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Jennifer Gregson Posts

Behind the Scenes: My Writing Ritual

I’ve been reading lots of publishing and writing business books lately and most of them talk about having a writing routine or ritual for getting in the mood to write.  Basically, a set of things you do before you start writing, and that got me thinking – do I have that?  

Currently, I wake up and get my son ready for school, then come back up to our apartment and write my morning pages and mindset, I then exercise, eat breakfast, have coffee, and then I’m ready to start my day and my writing.  If I’m putting down new words I put on music, read through my scene notes or look over my outline cards in Scrivener (my writing program of choice) and start writing. 
If I’m revising or editing, then usually it’s quiet.  I grab any notes I need, look through the scene I’m working on, read through it and get to work.  If I have lots of day job stuff to get to, I’ll put a timer on for my writing sessions, but I like it better when I can just drink my coffee and write until I feel done.  Usually, that’s at the end of a scene or chapter in both instances.  Lately, I’ve been working on revisions for my debut novel and I like to get two chapters done before moving on with my day.  If I’m working on my short stories (which don’t really have chapters) then I like to write at least 750-1000 words for the day.  

That’s it, really.  I’ve been thinking of adding some other things to this ritual or routine such as candles or my new Essential Oil diffuser, a writing warm-up exercise (although I find these distracting if I’m revising, but might be a good idea for when I’m working on novel #2), or somehow using my writing totem.  I have a Figment figurine from Epcot that I bought many moons ago that sits on my desk and reminds me to keep my imagination front and center, to keep asking questions, and most importantly to have fun with my writing.  But I just look at him, I don’t really have any ceremony or ritual with him.


I think the thing that has helped me the most is lately in my mindset practice I’ve been writing: Words flow easily when I sit down to write.  I make every scene I edit better.  I am a master wordsmith.  I am a wizard with revisions.  These things get into my body and when I sit down to write, I just start to write.  I don’t necessarily need a bunch of fanfare to get up and running.   

If you’re a writer, what do you do to get ready to put words on the page? Do you have a writing routine or ritual?  If you do something else creative, like knit or draw, do you have a warm-up that you do before you start?  How do you start your day?  
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Writerly Fashion – Fall Edition


It’s fall here in New York City which means pumpkin spice lattes, Thanksgiving, and fuzzy socks!  I love fall fashion in general but I especially LOVE fall fashion as a stay at home writer type person.  Here are just a few of my favorites and a bonus picture of me right now – today!

Leggings and Yoga Pants


Yes, yes and yes! Leggings as pants are a bit controversial and I would have been on the Nay side just a few years ago, but then I discovered LuLaRoe and soft buttery leggings and now I say Yay! (With the caveat, for me, at least, that my shirt needs to cover my butt).  Leggings and Yoga pants are a staple of my everyday wardrobe but especially in the fall.  Yes, I have jeans.  Yes, I wear jeans if I’m going out and about, but if I’m sitting on my couch or in my chair all day writing and working (Virtual Assistant to the rescue!) then I’m going to be comfy.  Step #1 for me is always comfort. Then color, then style.  



Tee Shirts and Tunics


Next on the hit parade is soft, colorful tee shirts and long tunics. Nothing better than throwing on leggings with a tunic – easy breast cover girl! Or a bright red tee shirt with black yoga pants – yes, please!  I feel pulled together and comfortable (remember step #1 from above?).  I don’t have too many shirts with sayings on them, although I do have a Muppets Tee shirt I like to wear, I do have quite a few patterned tunics from LuLaRoe that I like to wear with my solid color leggings.  I feel a bit like Punky Brewster and that’s all good with me.

Hoodies, Flannel, and Cardigans…oh my!


I am usually pretty warm (unlike my Mom who’s always cold) but there are days when the chill in the air is even too much for me and that’s when a 2nd layer comes in handy.  I have a few cardigans, one hoodie that I love, and a big black and white flannel shirt that are my go-to’s when I get cold.  I also have a white snow leopard print blanket that comes in handy if I’m sitting in one place and just need to throw something over my legs and/or feet.



Fuzzy Socks


I saved the best for last, I think.  Fuzzy socks are amazing.  They are soft, comfy, cute, and warm.  I recently bought a bunch more off Amazon because I had a feeling this fall and winter were going to be all about the fuzzy socks for me and so far, I’ve been right.  Right after a shower (I like to do mine at night) I put on some lotion and wrap my toes up in a foot sweater and bam, instant comfort.  It’s like a hug for your feet!  Okay, that was silly, but seriously – fuzzy socks are the best!

So, what is your favorite fashion item for the Fall?  Leather? Velvet? Cashmere?  If you are just chilling or working from home, what do you like to wear?  The one thing missing from my wardrobe right now is a pair of flannel type pjs – you know the old kind with a top and bottom – but I have a hard time finding pants long enough for my 5 foot 10 inch frame but this year I might look again.  Happy Fall everyone!

