What’s Your Story?

It’s July 2020…if your life was a literal story, what would you make of it?

I’ll admit, we all have some scary scenarios right now. It might be boring, lonely, anxiety-inducing, a struggle…but in 6 months, where do you want to be?

 "We all have a story to tell, whether we whisper or yell" ~He is We

This is the question I’m trying to ask myself.

We’re halfway through 2020, and its been a rough one. I don’t need to go into details for all of us to know that. But I do find myself re-examining, re-evaluating in a similar way to what I do every January. Taking stock of where I am, and where I want to be. I’m sure part of it has to do with my birthday being in June. Plus, I’m a natural overthinker—that doesn’t help!

This could be a good thing, though. It helps me center myself and zero in on where I’m going, despite whatever chaos is happening in my life at the moment. And let’s just say chaos has been abundant this year…am I right?

But often that chaos makes me feel like life is happening to me. And every so often I need the reminder that life is what I make it. What I dream it can be—if I will just stop and think about how to get there despite whatever roadblocks are in the way.

It might not even be something big. That step in the right direction may be a little thing that grows with time. It’s just up to me to take a step in the right direction.

For me, right now, that means focusing down on something small that will bring me a boost in motivation and focus. At the moment, that’s my health. My exercise routine got seriously disrupted when I started working from home. So I’m working toward exercising in some way 5 days a week. My other big priority is my writing. My gothic novella series is coming along! The first two are done, and I’m writing the third. These start releasing in August. Each day I’m just trying to either plot or write or dictate, even if its only for half an hour. Every bit of progress helps me feel productive and boosts my creativity.

It feels good. And that helps me feel happy in the midst of chaos.

What small steps are you writing into your life to make the last half of 2020 worth reading? What are you writing out of your life to bring back your joy?

I’d love to talk about it! Comment below or connect with me on Facebook!

Take care,

Dani

Are You Done?

I have a really bad habit. It’s one that encourages exactly the opposite behaviors of the prolific, productive writer/human I want to be. I focus on what I haven’t gotten done, instead of focusing on what’s on my schedule, what I have time for, or what I’ve already accomplished. The spotlight only shines on What I Haven’t Done… That’s so sad. How often do we do this to ourselves? I’ll never build energy to move forward by beating myself up over the unfinished items in my wake. And that’s what I need—energy and momentum to go forth and conquer. (one of my life mottos!) This year I’ve begun working with a Kanban board, which has seriously helped my productivity and attitude. In January, when I was taking the items down to start on February’s tasks, I automatically carried all the old sticky notes to the trash can. After all, I didn’t need them anymore, right? Wrong! At the last minute, I paused. In my hand were over a dozen things I had done in January. I HAD ACCOMPLISHED these things. And let me tell ya, over the last year, I’ve been pretty paralyzed, especially in the marketing arena. Getting these things done was a huge step for me and something I should acknowledge. Hell, celebrate even! Rather than throw them away like trash, I took these precious reminders of my forward momentum and put them in this simple basket. Then I marked them as DONE. To others, this might not be important or necessary, but for me its becoming more important on a daily basis to STOP beating myself up over what I didn’t do, ant START acknowledging the things I did do, did make time for, did accomplish. Because those things are damn hard in my busy world, and that makes me a kick-ass author and person! How do you celebrate your DONE?   Dani

Reading Goals, Anyone?

