Writing tools that are practical and fun to use

“You can’t blame gravity for falling in love.”~Albert Einstein, German physicist

The only reason I completed NaNoWriMo this year was with the incentive of buying myself The Big Reward.

Material goods are great motivators, and if self-bribery helps you write, go for it!  It was mid-November, and I was watching Instagram-inspired YouTube videos rather than writing my NaNoWriMo novel.  You see, I’d stumbled upon photos of this sub-culture in the crafting community who were scrapbooking in monthly day planners.  Yes, that old school paper date planner that 10 years ago you could only buy in office supply stores.

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I used paper planners ever since college when I needed a paper datebook to keep track of my exams and projects and parties.  Flash forward to 2010, the time when I was using my smartphone’s calendar to record my dentist braces appointments as well as in my datebook paper.  The duplication was annoying and time consuming.  My husband wondered why I was doing this  because, outside of his work, he’d made the seamless switch to smartphone calendar.  It took me months of me guiltily leaving my paper datebook in my bag before I was comfortable scheduling appointments on my phone.  Soon the paper was obsolete, a perfect analogy to print books and paper in general.

Back to the Big Reward.  I saw some planners in person when I bought my annual 8″x 8″ scrapbook calendar Christmas gift for my husband.  A woman browsing the same aisle was looking at planner tools and inserts.  We talked about the madness and the desire, just as any scrapbooker has with paper and stickers.  I left the store with the thought, I have to get one.

While I continued procrastinating Nano anyway I could, I stumbled across a YouTube channel of someone using her planner to plan her social media life:  blog posts, YouTube videos, Twitter schedule and more. Here was justification: I could make a practical use of a planner.

There were other synergistic activities occurring in my life–thoughts I’ll share in future posts–that made a planner play-full and now practical.

But this obsession meant more procrastination which I could not word-ly afford.  So I bartered with myself: I can buy myself one only if I successfully complete NaNoWriMo.  I learned that I can write 5000+ words a day, and that was how I succeeded writing 50,721 words in 16 days.

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It was eye-opening and inspiring to see that I could do that.  I had the time if I made the time.  It encouraged me, especially since I fished a 25,000-ish word story out of my misplelled NaNoNonsense: Jimmy the Burglar: Thief of Socks.  The subject and storyline was inspired by my original Story Cubes set as well as conversations I’ve had on Instagram.  I am working towards publishing this by the end of the year.  Now, thanks to my Happy Planner, I have a plan.  I’ve blocked off specific days and times to write or complete specific tasks.  Having them written down helps me see what I need to do and what I have completed.  I also put some social activities in there; it’s never too late to have a party.  It’s satisfying and more encouraging to see check marks in my to-do boxes.

If you’re planning a writing goal for 2016, be sure to plan your own Big Reward for success.  I’m excited to see how this helps move me forward.

After the wedding–adventures in pictures

“Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.”~H. Jackson Brown, Jr., American writer

This weekend’s wedding adventure.

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August 7th in 7 photos

“Limitations live only in our minds.”~Jamie Paolinetti, American cyclist

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4 reasons why entering writing contests is a good thing

“It is better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.”~Elizabeth Kenny, Australian celebrity

Do you need outside validation to consider yourself a “real” writer?

I don’t. I know I am a good writer…but it sure feels good!

This year, I celebrate my 10th anniversary as a member of the National Federation of Press Women. I was introduced to NFPW when I moved to Delaware with my fiancé-now-husband. I was already a published writer, someone who had magazine and newspaper clips to fatten her portfolio, but I was seeking more opportunities. NFPW–which is not exclusively a women’s organization–offers its members the opportunity to enter the organization’s annual Communications Contest. The variety of categories is mind-blowing. The writing category includes news and specialty articles, headlines created, investigative reporting and editorials. There are divisions that focus on: photography; radio or television interviews; PR campaigns; speeches; educational advising; and books, blogs and screenplays.

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What a surprise–my nonfiction book won 2 first place awards–so far…

How cool is that list? If you communicate, you can enter this contest.

Not all contests are the same. Most contests charge a fee to enter, which is often a deterrent. Is that a gimmick to snag gullible writers? Are free contests a waste of time because there is no entrance fee? Contests may have certain requirements that your work does not meet, and that can be discouraging. Some contests offer a monetary award, some offer a blog badge and some offer absolutely nothing. Who judges these contests? Can anything be trusted?

An artist to me is any writer producer photographer or designer of something creative. As an artist, you need to value your work. A contest is an easy way to explore that for yourself.

I have entered the NFPW contest every year since I joined. Why not? The entry fee is minimal, and I’m curious about how my work compares to others. Artists in the area you submit in–writers, photographers, media professionals, authors–are the objective judges in each category, which validate the results.

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You’re reading an award-winning blog


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This year, I entered my Michigan Scrapbooker articles, two blog posts and my two books published in 2014. All but one entry has moved from the statewide At-Large level to the National contest. This blog you are reading, it is an award-winning blog, two years in a row.
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Electronic media has recently exploded in the contest, so if you “only” blog, you can enter. But why should you enter this or any contest?
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1–Experience and exposure

By entering a contest, you discover what opportunities exist out in The Real World. You see categories and opportunities available to you. That’s valuable on so many levels. Maybe through that, you explore a new medium. Maybe you challenge yourself to enter a piece of art you didn’t think was valuable to others in the world. The more you do enter contests, the more you explore outlets and possibilities. Research new areas for your work, medium for writing, new groups to join.

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State awards for my Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine articles

2–Critique and Feedback

In the NFPW contest, entries get short but critical feedback about what worked and what needs improvement. My hobby articles are cited as easy to read and informative, but could be longer. I can’t do much about that, as there is only so much space available in the magazine, but that encourages me to make my writing tighter. My books have been cited as being fun and creative but needing technical assistance with editing and/or formatting. Lessons learned.