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What I’m Currently Reading


Starting a writing career involves a lot of sitting down and well…writing, but one must also keep the well fully stocked with new images and new ideas.  I do this in a few ways – movies and TV shows (because I’m visual like that), listening to music (because music feeds my soul in a way that other things do not), and reading books.  Here are a few of the books I’ve either just finished or are currently reading in both the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories.  Note about the non-fiction though, these are writing related or personal development type books, not the non-fiction books my husband likes to read, which are usually about a founding father or a war of some sort.  

Fiction


I just finished two amazing books recently.  Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and The Order of Omega by Kirsten Martin. Both are YA books but one is a coming of age story and the other is sci-fi/fantasy.  Julie Murphy’s book is becoming a movie soon (with NEW Dolly Parton music!!!) and Kirsten Martin’s book is the 2nd in a Trilogy called The Alpha Drive.  I actually just started the 3rd book (Restitution) the other night.  Dumplin’ was traditionally published, while The Alpha Drive trilogy is being self-published.  I follow both authors on various social media channels and, actually, Kristen’s YouTube channel has been an amazing help to me during my own writing and publishing journey over the last few months.  

Lately, I’ve been trying to read more indie published books, especially other YA (Young Adult) books but Dumplin’ caught my eye (and I believe was in a BookBub special) because of the mostly black cover. The only thing in the very middle is a plus-sized girl in a red dress and big blonde hair (this is small and in cartoon form) and I was like – who is this character?  Since the next step after finalizing revisions of my own novel is choosing and working with a cover designer, I’ve been paying more attention to covers.

I recommend both of these books – and I would highly recommend reading Dumplin’ before seeing the movie.  If you like sci-fi/fantasy books then The Alpha Drive is a fast-paced trilogy with a complex protagonist who is trying her hardest to save her friends and family from an evil organization.   I have quite the long list of To Be Read under this section – most are already on my Kindle, but if something pops up in my inbox (I get a lot of author’s newsletters) or in a BookBub special I’ll most likely add it to the pile.  

Non-Fiction


I just finished Prosperity for Writers (along with the workbook) by Honoree Corder and I’m currently knee deep in Write. Publish. Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.  Prosperity for Writers was very eye-opening in terms of mindset, which I talked about a few weeks back, and how I view money and the process of making money, spending money, and the whole myth of the starving artist.  This tied in quite nicely with Write. Publish. Repeat as the authors of this book are also of the mindset that writers can make money, in fact, can make good money, as long as they are producing quality products (books) and lots of them.  I’m barely 1/3 of the way through and it can be quite overwhelming because they give you a ton of info so I put it down quite often and read other things and then come back to absorb some more.

I consider my writing a career, a new career sure (and very young) but I am trying to think of this like a business and myself a businesswoman.  This is not easy for me, it doesn’t come naturally so reading these books are helpful, but they are also filled with new decisions, new ideas, and new ways of thinking. I’ll be honest, I get burnt out or down on myself so I like having a few different books in slightly different categories to bounce around in. So, in that vein, I also have quite a big To Be Read pile under this category as I have books about publishing, marketing, and some health&wellness type self-help books too.

Do any of these sound interesting to you?  What have you been reading lately?  Do you use an eReader or tablet to read on or do you like what I call Dead Tree Books? (I call them that because I personally detest the REAL book label – I read a real book, even if it wasn’t printed on paper and I’m currently writing a real book even if my readers read it on an eDevice of some sort – a small pet peeve of mine!)  Do you like self-help type non-fiction or more of the civil war/Benjamin Franklin biopics type non-fiction? Let me know what you’re currently reading and give me some ideas for my ever-growing reading list.  Thanks!

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How I Got Out of My Planner Funk


At the beginning of the year I bought a new planner and was so excited to start using it, but around the middle of the year, it had lost its luster for me.  It wasn’t working….for me.  Now, this has happened in the past, I have tried all sorts of planners and types of planning systems and I’m all gung-ho for a while then it peters out.  Usually, this happens after the newness wears off, but also because I realize that the brand new shiny planner won’t actually do my work for me – it’s just a device to keep track of my things.  My tasks, my goals, my daily to-do lists, etc.  It’s a device, not a robot that’s going to write my blog posts, my novels, my short stories, do my day job work for me.  It’s not going to grow legs and clean my bathroom or do the laundry.  That would be awesome though, but it’s not going to do that so I get in planner funks when I realize that I’m still me – just with a new planner.

So, this time I actually realized that and instead of just jumping into a brand new shiny planner without thinking, I stopped and researched and did some reading and came to the conclusion that a new planner wouldn’t necessarily help me, but that I had chosen my current planner without doing some thinking about what I actually needed a planner to do.  I read an article called Being in a Planning Quagmire (which, btw – awesome word!) and this basically gave me some insights into why I was having problems with my current planner and why I had such issues in the past.

