doing this, I’m rediscovering myself in the process.

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Trying to keep with the Easter holiday theme, I discovered that I’ve written NO posts specifically about Marshmallow Peeps. If you know my history with them, my gosh, you will find this unbelievable.

My Throwback Thursday contribution is my Halloween story about marshmallow ghosts and friendship.

This holiday tale was originally told during A Fanciful Twist’s 2011 Halloween Party. Vanessa’s site was my first experience with a blog hop, and my Halloween Party post is awaited by all my friends. How cool is that?! One of my scrapbooking friends bought me a tripod for my digital camera/smartphone so that I could take steady pictures in low-light settings.

Stop on over and take your own trip through history on this site.

My final #ROW80 Round 1 reflections and suggestions

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”~Winston Churchill, English statesman

A Round of Words in 80 Days. The challenge is detailed here on the #ROW80 blog for all writers, bloggers, artists and whomever has large goals to achieve. This is done four times a year, with Round 1 ending today. This is a summary of my accomplishments–or nots–so you can read my original post HERE.

Which brings me back to A Round of Words in 80 Days. By the end of the first quarter–or ROW80 Round 1 dates of January 4-March 24, 2016–these are my ROW80 Round 1 goals:

HERE ARE MY RESULTS for the first Quarter of 2016:

1–Polish and publish Jimmy the Burglar: Thief of Socks.
NO
There’s no excuse: I got distracted, I put other things first; I was intimidated with a fuller-length fiction story…you name it. I could’ve made the time–I had the time–but I didn’t. This is something to roll over to Round 2, for sure.

2–Find and do a blog self-hosting site. 
YES–or at least almost; it’s in progress. I’m just waiting on the final domain name transfer. Have you ever done this? It’s simple yet surprisingly complex. I’ll share my thoughts in future posts, an education I wish someone had walked me thru.

3–Blog planning.
MAYBE
It’s something I’m working on.  I blocked off days to post my Haiku Horizon posts, for example, and some days I met them; some days, the post moved; some weeks I never wrote or published the post.  “Publishing” a post is the key.  Here’s the scary thing: I looked back at my “drafts” folder here on WordPress to see what I could reuse or update.

I had drafts there of 2011 posts.
What the *bleep* happened?!?

The list of 207 drafts includes ideas I was tweaking and blog posts I didn’t finish. This was most likely due to interrupted writing time. Now that I have set aside dedicated writing times, I can take these good, mostly-finished posts and complete them. Or not. Several things I’ve learned from this part of the #ROW80 challenge:

–I’m a good writer.
–I need to Keep Up.

Seeing this shocking revelation can help me blog-plan–I feel it!–but I’m not sure how to translate the feeling, this newfound confidence or whatever it is, into something practical.

3A-The Blog Planning goal included scheduling social media.
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This goes back to blog planning: what do I want my Twitter; Instagram accounts to achieve? What do I expect from my Facebook and Amazon Author Pages? A great idea came from a blog and Instagram accountabout defining yourself and your audience. Hers captured what I think I want: “people like me who read any books and all subjects, like to read YA and other subjects.” She has a bookstagram acct–I’ll detail that later–but it made me think about my mission statement, and maybe that will be a #ROW80 goal next round.

Back to social media, I need to see how that fits into my life. I’ve got the writing planning down with carved out spaces in my days week to do it, so work in these other tasks.

4–Update my blog: About Me, Resources and other tabs.
NO
Sounds like a copout excuse, but without defining “me” I can’t update my site to reflect that. Self-host and getting rid of the “wordpress” in website address was Step 1, so this is manageable. It still feels like playing, not actual working, and not sure how to let that go in myself

5–Fractured finger, heal thyself.
YES
Or so I think. Weds, April 20 is perhaps final-final appt. It’s haealed or healing it feels like it has movement most days, but doc sayas it may take a year or more to fully heal. Will it ever fully heal?

