Monday Notes: In Search of Balance

The past 11 weeks, I’ve been busy. Remember when I silently reflected and meditated for 14 days? Remember when I said I needed to figure out how to generate more money? Welp, shortly after, I attracted several clients.

Since mid-June, I’ve edited 12 manuscripts. This means each week, I’ve pored over a different person’s dissertation or self-published book. While I’m grateful for the business, there have been repercussions.

My dry eye flared back up. About two years ago, the optometrist diagnosed me with this condition. To remedy it, I use eye drops; I only wear daily contacts (the kind you have to throw away after one use); and I take frequent screen breaks. Usually I can keep it under control, but staring at the computer, while reading 200-page manuscripts every week caused it to return. Sometimes this meant my right eye felt a little itchy and dull; other times it meant there was a bit of pain right behind my eyeball.

woman-typing-on-keyboardWriting was not a priority. This really bothered me. During the past few weeks, I’ve wanted to write. In fact, I’d created a goal to write a new piece and submit for publication every two weeks. This was impossible. It turns out that it’s challenging for me to read other people’s works, while writing my own. I don’t know about you, but I need time and space for the writing process to unfold. By the time I turned off my clients’ work and decompressed, I was tired and only wanted to sleep. This was a bit frustrating for me because I value writing above all else.

Reading blogs shifted to an even lower priority. I found myself not wanting to read as many blogs, which is unusual. Even when I’m on a social media break, I take at least one hour every day and read other bloggers’ material. But after editing thousands of words for hours, I didn’t want to read anyone else’s. It didn’t matter how inspirational, uplifting, or funny the blog was, I couldn’t make myself read for 60 minutes and meaningfully engage.

Editing 12 manuscripts in 11 weeks reinforced a few lessons:

  • Know your priorities. While I know that priorities shift depending on the circumstances, I think that your main priority should always remain number one. For example, writing is important to me. I actually felt bad that I didn’t want to exert the energy to express myself, even though I had the words piling up in my brain.
  • Know your limits. Prior to taking on so many clients, I already had a sense for what was reasonable for my lifestyle. The number is two. I can edit two manuscripts per month and maintain a sense of calm. Anything else is too much, and I won’t be wavering on that moving forward, unless I hire help.
  • Be ready for what you’ve requested. I asked for an increase in income, and I received it. But I wasn’t necessarily prepared for some of the consequences. As a result, I’ll be fine tuning how I co-create my life because after all, I’m in charge of myself and my choices.

So, tell me…how have you all been? What’s been going on? Have you ever gotten a little more than you bargained for? If so, how did you cope?

Monday Notes: Reflecting on Blogging

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When I first began blogging, I was nervous. I didn’t think I had enough words to sustain a blog. My husband is reading this laughing. My newly acquired sister is going to screenshot this to me with a comment like in what world do you not have enough to say? My friends are reading this statement with wrinkled noses and confused faces.

I do talk a lot. But I didn’t know if what I had to say would be enough to maintain a blog that would keep email subscribers, known and unknown, returning and commenting.

It’s just recently that I realized what it might be.

I’m pretty authentic. I remember a blogging friend, Leslie, once commented that she admired how I “told my business without really telling my business.” I understand what she means now. I do let you in, the same way I let people into my life in person. If you ask me how my marriage, kids, or business is going, then I’m going to tell you. You might not know everythang, but you will know enough to feel as if you know.

I like connecting. When we first met, Dwight said, “You speak to everyone like you’ve known them forever!” He was absolutely right. That’s because I feel as if I’ve known you forever, even if we just met. You’re my friend. Period. He’s also told me that I seem open to connecting to people. I once argued this point, but he’s right about that too. I want to get to know you. Other people look for differences; it’s part of human nature. I look for similarities. Essentially, we’re all connected, and when we meet, I’m trying to understand how.

I like conversation. My comment section says comments are welcomed. And they really are. I want to talk to you about whatever you wanna talk about. If you are an adopted mother and I’m an adopted child, then I want to hear your perspective…for real. If you’re married and I’m married, I want to know how our marriages are similar or different and why. If you live near Philadelphia (I see you Neil), then I want to talk to you about my three visits to the City of Brotherly Love.

My blog is an extension of my real self.

OMThis was made clear to me when Dwight and I hung out with my sister and her family. We mistakenly took a 3-mile walk to a tourist destination. Along the way, everyone decided to take a break at a 7-Eleven. I opted to sit outside. On my way to rest my buns and feet on the nearby sidewalk, a man, sitting in an old, beat-up car saw my OM tattoo.

