Just some random thoughts about things we do that waste our time and energy.

  • Never move. It takes at least six months to get resettled, I learned from our many moves. Oh, well, if the reason is good enough, go ahead, but you’ve been warned.
  • Never, ever change your email address. Remember moving taking so long? Part of that is getting everyone on board with your new physical address. When you change your email addy, all hell breaks loose, and it will take you at least six months to recover. See a pattern here?
  • Never buy stuff you don’t need or love. ’Nuff said.
  • The more children, pets, or spouses you add to your life, the more complicated it will become. Just sayin’.
  • The more activities you decide to be in, the less time you’ll have for other activities. Sit down with yourself and have a good conversation about how many things you’ll take on outside of your family and work life. This includes volunteering, exercising, and activities like bring-your-own-wine to a painting class or bowling.
  • Have a place for everything, and put things in their places when you’re finished using them. Your future self will thank you, and maybe even some family members. Time wasted looking for things can never be regained.
  • Social media can be a huge time suck. Be picky. Both about how many social media you get involved in and how much time you spend on them. Do not allow yourself to be interrupted when working by phone calls, text messages, or the lure of Facebook or Twitter. Especially when driving! You’re smarter than that.
  • Plan one or two days a week to do errands and shop. Make lists, be systematic in your route, and stay off the phone until you get home again. Your nerves will thank you.

What have I missed. I know it’s something or some things. Please let me know in the comments!




What is NaNoWriMo, besides hard to key into your computer? Each year, for the last fourteen years, thousands of people pledged to write a novel—50,000 words, at least—in the month of November, which is National Novel Writing Month.

Here’s what the site has to say about the whole thing:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

It’s a pretty simple premise. Just write 1,667 words per day, each day, for a month. At the end of the month, you’ll have a novel, or something approximately like one.

NaNoWriMo is also a (totally optional) fundraiser for the purpose of promoting writing around the world.

Sound like fun? I’ve never participated, but I’m considering it for next year (other, more urgent stuff to do this November). Even if participants don’t get 50,000 words by the end of November, they will all probably have a lot more written than they usually would.

I see several other advantages, especially for people who have writer’s block a lot. This forces you to sit down every day (or you’ll get way behind really quick) and write. Something; anything. You might try outlining for the first time to see if it helps you write a book faster. You join a community of people who are urging each other on. There will be famous authors giving pep talks, and coaches on Twitter. Check out the website for more info:

 Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Who’s in? Let me know in the comments if you are, and if so why you’re doing it. And if you’re not, why not?


Not many people have an old-fashioned wife anymore. I’m talking about the one who managed the household without any help from a spouse and who was also totally supportive of that spouse’s work, to the determent, often, of her own creativity and desires.

Not only that, but the world of communication has gone crazy. We are plugged in to everyone and everything. If we allow it, there are constant interruptions from phones, email, regular mail, other people, pets, and the lure of electronic entertainment on televisions and computers/tablets.

So the creative person has to struggle to manage it all. Without a plan, and without some basic organizational skills, we will either go nuts or just never finish anything we’ve started. Or at least it will take us twice as long and be twice as stressful as it has to be.

The basic life plan for a creative is to find the best time of day for work and make it sacrosanct. That means no interruptions from anything, unless there’s “fire or blood.” (I don’t know who said that first, but I love it.)

This means the creative is in a room with the door shut and without access to phone, email, the internet or any other potential interruptions because they are either turned off or the person has enormous willpower when in the zone.

The creative has to have a regular life, of course, both for mental health and to feed the creative mind. It won’t produce in a vacuum. Therefore, it’s also best to figure out just how much time can be devoted each day to creative endeavors, and unless there’s fire or blood, do so.

To further this goal, the creative also should set up systems so that tools are at hand and no time is lost in setting up. Best to clear everything up at the end of the session to be ready for the next day.