The questions at the beginning of that article helped me realize that I wanted a bullet journal type planner but I hated having to write out the monthly calendars vertically like the original bullet journal concept and I didn’t want to draw the calendar grid every month like I had seen on Pinterest.  I  knew a larger planner wouldn’t be a big deal because I rarely carry it out of the house. I also knew I wanted good paper and bright colors.  Then this question hit me: Are you in a Planner Quagmire because what you REALLY want is too expensive or otherwise out of your reach, and nothing else will do it for you?

Bam!  

This was the mother lode question because I had been pinning for an Erin Condren Life Planner for years but they were pricey so I kept finding other things, other workarounds. I wanted the bright, colorful, sticker-filled fun that was the Erin Condren life planner, but on the other hand, I really wanted a more simplified Bullet Journal style.  So I started googling and low and behold – Erin Condren had released a new version of their Deluxe Monthly Planner style that was monthly calendars in the front (mine runs August to July because it’s an Academic style – works for me as my son is in school and I like starting a new year in September when school starts) and then a boatload of lined pages in the back.  

Yes!  

In between the monthly spreads are planning pages for each month too.  All of a sudden I had these ideas running through my head of exactly what I could do with each section.  This was the bullet journal I was looking for.  Monthly grids all laid out and colorful, planning sections for monthly tasks lists and goals, and blank pages for my daily to-do’s and lists.  I added a smaller dot grid journal for collections (plans, larger lists, year goal matrix, ideas, etc. And so forth) and my system was complete. Side note:  If you’re in the market for a new planner, click HERE for my referral code and save a little bit.

The beauty – once I made the decision and signed up for an account, I got a discount code right away and then because I had linked from a planner girl YouTube friend of mine I got another discount code and then…I discovered the planner was on sale!  It was like the Universe said, okay – you’ve done the work, you made your decision – here’s a gift.  It took awhile to get to me, but it was so worth it.  I’ve been using it for a few months now and I’ll be honest – I still catch myself getting upset that my planner is not doing my work for me, but not as much as I did. HA

Let’s dive in shall we? Get ready, because I’m about to hit you with a ton of pictures!

This is my monthly spread.  



I use color-coded stickers to mark events and birthdays.  I use washi tape to mark vacations. I keep my monthly spread simple.  I realized that the stickers that come with the planner are going to run out, but luckily Erin Condren’s website sells them separately so I’ll be doing that soon.   I like being able to get a large overview of the month before drilling down to weekly and daily tasks. 

This is the page before the monthly spread.


I use this blank dot grid as my Monthly Task List.  I will add to this throughout the month as things come up that I know need to get done that month but aren’t time or day specific.  For example, my son’s Halloween costume.  We needed that by the middle of October but otherwise…it was a pretty open task so it got added to the large monthly task list. I’ve also checked this off as my son chose a very cute, Jack O’ Lantern costume for this year (he’s 6!).

After the monthly spread is the planning pages.


The first page has five sections.  I have divided my life up into sections: Writing, Family, Health and Wellness, Apartment, and Misc. and I write a few goals for each section or tasks that I want to complete that month in each part.  I like this fine, but I am also thinking about using these boxes for each week and writing my Top Goals for the week here.  I might try that one month and see which I like better.  


The next blank page has my social media stats so I can see growth (or lack thereof) and I’ve given myself note space to write down goals, things I need to work on, or things I want to touch on during the month.  The little side column is where I write down my tasks for the Rising Heroes health and wellness online game that I am a part of (and talked about HERE). For now – I really like this page and don’t see much changing.

In the back of the notebook is lots and lots of lined blank pages.  


This is where I (currently) write my Weekly Top 5 tasks (Blog posts, Novel, Short Story, Apartment projects, School stuff, etc.) and then start my daily bullet journal style to-do list with boxes, triangles, and arrows to mark various tasks, appointments, and notes.  I like to use stickers to add some extra color and flair but those things change weekly.  I am Team Blue when it comes to pen colors but I can also see myself using color-coding at some point, but that involves always making sure you have the pens with you…and right now, I’m keeping it simple.


This is my collection book.  It’s matchy-matchy, but not exact and has dot grid paper inside. You can see from my Index page what kinds of things I keep in here, but I’m also hoping to add a page for Fiction Books to read, Non-Fiction books to read, online course tracking (I’m currently in one about Self-Publishing but am getting confused as to which modules I’ve watched or ones I need to re-watch), and I’m thinking of adding a Monthly Habit tracker to this as well- but I also have an app on my phone I like so we’ll see.


So…what do you think? Are you in a planner funk (or quagmire?) – are you strictly an app/phone/digital person or do you like paper and pen and stickers and washi? What do you track in your planner? What ideas do you have for me on how I can utilize my system better?   I have another post planned where I’ll be talking about my favorite writing tools and I will be talking about the apps and software programs I use, but my planner will also be listed so if you want to know more about anything I’m using or want an update – let me know.