6–Make progress on memoir My Father, My Friend.
NO
And I feel like a total failure for that (also see #1 above)
I have writing time carved out. But I’ve let other things take over my time, ironically blog planning (see #3 above) has been a factor in this. Balance–need to achieve that.

7–Make time to play.
YES
I scrapbook old photos, doing that dreaded word scrapbookers quiver at: “catch up” That’s okay; I’m overwhelmed with past projects and layouts, but any progress is a step forward. I’ve scrapbooked with a friend of mine, and I rediscovered joy in playing with paper. I’ve stepped back a bit from ATCs and altered art; I’m not feeling that vibe now, but that may be a break I need. Writing and all that goes along with it (see #1, 3, 4, 6 above)

8–Do some fun writing.
YES
A bit. I wrote a fiction short story I began for Storytime Friday over on A Life Among the Pages and never finished. I’m still not done, but I had fun traversing along the world my mad, mad, mad, mad mind created.

In closing, my thoughts in review:
–I need to manage my time, but I know I can.
–I need to re-read my notes from Rochester Writers Fall Conference and review how the romance author publishes four books a year. She has a schedule, and that’s what I based Jimmy the Burglar: Thief of Socks goal on.
–This has been a gentle, and not so gentle, slap in the face of how I’m using my time.

Let’s see how I revise all this for Round 2. If you’ve participated, let me know how your goals went and your thoughts on the challenge.

The fun #AtoZChallenge 2016 Theme Reveal

“Do or Do Not; there is no Try”~Yoda, Jedi Master

It’s the first day after the first day of Spring. That means it’s the end of March. That means bloggers around the world unite in mass hysteria for the phenomenon:

Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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Every April, participating bloggers write daily posts–except on Sundays–that correspond to that day’s letter of the alphabet.
AtoZ-BlogChallenge-2016-AprilBadgeApril 1 is for the letter A, the first letter; April 2 is the letter B; April 3…well, you get the idea. The topic is anything you want, or nothing at all. Bloggers will pre-write and schedule posts so they can better blog hop while others just write on a whim each day. Photos, recipes, favorite books, villains, teddy bears…you name it, and the theme is probably there. It’s November’s NaNoWriMo for bloggers.

Last year was my first time participating, and it was quite a flop. I only completed half the month’s worth of posts because I created a theme that just exploded into a delicious mess of complications. My theme “26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer” was designed to be a humorous look at the ways we writers procrastinate, and how we allow others to enable us in distractions. What started out as short tips led to longer, detailed explorations. Then Jayne came in. She was my flash fiction to show by example what the distraction can do to a writer. Her life developed in a soap opera.

See? Complicated. Way too much for this talent-yet-unplanned writer. My April 2, 2015 post should have been “B is for…Blogging from A to Z” because I buried myself in expectations.

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This year, I’m keeping it simple–simpler, at least–with:
Alphabet Haiku

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The idea did not spring forth because April is National Poetry month, although that’s a nice happenstance. This theme came from a haiku challenge I had started on a now-defunct (?) social app community called Heyku. Later renamed Ku, my app stopped working, and I haven’t confirmed its non-existence on Facebook, since FB is the only place people actually communicate with others. Anyway, I did an alphabet challenge where every word of a haiku began with the same letter. I almost reached the end–“W” for werewolves never posted on the app site–but I never got to Z. Old photos on my phone reminded me of this, and it seemed like a good thing to revisit.

I will NOT reuse any of those old haikus. That’s part of my challenge. I may mix it up a bit: all words begin with the same letter, end with the same letter, rhyme somehow…I’m not sure how things will shake up.

If you followed last year’s adventures, I will also be finishing up those Procrastination posts of Jayne and her Writeself. They’ve been a weight hanging over me, one I cannot let go of. I need to finish them. Knowing that many of them are mostly-written makes me feel somewhat positive about completing. Again, I’m not sure how things will shake up; as my husband says with annoying regularity: “We’ll see.”

If you want to see what other bloggers are doing, check out the Theme Reveal here. As of this post, there’s almost 500 bloggers participating.

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