“Do you know what that means?” he asked.

I told him I did. As I explained, I inched nearer and nearer to where he sat, in the passenger seat, with the door wide open, while his girlfriend braided his dirty blonde strands. I looked in his eyes during our five-minute conversation. I examined the track marks on his pale arm as he explained his religion, Dolphinism. Heroin, Cocaine, Adderall? His erraticism showed that at least one was his drug of choice.

“What do you do?” he asked.

“Professor,” I answered. It’s always my first answer.

Shame overwhelmed him and he did as many have in the past, explained why he hadn’t attained his educational pursuits. He couldn’t believe someone with a terminal degree would want to talk to him. And as I eyeballed the clothes, papers, and plastic bags that filled his car, I explained to him that he was a person, just like me. I told him that it didn’t matter that I was a professor and he was who he was. All that mattered was this moment, where I held space for the two of us to have a conversation.

And that’s exactly how I feel about blogging. I don’t know who many of you are, but I know one thing. We’re all here seeking something similar. I see you the same way you see me.

Monday Notes: Do These 3 Things Before Self-Publishing!

I love supporting people and their endeavors. I also love supporting authors, especially if they are independently published. Over the past three years, I’ve read approximately fifteen self-published books. Five of these were just since January. And most of you know, I’m also independently published. So, I feel confident in offering a few suggestions for those of you who are almost ready to click that publishing button on Amazon, Lulu, Ingram Spark, or Create Space.

editor#1: Please pay for an editor. I know firsthand that editors can be costly. For The Unhappy Wife, I paid a little under $300 and for Daddy, approximately $700. But, I will tell you what. Not one person has approached me asking if I had either edited. This is important. When readers open your book, they are expecting quality, especially if they’ve spent over $10. They are not expecting to trip over misspelled words and syntax errors. In fact, for avid readers, this can be a turn off, not only from finishing the book, but also from trusting you as an author whose work they should read in the future.

#2: Please pay for formatting. I’ve read a few indie books that looked as if the person just uploaded their Word document to a platform for sale. This is a no-no. Sometimes the editor you paid from #1 can also format your book. However, be sure s/he understands the nuance between formatting for a printed book and formatting for an eBook. There is a difference. For example, an eBook has to be reflowable; this means the book reorganizes or reformats itself, no matter the device. It’s the reason you can read a book on your tablet or on your cell phone and it looks the same. Conversely, your printed book has to be created as a static version, and depending on the size of your book, there are also specific dimensions you must adhere to. An editor who knows formatting can help you with either of those.

open_book#3: Proofread your book prior to publishing. I know you’re probably like, KG, I already paid the editor all this money. Why do I have to proofread? Because I said so, that’s why. Just kidding. Let me tell you what happened to me. With Daddy, I paid someone to format, trusted her, and ordered 50 copies. I opened up the book and it was all kinds of terrible. Spacing was off. Words were missing for some reason. It just looked unprofessional. On top of that I had just wasted a couple hundred dollars ordering the books because I was not about to allow that copy to be purchased by the public. I ended up finding someone else and the book looks like the version you have in your possession.

If you’re looking for affordable formatting, Fiverr is a reputable site. I’ve used it before and paid no more than $25. The editor I trusted for Daddy is named Christine Schmidt at True-Blue Editing. Finally, I also have a business that offers proofreading, copy and line editing, called Writing Endeavors®. I’d love to work with you.

Best of luck if you’re planning to self-publish! If you have any other advice for these types of authors, then please feel free to share in the comments.

Monday Notes: 5 Ways to Become a Writer

img_3443Sometimes I jot down a note and it’s very negative. When that happens, I re-focus and make it a positive post, like this one.

***

I’ve written since I was in elementary school, fifth grade to be exact. However, I didn’t consider myself a writer until six years ago. Once I accepted this part of my identity, I started observing and listening to writers and “aspiring” writers. I’ve determined if you want to be a writer, then this is what you’ll have to do:

Start Writing Now that my writing is public knowledge, people confide in me. Cousins, the man at the Florida Writers Association conference, and the woman who asked me to ghostwrite her novel each want to write. But when I ask them what they’ve written so far, the answer is nothing. I advise each of them the same. Start writing. Whether it’s a public blog or a private diary, the first step is to begin.

Make Time to Write I often thought my job was getting in the way of writing. That wasn’t the truth. And because no one was going to offer me more time in the day, I had to shift my priorities. Instead of watching the Today Show every morning, I wrote for two hours. Then, I began my regular day. Where could you shift your priorities so that you can make time to write?