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Newsies vs. Newsies


One of my favorite movie musicals is the 1992 Newsies with Christian Bale, Max Casella (Vinnie from Doogie Howser, MD), David Moscow, Bill Pullman, Ann-Margaret (!!!), and Robert Duvall.  I must have seen that thing at least 3 times in the movie theatre. I won a copy of the soundtrack on tape by entering a trivia contest. I knew all the words to all the songs and even some of the dance moves.  Is it a perfect movie?  No, it’s silly and melodramatic and although Christian is dreamy his singing and dancing are less than stellar, but he tried.  So when I heard they were making a Broadway version a few years back that didn’t surprise me at all.  It’s flashy with cute dancers, catchy songs, and girls my age LOVED it so it had a built-in audience.

Now, even though I live right here in NY I never made it to the actual show on Broadway, so when I saw that it was now available to watch on Netflix I was pretty excited…until I watched it.  Now, don’t get me wrong – I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t the 1992 movie.  I felt like they had changed too much – some made sense and some had me yelling at my TV, wondering what Harvey Fierstein (who wrote the book for the Broadway show) was thinking.


Let me preface all of this by saying two things.  If you’ve never seen Newsies (the original movie) – you’re missing out.  Cute boys, singing and dancing in period costumes, little guys going after big guys, union talk, love and family – it’s got everything!  2nd thing – if you loved Newsies and Broadway, watch the show on Netflix.  It’s not terrible – the original songs are great, the leads are all really talented and can sing and dance (circles around most of the big name actors in the movie) and overall it’s fun and was filmed live during an actual performance so you get the awesomeness of Broadway and live theatre while sitting in your PJs on the couch.  Also…there are major spoilers in this post so if you do plan on watching the Broadway production and don’t want to know anything beforehand – stop reading, turn on Netflix, enjoy a good show, then come back.  

Okay, with all of that out of the way…here’s my Newsies vs. Newsies account.  Right off the bat, with the Broadway production – they start off with Jack Kelly, our hero, singing about Santa Fe, which I thought made absolutely NO SENSE unless you’ve seen the original movie because the show takes place in NYC – entirely in NYC.  Why do we open a show about NY newsboys singing about a whole other city that’s not in the show?  Yes, the song Santa Fe is in the original movie, but the placement here – of moving a song that’s what 2nd or 3rd on the soundtrack, to the number 1 slot made no sense.  That made me shake my head for at least the first 20 minutes of the production.  

The one change that they made, that I at least understand, was they made the love interest and the news reporter the same person in this show.  In the original movie, Jack falls in love with his new best friend’s sister while having dinner at his house one night – there’s also an older reporter, played by Bill Pullman, that writes their story and gets the news about the newsboy strike out to other people.  If you count the parents, that’s four characters that would need to be cast and paid for – so, sure, turn the reporter into the woman – give her more to do (bonus!) and have her fall for Jack while they’re on the “job” basically – again, bonus, I love it!  It did make the song King of New York a bit awkward (as she’s a woman) but I could look past that honestly.

Now…here comes my big complaint and my biggest spoiler.  In the original movie, Jack and his friends sneak in and use an old printing press of Joseph Pulitzer’s to create their Newsboy union paper and get the word out about child labor.  It’s my absolute favorite song of the movie and I swear, I want to get up and dance and sing full out every time I hear it. So…maybe this is me just being protective – but in the Broadway production, instead of Jack knowing where the press is, the reporter woman knows the press is there because…hold the phone…she’s Pulitzer’s daughter.  What?!?!  Come on, is that even historically accurate?  And then…out of nowhere, all these other newspaper kids come in – William Randolph Hearst’s son is there and knows exactly what to do and he’ll fix everything.  I wasn’t a fan of this.  At all.  Like…I even went and looked up reviews to see if I was the only one annoyed by this and apparently I was because this little tidbit wasn’t mentioned in any review.   So…I digress there.  But seriously, the YouTube clip below is the original number – watch it, love it, be it! 🙂



It left an odd taste in my mouth for the rest of the movie, but…overall, I enjoyed the production.  I would watch it again – and probably will because the songs are catchy, the dance moves are fun, and the Broadway actors are top notch performers.  They made me root for them, laugh with them, cry with them (poor Crutchy!), and want to dance around my apartment singing for days.  They did their job!  I just wish they would have left out the weird…oh, by the way, I’m your enemy’s daughter and now it’s Romeo and Juliet thing.  No!

The other thing…and I just realized this yesterday after re-watching the 1992 movie, but Ann-Margaret’s songs are completely gone and replaced by a whole new one.  It’s a good song, and the Broadway performer is really great – but I’m wondering now if Ann-Margaret owned those original songs from the movie or if Harvey just decided they were too familiar with Ann-Margaret because of the movie and the Meadowlark on Broadway is very different.  Not sure…but both work, the character isn’t seen as much in the Broadway production and I had wished they would have left the big rally number in, but again, this is a change that made sense for time and energy – they would have needed a whole new set piece, a new song, more dancing and a fight sequence which would have cost time and money.