So, set a minimum amount of time at a certain time of day and have a place where you won’t be interrupted. When done for the day, do everything needed to get a good start the next day. For example, if you’re a writer, do a quick spell check, back up your work, write a few notes about what you did that day and/or want to do the next, put in a little research. A painter, it should go without saying, needs to clean brushes, take care of the medium she’s using, etc. A crafter should put tools and supplies away for easy access the next day, and clean up any mess. And so on.

Put away that knife!

I know some people say they can live in chaos and create. They are probably in the genius class. Since most of us (me included) are not, it helps tremendously to be organized. Actually, even the genius would probably benefit, as well.

Do you have a set time of day and a place where you do your creative work? If you do, please share in the comments.


Starting a new story can be exciting, exhilarating, scary, and daunting. And there’s all kinds of advice out there about doing it. But my advice is to never, ever worry about where you start, especially if you’re a beginning writer. Just get the engine going and write! When you edit, you may find you haven’t started in the best place, that it may be further into the story or earlier.  That’s when you consider these points about where the finished piece will start.

It’s usually much better to start with more than one character, instead of one character musing, thinking, especially in bed. Unless you can show the character’s mood instead of telling the reader about it. In other words, the single character has to do something physical–throw something, for example. Or be attacked by someone or something in that bed.

Some famous writers have started a great story or novel with the weather. They’re usually men, who love to discuss the weather ad nauseam, I’ve noticed. I wouldn’t recommend this, especially in today’s world. Unless it’s clear to the reader that the weather plays a huge part in the story. Even then, I’d be more inclined to write about the main character instead.

Another ho-hum way to start is with a description of something. Anything. Person, place or thing. There’s no reference yet. The best descriptions are usually done from your characters’ points of view. Therefore, you need to introduce the character, then tell us what he or she is thinking about when looking at what you want to describe.

Background is often necessary, but it’s a lot more interesting when seeded into the story as it unfolds instead of thrown in a big lump at the reader. This is frequently called an “info dump” by critiquers. Pretty descriptive.

If I were a beginning writer, I would avoid any story that needs a prologue. Personally, I’m fine with prologues, and sometimes use them. But many agents and editors hate them. The agents and editors also often claim that readers hate them, too. I think this might be because editors and agents have seen a lot of very bad prologues. But by the time actual readers read a book, if there is a prologue, it’s been polished and most readers will like it and not object. All that said, avoid them if you can. Again, it’s usually best to take bits and pieces from the prologue and stick them into the on-going story.

As for how to start instead of how not to, here’s a good article from Writer’s Digest about that, including some great and famous first lines:


One idea for corralling paper clutter is a “paper command center.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? After I first saw the phrase, I decided to research it. Apparently most who talk about it mean a set of files on the work surface where you handle household paperwork. Maybe five or six files—one for each family member, one labeled “to file,” one for bills, one for medical and whatever else the person using the command center finds useful.

This means you have two sets of files: This small one near where you work, and another one, probably with the same labels, somewhere else.

This makes no sense to me. I would never have more than two pieces of paper, if that, in each file folder in this command center.

Here’s why. When I get the mail, I throw out the junk, start a pile for filing, and either handle right away what’s come in or put it in my inbox for later. I infrequently have more than two or three pieces of paper in my inbox. Before leaving my desk, I file the  daily mail that needs filing and check the inbox and handle anything there, and I’m done. This rarely, rarely takes me more than about twenty minutes (usually a lot less) after dinner.

Okay, I admit, I don’t get bills in the mail. Ours are all paid automatically, except for one credit card, and that’s because I pay it off every month, so using automatic bill pay wouldn’t work. But if I had bills, they would either be paid right away, or put in the in-box and paid once a week or twice a month, or monthly. I might make a file folder for them to put in my inbox, but I wouldn’t have a file folder for anything else in there.

I have a small envelop-sized filer for receipts—they’re filed by month.

When I come home from the doctor’s office, shopping, or whatever and have some paperwork in my purse, I simply file it away during my evening stint at the desk.

