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My nephew recently made a comment that struck home with me. He said “I wish to be better at being myself.”

His comment inspired me to think about many things, including how I could apply it in a writing-related post. Examining the term “voice” seemed a natural choice, but I covered that topic in depth on April 9, 2010 and can’t think of anything new to add. Instead, I’ll discuss comparisons.

My daughter and I are similar in many ways. In fact, as she was growing up I often felt a sense of déjà vu when I looked at her. Now, I feel like a faded reflection of the girl I was; a totally different woman. Now I see in her the things I’m not; the differences rather than the similarities. And I’m fine with that.

 

Me and Lisa

 

Ads and television glorify the beautiful people, not the ordinary ones. Success is generally equated with how much money or fame a person has attained. We compare ourselves to our friends, our co-workers, the neighbors, published authors, etc., etc., and that comparison may stoke our egos or leave us frustrated.

What I remind myself of when the comparisons make me feel inferior is that I can only be the best I am capable of. Those other people have not lived my life, and don’t have the same responsibilities and experiences that I have. They are different. I am different. We may have similar goals, but we are not equally equipped to meet them.

As a child, my dream was to be an astronaut or a stewardess. Health issues and a fear of heights changed my aspirations. Then I decided I’d be a science fiction writer, and I devoured science fiction books and magazines about space and astronomy. Later I discovered sociology, and human relationships became more exciting than science. I wanted to save the world. Reality and love changed my mind, and I became a mother instead. (Of all my dreams, that one turned out to be the most challenging—and the most satisfying.)

Recognizing our strengths as well as our weaknesses can help us set realistic goals, but sometimes we need to work on areas of our lives that interfere with our attainment of them. Sometimes we need to set short term goals in order to improve our chance of success in the long term. And sometimes we need to accept the fact that we will never achieve our dream. In which case, we need to remember that doesn’t mean we should give up dreaming—we just need to focus on a different one.

At this point in life I aspire to write. My long-term goal is to complete a historical romance novel and have it published. In the short term, I work on learning as much as I can about how to accomplish that goal—and I write. Realistically, I know the chances of becoming a traditionally published author are slim. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. Maybe I’ll be successful, and maybe I won’t, but without trying, failure is assured.

We each have experiences that shape our lives, attitudes, and beliefs. Combined with our innate personality, these experiences help define who we are and what we will become—a unique individual. Let’s embrace our uniqueness. Let’s focus on being the best we can be as we strive to achieve our dreams.

 

 

For more encouragement specifically for writers, see agent Rachelle Gardner’s post entitled Comparison Doesn’t Work, and editor Lynn Price’s post Play to Your Strengths.

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By now I expected to have several posts up, be well on my way to completing my contest submissions, and have the basement cleaned out. None of those things has happened yet and January is almost over. On the positive side, though, I’ve read several books, come up with some blog post topics, and worked on my novel.

For today I have a useful tidbit of information to share with those of you who like tools to keep track of your writing progress. Svenja Liv has 4 free awesome spreadsheet themes for keeping track of your word count goals. Although I’m not experienced with Excel, I was able to download the steampunk spreadsheet template and correctly enter my data with no problem. I also use her site to update my progress bar, which is located in my blog’s sidebar. I fill in my data on her site, then copy and paste it into the widget area of my blog. These tools don’t get the writing done, but they are a visual reminder to me of how far I’ve come, and how far I need to go.

 

EDIT FEB. 15, 2013  The link to Svenja Liv’s site is broken. Not sure when/if it will be available. If I find another source for tracking tools, I will post it here. :(

 

 

Are you making progress toward the goals you set for yourself? Do you use word count templates or tracking tools that you would recommend?

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As 2013 begins, I hope to move forward in areas where I have been lax, such as writing blog posts. I’ll maintain the writing-related focus of this blog and, while I make no promises, I plan to post a minimum of once a week.

I’m at a crossroad in life and am not yet sure of what I want to do. Sort of like my cat.

Safety first!

Safety first!

He’s kept indoors 99.9% of the time and when let loose outside never ventures beyond the safety of the deck. He nibbles on the grass growing next to it, but won’t step out of his comfort zone to see what he could see. I don’t want to be like him.

I want to jump off the deck and wallow in the grass, figuratively speaking. I want to revel in whatever the new year brings me; to do things I’ve never done before—in reality, and in my writing.

 

Looking for adventure!

Looking for adventure!

 

Look out world; here I come!