So it seems like I’m totally ripping on the Broadway production, and I swear I’m not – the original movie is so much a part of my teenage years and I hold a special place in my heart that it’s hard to see something new and different with the same general pieces.  I love the original movie, but I also liked the Broadway production.  Would I have enjoyed it more seeing it live, maybe – maybe not, I might have been more pissed off that I spent good money and was disappointed at the changes.  Or maybe I would have looked past the changes made because live theatre is so immersive and fun in and of itself.  We will never know.  I’m just thankful that people are filming live theatre and making it accessible to everyone.  That’s always a good thing in my book.

What’s your favorite movie musical?  Or favorite Broadway musical? What show are you hoping they film and make accessible to everyone?  My hope is Hamilton (of course) and Wicked – although I heard a movie is coming..anyone else hear that?  Do you love Newsies?  Did you see the Broadway production, either live or on Netflix, what did you think?  Let me know in the comments and remember to keep Carrying the Banner!

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What Would a Pro Writer Do? Part 1: Mindset

A few months back I joined an online writer’s mastermind called “The Bestselling Author Mastermind Group”.  We communicate mostly through a private Facebook group, but the leader – Jennifer Blanchard also has a very full BAM website for us with so much useful information: video courses, audio courses, and worksheets galore on everything from mindset, writing (both Fiction and Non-Fiction), publishing, selling, and everything in between.  It’s been an amazing group and I can say, without a doubt, that joining has turned my entire writing career around.

Mindset?


If you read that last paragraph and stopped at mindset – you are not alone.  When I was looking into a mastermind or similar type of group earlier this year it was because of a writing book I was reading that talked about leveling up and getting very clear about your goals and your mindset.  And I stopped reading and thought – what? What does mindset have to do with a writing career?  It turns out…everything.  What you think you create.  If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are correct.  These are phrases and quotes we’ve heard over and over and they sound totally woo-woo and weird, but I’m going to tell you – they are very true.

Back around April I spoke at my son’s elementary school on Career Day and talking to those kids gave me a much needed kick in my butt to resume the revisions on my novel and get it out into the world.  I’ve since finished those personal revisions and sent the manuscript to a professional editor and I am now working on her editorial revisions and notes in preparation for self-publishing in early 2018.  But I really could not have gotten this far without my daily mindset practice and I’m going to give you a little insight into how I do this.  

Step 1: Morning Pages


Most books about mindset or morning practices, in general, will tell you to do them first thing in the morning.  That’s good advice, but when you have a 6 year old that needs to be up, fed, dressed, and out the door to the school bus fairly early (7:15 AM) well – first thing in the morning won’t work (at least for me – I don’t really want to get up at 5:30 AM to do these things) so I do them as soon as we get upstairs from saying Good Bye to cutie as he gets on his bus.  This works for me so don’t feel like you have to “follow the rules or else” – make things work for you and your schedule.

Okay…so that’s out of the way.   My little rebel disclaimer I guess.  Once I’m back upstairs I go straight to our bedroom and work-out – either bodyweight circuits or yoga – then I grab my cheap wide ruled notebook (usually one I’ve bought during Back To School sales) and do morning pages.  If you’ve read any book by Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way being the most famous) you know about morning pages.  If not, it’s basically 3 pages of long-hand free-form stream-of-consciousness writing.  You put the pen to the paper and don’t stop until you get there.  Here’s my other rebel disclaimer – I usually only do 2, so front and back of one notebook page.  Now that’s not a hard and fast rule for me.  Some mornings I’m short on time and do less and some mornings I need to write more and I do…but usually, it’s 1-page front and back. 

Morning pages are where I vent about the fact my kid isn’t eating or some douche’s car alarm went off at 4am or how I desperately need coffee – literally, anything and everything goes onto the page.  This morning I was working through some limiting beliefs (things that are holding me back, those negative tapes we all say to ourselves about various things) surrounding my daily schedule and my need to Get All The Things Done! I worked through some old feelings of perfection that are not serving me or my writing anymore and I even created a new affirmation (we will talk about those in a minute): I will listen to my mind, body, and soul in relationship to my passion work and make mindful, conscious decisions about breaks, pauses, and much needed rest periods without guilt.

Step 2: Mindset Practice – Daily Intentions and Affirmations


Next, I grab my prettier journal (I bought mine from Staples – it’s this one HERE) and write Daily Intentions.  These are things I intend to do that day, written in present tense. For example: I will write the first draft of my weekly blog post or I will make time to read and journal today.  I usually write 3-5 of these and they can relate to my writing, health, or work goals.  Then I skip a line and start writing my Affirmations.  You’ve heard of Affirmations, most likely you think of Stuart Smalley’s character from Saturday Night Live – I’m smart, I’m pretty, and doggone it – people like me!  They seemed so cheesy to me when I first heard about them and secretly – I thought I would hate them.  And honestly, I did for awhile. For a long while – about a month, but then I started realizing that the things I was writing down were making it into my daily mental tape.  I was actually replacing negative thoughts with positive ones – without much effort.