I don’t have children’s stuff from school to contend with anymore, but if I did, I’d go through what they bring home each day, either file it, put it on the fridge (art work), or handle any forms that need filling out and stick them right back in the backpack. Or make a note on a calendar or planner if it’s about an upcoming event. This could also wait for after dinner and shouldn’t add more than five or ten minutes to the whole enterprise.

Before you have two of anything, ask yourself, will it save me time? In this case, in my opinion, it won’t.


Writer’s block, the bane of a writer’s life. The only way to overcome it is to just write something down. Don’t think about whether it’s good or bad, wonderful or horrible, just write it. You can fix it later, but don’t even think about that now.

#You can’t edit what you haven’t written. You do have thoughts in your head. They maybe buried deep, but they’re there. Let them out.

First a don’t, then a lot of dos:

  • Don’t self-censor when writing the first draft. At this point you don’t know what’s good or bad, and you also don’t know exactly where the story will take you and what your characters are going to do, even if you are a plotter. Just go with it.
  • Do lower your standards. You don’t have to find the perfect word right now—you can do that when you edit. Get the thought down. First drafts have no standards. Anything goes.
  • Do keep a notebook handy when you’re writing, and if you think of something that needs to go in later or earlier, just jot it done quickly, and continue on with what you were doing. You can go back during your next session and put those things in. Or you can refer to it later to jog your memory about something you thought would be good later on.
  • Do start anywhere in the narrative, wherever the mood strikes. You can put it in the right spot later on. You can use a program like Scrivener to help you.
  • Do ask yourself what could happen next. List at least five things. Pick the strangest/funniest/most unexpected.
  • Do ask yourself what-if. What-if the main character did such and such? What if so-and-so arrived unexpectedly. What if a bomb went off?
  • If all else fails, ask for help from a writing buddy or someone else you know who often has good ideas.

Here are some famous writers who had writer’s block: Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Joseph Conrad, and Ernest Hemingway.

Anyone have other ideas that have helped you out of a writer’s block?


In today’s hectic world, we really need to work at making our life the best it can be. Here are a few thoughts about that.

First, no matter how blah you feel, get up, dress up and show up. (Unless you’re really ill, then take care of yourself.)

Think about these top five ways to have a happy (or happier) life:

5. Take care of your finances

4. Make your environment as beautiful and neat as you can

3. Do all you can to be healthy (this includes spiritual things)

2. Love what you do

1. Love who you’re with


Run over them in your mind as each day progresses. Make sure you tend to all that need tending to.

If you have trouble with any of them, research about how to make things better. There are hundreds of books and millions of web links to help you out. If they don’t do it, get professional help.

It’s the only life we know for sure we’ll ever have. It’s up to us to make the most of it.


For editing.

My system, and I know from hearing it from lots of other writers, is to just write. No planning, or not much of one.

But even with an outline, a lot of fluff is going to go into the manuscript that is unnecessary, boring, unclear, or for some other reason needs a good edit.

I learned about cutting ten percent when doing lots of short stories. I like the idea because it’s a straightforward way to edit. And it works.

First, you finish the piece and type “the end” at the end. Then you read through it and cut out every single word that isn’t needed.

They lurk around as modifiers where a stronger noun or verb would work better. They hang out at the end of sentences in trailing prepositional phrases. Sometimes they’re completely unnecessary sentences. Or even paragraphs.

Sometimes you just need to change the phrasing so it’s cleaner and clearer. I find this true when listing action taken. I might start with one action and tack on a phrase like “after she did such and so.” Such and so would have been better at the beginning of the sentence. And might help eliminate a few words such as “after she did.”

I admit, this becomes harder to do the more you write because you begin to edit yourself as you go. But this is a good thing. You will write faster, have to edit less, and have a much better story to show for it with less effort.

So, take a short story, old or new, or a chapter from a novel you’ve written or are writing. Write down the word count, go at it, and then see what the count is after your first pass-through. Not ten percent? You aren’t working hard enough. Go through it again. It’s taken me, sometimes, three or four passes to hit the ten percent mark. But when I do, the story or chapter is always better. Every time.