 

What about you? What are you hoping to achieve in 2013? Are you setting specific goals or making any changes? Are you looking forward to anything special this year?

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A Haiku for My Mother

Mom at picnic

Choirs of angels sing—

My heart overflows with grief

Wishing you were here

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While my husband and I were having breakfast together at a local restaurant a few days ago, I noticed that he was almost finished whereas I had barely eaten any of my meal. I asked him why he eats so fast, and he replied that he doesn’t—he just gets done first because I never stop talking long enough to eat.

When it comes to writing, I think there are many of us who spend more time talking about it than working towards our goals. We have reasons, many of them good ones, why we have to do other things before we can complete our novel, memoir, or other projects, but that doesn’t change the fact that we aren’t achieving the success we hope for.

One factor holding us back may be a lack of time management skills. I know it’s an area I struggle with, so I did some research. Here are some of the ideas I’m hoping will help me manage time more effectively:

  • Set realistic long-term and short-term goals.

Knowing what we want to accomplish is the first step toward getting it. If we separate each big goal into smaller ones, it will keep us from feeling overwhelmed and we are more likely to succeed.

  • Set priorities, and stick to them until they change.

Every day, figure out what’s most important and work those into our schedule, allowing more time than we think we need because everything takes longer than we think. Life has a way of throwing obstacles in whatever path we choose, so we need to be flexible.

  • Develop a routine that fits our lifestyles.

We all have different responsibilities, talents, and personalities, so we mustn’t get hung up on what people say we should be doing. If our priorities don’t allow for a regular routine, so be it. We should do the best we can, when we can, and not get discouraged by comparing ourselves to others. Giving up is the surest way to fail.

That last point was one I made up myself. Apparently I lost the focus of my post somewhere along the way and started thinking philosophically instead of practically. If you want more specific tips, here are a couple of sites that I thought were especially well-written and helpful.

Top 10 Time Management Tips

13 Tips for More Effective Time Management

 In closing, here’s a bit of advice that I’ve always followed: Try not to stress over what doesn’t get done today, because it will probably still be waiting for you tomorrow.

 

Do you struggle with managing your time? What are some ways you fit writing into your schedule? What’s the most useful tip you know of for those of us needing to improve our time management skills?

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I want to thank everyone who has visited my blog for the encouraging comments and support. Blogging is my favorite hobby, and I feel very blessed that so many of you have signed up to follow my posts via e-mail or have returned repeatedly despite my haphazard posting schedule. I’ve been distracted by family matters during the last few months, but things are settling down and I’m hoping for a more normal posting pattern in the upcoming year.

Rather than making a New Year’s Resolution post with promises to myself that I probably won’t keep, I’ve decided to list a few of the blessings I’ve received during the past year. Being grateful for what I have and for what I’ve accomplished is more important to me than listing things I wish I could change. So, not necessarily in order of importance, here are the top 10 blessings 2011 brought to me:

I’ve learned to trust that God’s plans are better than my plans.

My husband survived a delicate heart procedure.

My kids have been home to share the good times as well as the tough ones.

I am physically in better shape than I’ve been in several years.

My family and friends have been unwavering in their support through some difficult times.

There is currently nothing I really need that I don’t have or can’t get.

The future looks bright for my 3 children.

My 91-year-old mother is in good health.

I’ve made the decision to focus on the positive in every situation rather than on the negatives, and so far I’ve been able to stick with that decision.

I’ve realized that some things just aren’t important enough to waste my life worrying about.

 

None of these things relate to writing—that’s somewhere farther down my list of blessings. Due to the fact I haven’t been writing anything, I have no accomplishments to list in that area. However, I do still have a passion for the book I was working on last year, and I’m determined to devote more time to writing during 2012.  (That’s not a Resolution! It’s a goal. ;) )

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At Grandmother's house

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What are some of the things you’ve been blessed with during 2011? Do you have some goals for 2012 you’d like to share? Did you have a pleasant holiday season this year?

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My birthday was Saturday, and we celebrated all weekend. While having my family with me was the best present, I have to admit that the Nook Color they gave me is wonderful! I’ve gotten very little done this week besides figuring out how to work it and reading book reviews.

Having never used an e-reader, I wisely read the Quick Start guide online before I turned on my Nook Color. It was easy to understand, so I had no problems getting registered and ready to read.

B&N pre-loaded my Nook Color with Little Women, Dracula, and Pride and Prejudice, along with some sample chapters from a couple of modern books. None of those interest me, so I’ve spent hours scrolling through the Nook Store looking for books I might actually want to read. With so many to choose from, you’d think I could have loaded up my e-reader within minutes—but so far I have picked out 8 full books and a few samples. All but 4 were free.