I’m going to give you a real-life example of some of the things I personally write down.  I usually fill up a page or two with these and sometimes I divide them into sections (writing, health, work, life, etc.) but usually, I just write a long list and everything melds together.  I tend to divide them once a month for clarity and goal setting purposes.

  • I am a full-time writer.
  • I am a multi-book self-published author.
  • I am a trusted member of the writing community.
  • I am surrounded by smart, creative, professional women that are helping me become the person and writer I am meant to be.
  • I know the Universe has my back!
  • I am an idea magnet.
  • Words flow easily and first drafts simply fall onto the page.
  • I have an abundance of energy.
  • I have thousands of loyal fans and readers.
  • I create entertaining and informative content that my readers love to receive and share with others. 

Step 3: Visualization


Lastly, I spend 2-5 minutes visualizing everything I write down.  This is new for me, maybe the last two months – and it has really helped me carry over all the good feelings I feel when writing the affirmations into the rest of my day.  I’ve been carrying myself more confidently, talking with more people while out and about, smiling more, engaging more in life and my surroundings, writing more, taking the necessary action steps to complete my goals, and live the dream life I want and deserve to live.  It’s been eye-opening and a game changer.  I just start feeling what it would feel like if each of the affirmations were true, right now in this moment.  I hold on to those feelings while playing a mental movie that moves from writing to my health and fitness goals to my apartment projects and to life in general with my family and friends and I come out of the movie with just so much energy I almost literally jump up and get started!  

Once I’m done with my exercising and my journaling/mindset practice I usually have breakfast, drink my coffee, go over my daily schedule for both personal and work, check emails, and then schedule in my fiction writing time, work time, blogging time, and downtime to read and rest.  


So…what do you think?  Could you incorporate something like this into your life?  Do you think it would help you (I say YES) – would you like to learn more about the writing group I’m apart of?  Would you like to know more about the other items on the What Would a Pro Writer Do index card in my title image? Let me know in the comments!

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Behind the Scenes: Where I Write


Today I’d like to talk about my desk.  It’s big and bold and messy.  We moved almost a year ago and we are still not set up (I know, I know…but life happens man) but my desk is sort of settled in to.  I have a new cork board and white board to go with my cool WRITER picture (thanks, Delia!) – they are just not on the actual wall yet but leaning against the wall.  I can still plan, dream, think, smile at, and gets ideas from everything so it’s fine….for now.  

My desk is in our bedroom.  Living in New York comes with many advantages (theatre, museums, restaurants, the public transportation) but space is not one of them when it comes to apartments.  Our place is pretty big, actually, but we only have two bedrooms so unless I want to force my cute 5-year-old to sleep on the floor of the living room (although he might secretly love this) for now my desk is in the bedroom.  This doesn’t actually cause problems since my son is at school and my husband is at work all day and I don’t usually work at night during family times.  The problem comes from my desk being a flat, relatively clean surface, things get dumped here – school paperwork, iPhones, my son’s art, junk mail – the list goes on, so I constantly have to clean it. 


 

What would solve this problem?  Having a dedicated space in the living room for the stuff mentioned above.  I’m actually working on this problem, and I think I’m almost done with the drop zone by the door.  Also, I need to reorganize the two book shelves that are in the bedroom to better utilize that space so less stuff has to live on my desk.  This is my next big apartment project.  We really do take forever to move into a place fully – but we adore our apartment overall, it has huge windows and lots of light and it’s in a great neighborhood close to my son’s elementary school.  And it’s quiet.  Like…eerily quiet.  If I have the windows open I can sometimes hear the Long Island Rail Road go by a few blocks away or trucks rumbling down Queens Boulevard, but otherwise – I don’t hear much during the day.  It’s really nice.

My desk is almost settled in, but once I get the book shelves reorganized then I can concentrate on the peripheral areas of my desk, like my cute little plastic bins that hold my washi tape, journal cards, extra index cards, extra pens, etc.  Right now they are a major hot mess and I can’t find anything without searching through at least three drawers.  Ugh!  This is a total time waster and the 2nd item on my apartment list to fix and work through.  I also want to put more cute stuff on my cork board and once I get everything hung up, I’ll see if I have room for other decorations around my desk.  I have accumulated quite a few inspirational pictures and sayings so I want a space dedicated to those, like a mini vision board or a motivator corner. 