I belong to a fabulous local writers group. These fellow writers, published and not, offer honest and brutal feedback. I love it! Seeing my work through objective eyes is the only way I can improve. If you don’t have such a group in your area, contest feedback is a useful tool in your creative art.

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Awards from my entries in the statewide contest sponsored by Michigan Press Women

3–Networking

When others are exposed to your work, opportunities for connections abound. Writing is generally a solitary activity, even if you write in libraries or coffee shops. Contest may offer the opportunity to meet other like-minded artists. NFPW has an annual member convention; entrant or not, you can attend.

What a great way to socialize, hand out business cards–you do have some, right?– and share stories over a drink in the lounge. Last year, I attended my first convention, and I reunited with some of my old Delaware members. It was also a reminder that I have access to a network of people to help me achieve my goals. Remember that “needs an editior” comment above…?

4–Bravery

Yep, bravery. You make a commitment to your work, trusting your art and setting it free. I’m a big believer in the empowerment of writing “The End” at the bottom of my document Sending it into a contest accomplishes that even if you don’t believe The End is the end. It is The End for now, and that’s strong. Don’t deny yourself any measure of success.

If you finish something once, what’s stopping you from creating and completing a second project, or a third or a fourth? Enter a contest and find out what that’s like.

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…And we move onto Nationals

Here there be Haiku

“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life.”~Walter Anderson, German writer

I’m in a whimsical poetic mood. Enjoy.

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Penn State Blue-White Weekend 2015 in photos

“Life is one big road with lots of signs; don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality.”~Bob Marley, Jamaican musician

Sights for the senses from Blue-White Weekend, April 2015

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Two challenges: April to Zentangle

“Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”~Francis of Assisi, Italian Saint

There is a lot going on in this post, whole lots. The big thing here is the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

I probably found out about this from someone in my WordPress reader stream. Really, who knows how we all hear about these things on the Internet. It seemed an intriguing challenge: blog everyday in the month of April, except Sundays, with the only theme being that day’s letter of the alphabet.

I’ve been struggling with blogging lately, less so since I took Marcie Hill’s Overcoming Bloggers Block to heart, but this seemed like an incentive to keep current and constant with my writing. I could combine the two elements into my life: blogging with the help of blogging!

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It took awhile to decide on a theme. I trolled around the Theme Reveal Page from participants. I didn’t post over there because I didn’t accept the challenge yet and even if I had, I didn’t know what I’d write about. I cheated and created a second March 23rd post so others could find me if they were searching for Theme Reveal and that date. I visited many of the blogs listed there–seriously, about half of the 544 websites–to gain inspiration and to check out what others are doing.

There’s a whole lotta websites out there in the world.

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In the end, I chose inspiration from one site using emotions and words from the dictionary and combined that with this cool eBook I read about tips for travelling with vampires. My theme is:

26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer

Perhaps that’s why I was not into this week’s Diva Zentangle Challenge #211. Flux is a fun, easy tangle, but I have never quite mastered the whole comma-aspect of the design. It always starts out “perfect” but then dissolves into something kinda stringy. From flower to string cheese. Rick’s interpretation of it intrigued me, so I thought I’d try them both out in a mix-n-match kind od flowing tile.

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Di’s Diva Challenge #211: Flux

That happened again, and I wasn’t quite grasping Rick’s version. Well, I did, but I didn’t have the space available on my tile to play and experiment. I tried to stay within the strings, but sometimes tangles just want to play outside the lines.

At some point, I just gave up. I filled in the empty spaces with solid black, and that contrast suddenly made in better in my eyes. I just needed a little punch. For reasons I can’t explain, I enjoyed shading Rick’s version more than the “standard” style of Flux. Maybe because it was new. Maybe because in the end, I felt more in control making a leaf-tongue than a comma. More to experiment with.

Why it’s okay not to write

“The sun is new each day.”~Heraclitus, Greek philosopher

Did you ever have a day that was productive but not? That went by so slow but all of a sudden it’s bedtime? Things you thought were wrong were actually right, at least along the correct path? That everything seemed old and stagnant, but then someone points out something cool about you or your work?

I was re-introduced to my writing. Guess what? (go on, take a guess) I was the one who reintroduced myself, reminding me that I can string words along in a pretty good sentence or poem. Before I head off to do some more serious edits–or maybe add more words in again, who knows?– I’m sharing some writing images. Thanks to Marcie at Overcoming Bloggers Block for saying that it’s not cheating to do a blog post of just photos somedays. They tell a story, too.

If you like these and want to see even more of my writing universe, visit my Instagram feed and say “Hi.” The “social” aspect of social media always starts with a conversation.

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Alliterating the alphabet via @Kuapp

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Glimpse into my writing world

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As good as customer service can be

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Address book becomes new journal. The B&N cashier handed the book back just like this. Struck me as a cool image.

A to Z Theme Reveal at WolfHowlings

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How does anyone find out about anything on the Internet? I probably learned about the A to Z Blogging Challenge from someone in my WordPress reader stream. It seemed an intriguing challenge: blog everyday in the month of April, except Sundays, with the only theme being that day’s letter of the alphabet.

I love a good challenge. Even a bad challenge because that’s more of a challenge.

I trolled around the Theme Reveal Page , visiting about half of the 544 websites there to gain inspiration and to check out what others are doing.

After viewing one site who’s theme involved using emotions and words from the dictionary, I combined that with the premise of a cool eBook I read about tips for travelling with vampires. Come back next month for all sorts of fun and hilarity to experience my theme:

26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer

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