Take Time to Edit After you’ve written something, consider that your first draft. All writers have first drafts, and second, and thirds, and…you get the picture. As a former English teacher, rarely have I seen a masterpiece written in one fell swoop. When you take time to write, that means you might find yourself pondering over the use of the word stroll, saunter, or walk because you know each one of those words will change the connotation and flow of your sentence. So take the time to think about the words you’ve written in a meaningful way.

You Think Your Stories Have Already Been Heard Probably. I mean an infinite number of books have been written and read. But not yours and not the way you can write it. Comments about The Unhappy Wife have validated this concept. Recently, Story Teller Alley approved me to sell my book on their site. One of the reasons it was accepted is because of originality. A reviewer said,

Although stories of unhappy marriages have been told before, because these are all true stories and each person is different, the stories are all different.”

I’m glad the innovation shone through. Sometimes people read the title and assume they know what’s inside. But it’s a false assumption. Likewise, if I would’ve thought these were trite narratives, then I might not have written the book. So my advice? Don’t worry about it. Somebody wants to read it the way you’ve written it.

You’re Worried about What Other People Think If you follow my blog, then you know I write about many things that have happened in my life. Stories include family, friends, and people I barely know. I couldn’t write half of what you read here if I stopped to worry about someone’s hurt feelings and reinvention of history. Initially, an Anne Lamott quote helped me forge ahead with authentic writing, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” That quote changed my entire creative nonfiction writing life. The other part that has helped me write the truth is to separate fact from emotion. For example, it’s a fact that my dad packed up my belongings in the middle of the night while I slept. Consequently, I felt abandoned and pushed aside because of what occurred. Stick to the facts and make clear when you’re describing an emotion.

I hope one of these sparks the writer in you. Trust me. Someone, somewhere is waiting to hear your voice, even if the someone is you.

400 Monday Notes

I have 400 notes. That’s 179 more than when I first began this category, which I started as a way to delete the notes. But what’s happened is because I have the category, I keep more notes. You know…just in case I want to write about something. But as I look through them, they’re not all writing ideas. So, I’m purging.

A few of my notes are simply passwords. I’ve written about this before, but it ends today! There is no reason for me to keep password upon password both on my phone and written down somewhere. Although, keeping the password to get into my work office is handy. Maybe I’ll just keep that one.

Now, I’m down to 377.

There are fourteen notes specifically about my job dissatisfaction. The reason why has become increasingly clearer to me over the past few years. I’m overqualified and that has led to a general sense that I should be doing something else with my gifts and talents. And anyone with a job knows that it’s challenging to write about one’s employer without the fear of losing said job. While these fourteen notes have been helpful in shaping my understanding of the dilemma, they are now taking up digital space, especially if I’m not going to publicly share.

363.

Six of my notes are action steps centered on The Unhappy Wife, a book I published two years ago. I’m not quite sure why I’ve hung on to these lists if the goals are accomplished. Similarly, seven are about how to sell Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships. These aren’t fleshed out marketing plans, but rather, thoughts that I might’ve used to do a soft sell, like this:

If you want closure, then go see a therapist. If you want understanding and empathy, then read this book.

I’m pretty sure I never used it because it sounded a bit harsh. Either way, I’m down to 350.

img_7736There are ten notes specifically with the word “self” in the title. These are ideas I really intended to flesh out, like 3 ways to Be Self-aware, Re-defined: On Being Selfish, One-minute Self-worth Ideas. Because I’ve already devoted February 2018 to self-love, and with the help of others successfully shared varied ideas on the topic, I’m going to consider this mission complete.

340.

There are a fair amount of notes that are just people’s names, so I remember next time I see them, which seems borderline redonkulous because I don’t think I’m going to search my phone when we cross paths. Another part includes random places, like meeting rooms and events people have invited me to.

Deleted. Now, I’m down to 326.