 

The other place I like to write is in the living room sitting on our bright red couch!  This is the joy of owning a laptop – I can take it anywhere, but I usually don’t.  The living room is where I chill when I’m thinking or planning or daydreaming while writing but also have the TV on watching old reruns of Friends. I have tried writing out of the house, but for some odd reason, I felt very uncomfortable.  I think that’s just me because most writers I’ve met go to Starbucks or St. Louis Bread Company (Panera’s) and work sometimes….if I do this, I usually like to read or hand write in a journal because I feel odd whipping out my laptop and typing away.  Not sure why.  I think it’s because at home I can control my music, my beverage situation, my food situation, etc.  I think it’s because I’m a control freak.  There, I said, it. HA

So…where do you write or paint or sing?  Show me your work space and tell me a little about it…is it perfect, does it need some work?  Are you planning on fixing it up or adding things? I’d love to see pictures, so tag me over on Instagram.

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Bad Poetry 2: Electric Boogaloo

It’s round two of Bad Poetry! The last time I did this (read that here) I got a few family and friends asking me, “These were great…they weren’t bad, why did you call it that?” Here’s the reason: I don’t know what I’m doing, really. I studied some poetry in High School and College – how to read it, how to act it out, how to think about it as a reader and performer, but never how to write it. I wasn’t an English major in college and then when I did start writing, it was always novels or articles – never poetry. But it’s fun to play around with words and types of poetry (like Haiku!) and imagery in a different way. This is why I label it Bad Poetry…not because they suck (although they might) but because I have no idea if they can even all be called poetry. I’m just having fun, so enjoy!

The System is Down, Yo

Internet is out
No Netflix, Hulu, YouTube
What to do for fun?

An Ode to Staples

Notebooks and pens and highlighters galore.
Colored pencils, markers, crayons and more.
Aisles and aisles of envelopes, binders, paper, and ink.
Music above, rain outside, lights that glow an odd shade of pink.
I make my choices, carefully picking supplies.
And ring them all up and head out with my prize. 


Depression

My mind never stops, the words are swirling and the voices are drowning out my own thoughts. Happiness is always just a bit out of reach. I stretch, I strain, but I can’t seem to grab it for very long. I brush it with my fingertips, linger in the warm sunny delight of it, but then just as quick it’s gone again. Slammed into darkness, surrounded by ugly horrible images. Pictures that I don’t want to see. Things I don’t want to think about. Facts that I don’t even believe anymore. I am better than this. I try again. Stretch further, strain more, try to grab it one last time. Maybe this time it will stay.

I fall on my face. Splat! Straight down in murky water, dirt, and debris. I sit up and look around. I start feeling sorry for myself. I decide to just sit here and live, in this ditch or hole that I’ve somehow created for myself. It feels comfy…until it doesn’t. Until I start to get antsy and angry. Mad at myself, mad at the world. Mad at everyone that looks happy.

I try smiling. I try singing. But nothing works for long. I finally try talking. I talk and talk and talk and cry and scream and somehow the clouds part and the sun appears, and I see it. Happiness floating toward me. I hold out my hands and it lands softly. I throw it around me like a blanket. I feel warm and light. It won’t always be this easy, but for now…right now. It is.


Growing Up



Going to school and riding the bus, you seem so big.

Helping me pack your snack and getting dressed, you seem so big.
Homework and reading, you seem so big.

But then, at night, before bed when you crawl into my lap and put your head in the space between my soft body and warm arms, you look up at me and all I see is my baby. My little 8 lb 3 oz newborn who would look up me while feeding and I smile. 

You might be growing up, but you’re still little to me. 

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Coffee Break

Hello, my loyal readers…grab a cup of coffee (iced if it’s as hot and muggy as it is here in NY) and let’s catch up.

So, about 2 months ago I finished the second round of revisions on my debut novel, The Art of Lying, and sent it to a professional editor. I took a little time off – about a week – and then jumped into working on a novella that I’m hoping to give away for free when I start up my newsletter. But my amazing editor (shout out to Sarah Fox over at The Bookish Fox!) sent me her notes already. Amazing! So far, her notes seem fair and balanced – she tells me when she loves a line or section of dialogue and then she also tells me when I should show and not tell, when I should blend some of the info dumps into the scenes more naturally, and that my love interest seems a bit cartoonish (she’s right actually, I just couldn’t see that). If you are writing a novel, seriously – get a professional to look at it, I’m so incredibly happy with the results and I know that by working with Sarah, making the needed changes, and sending it back to her for copyediting my book will be simply the best it can be and me a better writer in the process. Who could ask for more?

Now, of course, that leaves me with a tiny dilemma – do I start working on my baby (the big novel) or finish outlining and drafting the novella? I mean, I could possibly work on both these next two months, but it is summer and my son’s summer Extended School Year program is a tiny bit shorter than the normal school day, and there’s still the day job. I don’t want to burn out, confuse stories in my head, or just start hating both projects. I’m going to take a few days, work on a reverse outline for my Editorial Skype call with Sarah, and see what my next few weeks actually look like in terms of work, shopping, and other activities.