I have a confession to make: I’m not a reader. Let me clarify: I used to be a reader. But between the day job, struggling to get words, and overwhelming stress, I lost my love of it somewhere. Every time I thought about picking up a book, I just turned away. Reading Then I took a class called Write Better Faster by Becca Syme in an attempt to break through my writer’s block. There I learned about my top 5 Strengths (Clifton Strengths testing). Lo and behold—all of them had to do with INPUT. Basically, my brain runs off of learning things. I have a craving for knowledge and am rejuvenated by the learning process. Except I’d stopped that process in its tracks by not reading much at all. The occasional non-fiction book or magazine was the only exception. No wonder my brain has basically stopped working! Books, Reader goal After taking Becca’s class, I started making an effort to read more, but it was haphazard. I would start fiction books, but not be able to finish them, no matter how interesting they were. I had better luck with non-fiction, which I could let sit for a few days, then come back to them and eventually finish. I’m not entirely sure why this was so hard, but I have a few suspicions.
  1. The issues going on in my brain related to the writer’s block made it extremely difficult to focus. What little “focus power” I had went to my day job and writing tasks, so there wasn’t much left for something I viewed as less important: the reading (boy, did I have that backwards).
  2. There is an idea I’ve been dedicated to for years: refilling the well. But until this very stressful time, I didn’t put it into practice with as much dedication as I should have. Then again, I didn’t know that part of what I needed to fill that well was knowledge! We often think of refilling our wells, or “self-care”, as things like taking baths and having our nails done. But our strengths give us certain needs that, when fulfilled, renew our energy and our enthusiasm far faster than anything else could. I’ve experienced this first hand!
Slowly working on this issue has helped, and I can feel that as I “input” information through reading, my brain actually loosens up and works better, ideas flow more freely. This is me working with my strengths and giving my brain the type of “food” it wants. But I’ve decided for this year to dedicate myself to this process even more. I’ve given myself a reading goal for this year. One non-fiction book and one fiction story every month. Compared to the several books a week I used to read just a couple of years ago, it doesn’t seem like much, but I’m working within a much busier life than I was then. And lingering issues from my struggles with writer’s block. Mostly, I know myself. If I don’t give myself some kind of goal, it will never happen. Productivity, Reading I’ve started my non-fiction goal with Paused to Prolific by K Webster. This is a new release that dovetails nicely with my own focus issues. It is designed to help you “write faster, stay focused, and avoid burnout”. I found it very easy to digest because the chapters are short and tightly focused, with a “coffee break” at the end to help brainstorm ideas for taking the information and putting it into practice. Webster has a conversational, humorous style that helped me relate well to the information, and I’ll never look at a squirrel the same again! What kind of reading goals do you set for yourself? Are they formal goals, or just lists of books you’d like to read? Dani

Planning My Life Away

#PlannerAddict #authorcats #planneraddict I didn’t realize until recently that this was a thing… I’ve been a planner, a creator of To Do, lists my entire life. I’ve enjoyed videos by Sara Cannon on Heart Breathings (check out her YouTube channel!) about her planners and use of the Kanban board, which I’ve recently adopted in a modified form. I also look through Passion Planner videos, as that is the type of planner I use. I think planning people have a compulsion to write things down. I used to think this was because I was a writer. Now I know that it’s three-fold: both the writing aspect and the control aspect and the brain-dump aspect. Shocking! (not for anyone who knows me personally…) I’m never without a pen and paper; this is always the first thing I reach for when I need to remember something. Typing doesn’t do it for me. Physically writing things down seems to cement them in my brain for some reason. Instead of reaching for that ephemeral thought, it’s like being able to easily find the place I stored it and revisit it (anyone seen the movie Dreamcatcher?). So using a computer or electronic calendar doesn’t really help me as much as creating a physical plan. I only use the calendar in my phone so that it will send me alerts for appointments…shameful in this day and age, I know! Kanban board, Planner My husband will attest to the fact that I’m a control freak…with a little more enthusiasm than I am comfortable with.  😊  Just like the compulsion to plan out my books to ensure I don’t forget something, I need to plan out my life to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. It still happens, but I feel much more comfortable knowing that I at least tried. Which leads to the next part: I’m juggling a full-time day job, a husband on a retail schedule for his job, two teenagers with their own activities, and a writing career (and extended family, friends, chores… it never ends). That’s an overwhelming amount of minutiae to keep up with. And while some might say that’s not completely my job, my personality won’t let me delegate it to someone else. I’m a control-freak, as I established above…but I simply can’t keep it all stuffed in my brain. The busier we are and the older I get, the more things that fall by the wayside. I do my best to simplify and oust unnecessary time wasters so we can meet our obligations and still have down time, but frankly, my brain has more important things to do than keeping up with when my next doctor’s appointment is. I’d rather write it down and forget about it until it shows up on my planner. Most recently, I discovered something new about planning: it can be pretty and fun! Before I was a writer, and no longer had time for many hobbies, I used to scrapbook. I really enjoyed it, but was overwhelmed by the years of pictures that I couldn’t keep up with. But I’ve found that I can use my planner to do something similar. I can decorate it with pretty and inspirational stickers. Instead of writing down a doctor’s appointment, I can put a pretty tag there. I can indulge my pen obsession by trying out different colors and types. But I can also fill in gratitude lists…memories from special days…photos of special events…and quotes that inspire me. On days when I’m discouraged over my word count, I can look back over my progress the last few months. I mark down each marketing task I complete so I remember that I’ve done something towards connecting with my readers. I go back and notate sick days so I don’t think all those blank hours were because I was just flaky…no, I had a reason I couldn’t do anything today (it’s easy to forget and blame ourselves, right?). #planneraddict So, even though being a #PlannerAddict might seem like a trendy thing, I’m finding it essential to not just productivity and planning, but for my own positive mental health. What about you? Do you use a planner? Apps? How do you keep up with life? Dani