For the most part, what remains are actual topics I’d planned on writing about, but as I re-read them, I’m just not. Instead, I’ll share a brief list of blog/social-media starters:

  • “So, I was watching videos of how the FBI infiltrated black organizations,” this is how Desi begins conversations with me.
  • I like confessional songs and memoirs because I’m seeking authenticity. Can I tell the truth in each moment? Can you? And if not, why?
  • Does it matter if your spouse practices the same religion as you?
  • Children are not people who need fixing.
  • 3 top knots in a Nissan Versa doing 48 on the interstate (this really happened and I thought I’d write a brief story about this beginning driver).
  • I hate guilt-trip gratitude. Usually sounds like this, remember someone didn’t wake up this morning. I should be grateful because I’m not in someone else’s shoes? Nope. You should be grateful period.
  • There is nothing you can buy outside of yourself that will make you a better/happier person.
  • I want someone to create a “Blame Trump” t-shirt. I’d buy it.
  • How many lies does it take to make someone a liar?
  • Sometimes you have to pull yourself away from situations, put yourself together, and then re-enter with a new mindset.

Welp, I’m down to 316 notes.

You know I’m happy to talk about any of these ideas. Let me know what you’re thinking. Until then, I’ll be working on a new Monday Note.

Monday Notes: Rambling/Stream of Consciousness

Stream of Consciousness is the name applied specifically to a mode of narration that undertakes to reproduce, without a narrator’s intervention, the full spectrum and continuous flow of a character’s mental process” (Abrams 299).

I’m leery to call what follows as stream of consciousness. But this is what my internal dialogue looks like. It’s innate for me to add periods and press the return key, even if it is in my Notes section. Does that mean it’s not stream of consciousness? Here it is. You be the judge.

***

I write about the little things because it’s the little things that keep us up at night. We wonder why we didn’t get the party invite, some of us even at 40+ still wonder. We worry about how our voices sound and how we look in video. You know who you are.

I write about the little things because they turn into big things. Little indiscretions turn into major experiences that we wonder how tf we got into. Small slides of behavior turn into whole acts of disrespect.

I write about the little hints because that’s what’s relatable. I save the big things for books: abuse, drugs, flaws of Christianity. Yes. The little things are daily. It’s where annoying coworker meets zen philosophy. It’s where wrong job choice meets law of attraction. I want to have discussions in the middle of those spaces. I want to know why you haven’t talked to your dad in 12 years and I’ll tell you what happened with mine. Hmmm…is that little or big? I guess it depends on the size of the hole in our heart.

***

img_7481After re-writing this as-is, I’ve decided it is stream of consciousness for me. You see if I were writing a final, public version, I wouldn’t use wonder twice. I would revise hints to things and probably not use things so much. I would capitalize Zen and Law of Attraction. I would have used the phrase “Christianity’s flaws,” not “flaw of Christianity” because one rolls off the tongue and the other doesn’t.

I would’ve titled this “The Little Things” or “Why I Write.” And I would’ve given more examples. For instance, I write about why people have a fifth drink when they should’ve stopped at two; three more drinks can turn a small decision into a fiasco or a lifetime regret. I would keep the rhetorical question in the end and add this: what I’ve learned is they’re all little things. What we choose to hold on to and how we decide to respond makes them seem larger than life.

Also, if I were being all formulaic and precise,  I would end with an MLA citation for that beginning quote 😉

Looking forward to hearing what you think about stream of consciousness or the topic.

3 Ways to Engage with Bloggers

You’ve probably heard that a major part of blogging is not only providing interesting content, but also engaging with other bloggers. But if you’re like me, then sometimes interacting can feel like a part-time job. If you’re also like me, then you already have a full-time job where you make money and another job called “parent” and “spouse.” However, I’m sure you recognize that it’s worth it to invest time to those who support your art.

But how?

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#1: Wait for someone to follow, like or comment. I average approximately 30-40 interactions per day. When a WordPress blogger follows, likes or comments, then I read one of their recent posts and do the same. If I’m not already following, then I check out his or her “About” page and browse around. Most of the time, I find something I like, unless it’s a blog about nuclear physics or something. In that case, I read a post, like and comment, and keep it moving. It takes me about two hours a day. You might be wondering where I find two hours a day. The answer is that I don’t watch Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy or the show about the zombies. Instead, I choose to engage with people who genuinely support me and it’s well worth it.

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#2: Keep a Twitter blogger list. Many bloggers link their WordPress sites to Twitter. So one of the first things I do when I first follow them is search for their page, follow, and then add them to my WordPress Blogger list. The list serves as a filter. I spend about twenty minutes checking Twitter each day. One day I may read the first ten writers. Another day, I may read every other person’s. Either way, it helps me to see the people who haven’t followed, liked or commented on my articles. I squeeze in Twitter time while I’m standing in a long line or waiting at a doctor’s office. If you choose to use this method, then also be sure to like, re-tweet, and add hashtags to posts that you want everyone else to see. It’s the name of the Twitter game.