The plan was still to have my novel ready to self-publish this Fall/Winter but I have a feeling to make it the best book possible, give me time to write and edit the novella, set up the newsletter, and have family time (and a Disneyland vacation!!!!) I might need to push the timeline back to January/February 2018, and you know what? That’s okay. I know I’m going to learn and grow so much with this book and this whole self-publishing process that I will be better equipped to write, edit, revise, and publish the next few books.  And, once the novella is ready and in my eNewsletter system that will pretty much be “set it and forget it”.

What fun stuff are you doing this summer? Vacation plans? Netflix and chill? Summer school or camp? I want to know what you’re up to and if you’re creative and writing, singing, dancing, etc then let me know that too! Keep cool, read something funny, and catch up on your favorite series. 

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Let’s Get a Little Real


So, today I’d like to slow things down and get a little real.  The past few years have been hard for me, personally.  I lost my older sister three years ago to pancreatic cancer.  I miscarried a very wanted baby girl two years ago. And my sweet five-year-old started kindergarten.  And if you think that last one isn’t quite the same as the first two, you’re right in some ways, but my son is autistic and he went from a very small loving preschool program to the New York school system in a bigger class, with all new teachers and kids.  To say I was worried and feeling lost was an understatement.  
I wasn’t dealing with things well after last September.  We had just moved and although I loved our new apartment and neighborhood, I was feeling sad all the time.  I managed my day job okay (I work from home) but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I did the work but wasn’t happy.  I cried a lot, watched too much Netflix, and ate nothing but crap.  I was depressed.  This has happened to me before.  Also, I have a history of binge eating – and I started to see myself creeping back toward those old habits and I didn’t want to go down that road again, so I recalled what I had done about 6-7 years ago and took action this time.  I started seeing a Nutritionist and a Therapist.


Yes…both, at the same time.  Why?  Because having support and help from multiple people is exactly what works for me.  This time, I delved into the serious loss I had felt over the last few years (I also lost extended family members in the past five years that I loved dearly), the loss of having my baby start Kindergarten, the general malaise and hurt feelings I’ve been holding on to for too many years about my career and lack thereof.  It took many months, but I can say I’m finally feeling like myself.  Happier, on the road to healthier, and I’m actually kicking butt on my goals.

The thing that both my nutritionist and my therapist have been instilling in me is Health at Every Size (for more info, click HERE and HERE) and Self-Care/Self-Love/Self-Acceptance.  Learning to love who I am, right now, right here today and not When I Get to Be a Perfect Size….because that’s BS and that attitude was holding me back.  I’ve been adding in self-care to my daily plans – reading time, planner time, showers (yes…when I get depressed or I start hating on myself showers go right out the window), facial masks, tea and cookies, and music, going to bed and getting sleep, etc.  I’ve also been working on Intuitive Eating and listening to my hunger and fullness cues.  That has been so hard, but I’m now starting to tell when I get hungry and I listen and ask questions – am I really hungry or thirsty?  When was the last time I ate?  What did I eat?  Was it filling?  What can I eat now to satisfy myself? How can I make things easier for myself?    If I start feeling hungry and I know I really shouldn’t be hungry, I think – what’s going on emotionally? Can I do something else instead of eating to help me feel better?  Sometimes the answer is NO and I go ahead and eat, giving myself permission to fully enjoy whatever I decided to partake in.  This keeps me from binging and feeling guilty for giving myself what my body is craving.

Along with the help of my nutritionist and therapist (and my family – shout out to Mom and Hubby and my cute son, for keeping me going when times were tough), I’ve started getting involved in the writing community online and I joined a Mastermind group that has been amazing.  The leader is big into Mindset and I’ve been doing a daily mindset practice for a few months now and I was ready to start up-leveling my life in a few areas – one being my fitness.  Yes, I love myself today just as I am, but I also knew that I needed to be able to walk up my stairs without feeling like I’m going to die, run around after my cute kid, and walk around Queens and get stuff done.  I sit all day for both my day job and my passion work so I needed something to help me get some exercise in and start feeling stronger.  Enter Nerd Fitness and Rising Heroes …it’s an extremely geeky online role-playing type game that helps you complete missions and earn points all centered around health, fitness, hobbies, your environment, and more. 

I created a code name – Caffeina (the Roman goddess of Coffee!), took the first self-assessment and was placed into a faction (like a Harry Potter house), joined a Squad and a Division and started walking, doing bodyweight exercise circuits, and drinking more water.  It’s only been two weeks but I’m really enjoying it.  It does cost money (I think I paid about $100 for the year) but their Facebook group is active, helpful, and funny.  The geeky online game and backstory is a bit over my head, but maybe I’ll get into it more once I complete all the beginning missions.
So…what do you do each day for self-care? Do you have a plan?  I try to jot down 5-6 things at the beginning of the week and then check them off as I do them.  Do you work out?  Do you enjoy it?  I’m still also doing my yoga, but I knew I needed some variety, some help, and I find I really enjoy the bodyweight circuits – I feel strong and all amazon goddess warrior type afterwards. 
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