There are lots of reviews on the Web covering the pros and cons of buying the Color Nook, and as a non-techie I can’t add to or dispute any of their claims. For those who want a reader’s opinion, however, here are a few things I like about it and a few I don’t:

AWESOME:

  • It’s beautiful!
  • The colors make my shopping easier because I’m attracted (or not) by the book covers. Several of my purchases were books whose covers caught my attention as I scrolled through the store.
  • The buttons are easy to figure out and I’ve not had any problems navigating the screens. This really doesn’t require much skill to use.
  • The Search screen makes it easy to find books by author or title, or I can browse by categories.
  • Each book has sample chapters I can download before making up my mind whether or not to buy a book. This lets me see if I like the writer’s style, gives me a better idea of what the book is about, and also lets me see if there are major problems with the formatting or navigation. This is especially helpful on the nonfiction books where I want to be able to go directly to certain chapters rather than read the whole thing from beginning to end.
  • Most books have customer reviews that let me know when there are big problems with editing, or if the book is a reprint rather than a new release. (Some books show a published date for 2011 or 2010 but don’t show that the original copyright was much earlier.) This is helpful as some of my favorite authors have written so many books I can’t remember which ones I’ve already read. I would have purchased several thinking they were new releases except for the comments in the reviews alerting me to the fact they were older books.
  • I can adjust the brightness of the screen to read in low light without distracting the people around me. This is perfect for times other family members are watching movies I’m not interested in, or for reading my e-Bible at church.

NOT SO AWESOME:

  • The screen is really, really touchy. When scrolling through lists, I often touch the titles in such a way that a book I’m not interested in pops up. I have to tap the x in the corner to close it out, and that’s so close to the Buy button that a few times I’ve hit it by accident.  If you double click on the Buy button, you’ve bought the book as it switches from Buy to Confirm after the first click. The second click downloads it and charges your account for the book.
  • It didn’t come loaded with the recent major program upgrade. The B&N site said the upgrade would be automatic, but after 3 days I still didn’t have it. I was able to follow the instructions for manually upgrading by loading the program on my laptop and sending it to my Nook Color via a USB cable, but I was nervous I might mess up something. (I didn’t, though, so it’s unlikely anyone would have a problem doing it.)
  • It’s time consuming, and addictive. Browsing for books is much easier on a computer but I find myself scrolling through random categories on my Nook Color anyway. It’s so easy to download them once I locate one I want to read that I keep looking, and looking, and looking for just one more…
  • It is so thin, and the screen is so large, that I’m afraid I’ll damage it if I carry it in my purse. I’ve ordered a case for it, but that’s going to make it too bulky to fit in most of my purses.

I haven’t downloaded any apps yet. The upgrade made some interesting ones available, and I have a couple picked out to download later. One is supposed to let me view pdfs and Word documents, but since I don’t know how to get them transferred to my Nook Color there isn’t much point in buying it until I figure out the basics. The apps seem cheap to me, but I don’t know how the prices compare to those for other e-readers.

As I learn more about this, I’ll update this post to include any additional features or problems I encounter that I think might be helpful to know about. If you’re considering an e-reader, I suggest you compare this one to others on the market first. You might even prefer a tablet instead as they offer a lot more features, if price isn’t a consideration. However, I highly recommend the Nook Color for anyone primarily interested in reading books.

Here are some sites I found helpful when researching e-readers:

http://reviews.cnet.com/ebook-readers/?tag=mncol;srt&sort=popularity+asc  Reviews on CNet

http://www.the-ebook-reader.com/ebook-reader-comparison.html  Comparison Chart and Reviews

http://www.the-ebook-reader.com/nook-color.html Review of Nook Color

.EDIT JULY 11, 2011: I still love my Nook Color, but I’m disappointed that the battery doesn’t hold a charge nearly as long as I had expected. I read, at most, 4 or 5 hours a day and have to leave it plugged in or recharge it within 3 days. (Edited to add that I’ve been reading for longer periods, and have to charge it daily. Oh, well. It’s still my favorite toy!)

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Do you have an e-reader? If so, which one do you use, and are you happy with it? Do you have any tips to share regarding buying or using an e-reader? If you’ve used the Nook Color, what did you like best/least about it? Do you know how to transfer pictures from a computer to Nook Color (I don’t!)?

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