#3: Check my WordPress reader. This is my least favorite. I check my reader once a month. Like many of you, I use the filter “Blogs I follow.” From there, I can catch up on bloggers I’ve added through WordPress, but not email. Other times I search for topics that match my own categories, such as “quotes” or “inspiration.” This ensures that I follow people who will want to engage with similar content. I’ve found quite a few blogs using this system.

I know it’s hard to keep up with FB, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and also WordPress, so I hope these tips help. How do you blog? What do you do to keep up? Please let us know so we can all become more efficient 🙂

3 Reasons the Blogging Community is better than Social Media

Royalty Free Image.
Royalty Free Image

I’ve been blogging for about three years now. And one thing has become pretty obvious. The blogging community is not only different than social media, but it is also better.

Here’s why:

Bloggers are readers. Most writers are. I’m willing to bet almost anything that no matter how many WordPress bloggers you have, they read what you write. It’s because they find reading enjoyable. It’s also because they want people to read what they’ve written as well. Social media doesn’t always yield readers. There have been times when I’ve commented on a person’s post, only to realize s/he hadn’t fully read the link themselves.

Bloggers reciprocate activity. If you read, like and comment on their words, then they’ll probably read, like and comment on something that you’ve written too. There’s a shared experience that invites empathy. Writers know the painstaking task of finding just the right phrase to convey just the right message. It can take hours! Consequently, if you took the time to write it, then a blogger will take the time to read it. Seemingly, the quick culture of social media, coupled with an imbalance of newsfeed updates from all several hundred of your social media friends and followers makes it difficult to reciprocate reading/liking activity.

Bloggers post thoughtful comments. Similar to number two, your blogger-followers have probably written, deleted and re-written their comments to express like, love and support for your posts. Sure, some only use the “like” button, but more than not, your blogger-followers have sought thoughtful words to communicate their feelings about your content. Social media friends and followers do not always seem to honor the “thoughtful” part of commenting. Whether it’s the use of text/IM language or the more recent and popular posting of memes as communication, social media comments just don’t seem to be as considerate or attentive.

What did I miss? Do you enjoy social media better than the blogosphere?

RE-Defined: DISCIPLINE

I’ve been thinking about discipline a lot. People have asked me how I accomplish things, and I never have a clear answer. I think I do now. Discipline.

In 2009, I quit a school instructional coaching job so that I could focus on finishing my dissertation.

“Who do you know that can actually make themselves sit for hours during the day to write?” my very good friend had asked when I shared my decision.

“I can,” I replied.

And that’s what I did. While Dwight was at work and the girls were at school, I analyzed data and wrote eight hours a day for nine months. I know my friend’s comment wasn’t a judgment against what she perceived me to be able to do or not do. It was more about what many people cannot and will not do…discipline themselves to achieve a goal.

But I want to be clear. I didn’t magically wake up with a spirit of commitment towards projects. It was taught.

typewriterYears ago, when people typed things on typewriters, I had a fifth-grade report due on Haile Selassie and Ethiopia. I’d made several mistakes and had to use that awful liquid paper/correction fluid stuff to cover it up and re-type words. It was a bumpy sludge of a mess.

My English major mother peered through her glasses to see how it was going.

“Kathy,” she started, “you’re going to have to re-type this paper. You can’t turn in something that looks like this. Your work is a reflection of you.”

I didn’t say anything back to her. In 1983, children simply sat there and seethed with anger and did what they were told. Or at least that’s what I learned to do.

I sat at that brown dining room table for hours. I wasn’t allowed to watch television until I finished. I ended up re-typing that essay three times, well past The Love Boat and Fantasy Island…and well past my bedtime. But it was done properly. What’s more is because of my mother’s correction I’d learned self-discipline. I’d learned the importance of focusing on one task (typing) and ignoring others (television). I learned to sit quietly and perfect something until it was “right.”

Today, being disciplined has served me well. I function within a distraction-based society by turning my phone over when I’m working and turning it off altogether while I’m sleeping. I’ve learned to take social media breaks when I’m indulging too much, so that offscreen life and people can take precedence. More importantly, I still practice sitting quietly and focusing on the day’s project until it’s complete.

Thirty-something years ago, I typed and re-typed those words through ten-year-old, tear-filled eyes. Now, I’m grateful for that early lesson because I see it as having shaped a positive and useful trait: discipline.

What about you? Do you have a positive superpower that you attribute learning from your parents’ rules? Are you disciplined? Do you want to be more disciplined? Feel free to share below.