Category Archives: Life List Club

Twentysomethings: The Defining Decade?

*This post was originally published through the Life List Club Blog on April 27, 2012.  Thought it was time for another discussion.

I was driving home one night listening to my guilty pleasure, Wisconsin Public Radio, and the topic for the evening really stunned me.  The radio host, Joy Cardin, was speaking with Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist who specializes in adult development especially twentysomethings.

Dr. Jay is the author of The Defining Decade:  Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now.  Dr. Jay works as an assistant clinical professor at the University of Virginia and keeps a private practice as well.  Interacting with so many college students and recent graduates, she noticed the hits and misses my generation was making time and time again.

When asked why she wrote the book, Dr. Jay said she’s trying to make an impact on the 50 million twentysomethings who are looking for guidance in their lives while still being treated like an adult.

So why are the twenties so defining? 

  • 80% of life’s most defining moments take place before the age of 35.
  • 70% of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of a career.
  • More than half of us are married or living with our longterm partners.
  • Our fertility rates peak in our twenties.
  • And our brains do their last growth spurt in our twenties.

If you had the same reaction I did, you’re probably thinking, “Sweet God, it’s all over!  I may as well start digging my grave, drop down in it, along with my unfinished book, my birth control pills, and any other unfulfilled dreams while we’re funeralizing!”

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Fear not!  Dr. Jay says Never Give Up. 

She does emphasize that my generation is in the midst of some crucial crossroads and the decisions we make now CAN AND DO impact the rest of our lives.

She talks about “identity capital” which she defines as the collateral you build up so when you go in for an interview the person looks at your resume and says “Oh that’s interesting, tell me more about that!” We know we’re in an economic crisis right now.  The job market is not ideal.  The Veteran Generation is staying employed longer in need of more stability, and yet year after year more college graduates are flooding the market.  We’ve got all four generations competing and cohabiting the workforce.  Ages 20 – 70+.

Many of us twentysomethings opted for an alternative route.  I’m sure all of you know someone who decided to take time off, travel the world, date around, etc.  Dr. Jay’s concern with some of these routes is that for those individuals they’re having a harder time trying to get back on track whether it’s the job field or family planning.  Employers start to look at your resume and think “hmm, you really haven’t done too much” and the person that stands out is the twentysomething who jumped right in and planned their career path just like an adult, setting goals or achieving higher degrees, whatever it might be.

In regards to family planning, she wants twentysomethings to be aware of fertility information.  Women’s fertility peaks at 28.  What she tends to hear from the twentysomethings she counsels, is so many of them spend time in cohabitation with a partner or spouse for 4-5 years before they realize that maybe that relationship should have only lasted a year.

Now, I will totally say that family planning is a personal choice!  And Dr. Jay agreed.  What she wants is for us to have the facts about fertility so we are thoughtful in planning who our partners are as well as when we want to start having children because the health risks are increased the later into the 30′s you are.

That being said, I may have ran in from the car, found Joe, and screamed something like, “We have to start having babies now, my fertility is peaking!!! What are we doing with our lives??!”

So then he said, “You’re not allowed to listen to the radio anymore…”

Our generation is at its peak for adaptation.  If there is something you are unhappy about in life, or you’re wanting to make changes, then do it!  We have the capability to transform and rise to the occasion.

When I graduated from college, I started having anxiety attacks.  I panicked about “what I wanted to do with the rest of my life!”  I fell in suit and took the first full time job that came my way.  I worked all the time, and was too exhausted to pursue my writing or hang out with friends.  You know what, I got really sad and really bored real fast!  It’s been an ongoing process to change.  While I’ve done well for myself career-wise, I quickly learned that what makes me happy is writing and travel, and if I was going to get that back in my life that meant change!

So, three years ago I started blogging!  And I met amazing writers and readers online!  Through them, I got involved with some writing contests and critique groups.  I also saved up my money and used my vacation time to attend writing conferences and travel around the world.

There is hope!  And it’s never too late!  All of us can define the decade we’re living in!

So what are you waiting for?!  What’s on your life list?

What do you think about Dr. Jay’s theory and your 20′s being the Defining Decade?  Are you currently in your 20′s?  Would you do anything differently if you could go back?  What advice do you have for a new adult in their 20′s, or for parents raising a 20-somthing?

Milestone Party: How to Survive Fast Draft and Dance Like No One’s Watching

(media.photobucket.com)

Helloooo Out There!  Come one, come all; we’re having a party today!  Most of you know that about a year ago Marcia Richards and I founded the organization called The Life List Club.

What is the Life List Club?

A bunch of us writers got together to create our life lists – those things you want to do in life and never manage to complete.  We spent many months touring around each others’ blogs guest posting and getting to know our readers.  As the group adapted, we created our own blogsite, The Life List Club!  If you haven’t followed us, what are you waiting for?!  Click on over and sign up!

In short, you can get involved in the Life List Club in two ways:  as a Reader or as a Writer.  Anyone and everyone should be a reader.  As readers we encourage you to create your own life list of those “to do’s” that are lingering around or big dreams you’ve put on hold too long.  Your goals are anything that is right for you.  Post your life list on your blog, and share with us via comments and tweets how you’re doing!  You can cyber hang with us at the hashtag #LifeListClub.  Enjoy weekly posts filled with true stories, inspiration, and humor to boot to keep you motivated on your goals.

Hey Writers out there!  You can get involved by becoming a contributing writer for the LLC blog!  We’re currently accepting new writers to our rotation of posting and would love to hear from you!  E-mail me at jessi(DOT)witkins(AT)gmail(DOT)com if interested!  You don’t have to blog about writing.  We’re looking for a variety of goals to be covered so our readers can find multiple avenues of inspiration.

Here’s What We’re Celebrating Today!

Since launching the LLC blog, 3 months have gone by and we always have a Milestone party to celebrate the learning lessons and achievements along the way.  You can check out how all the Life Listers did by reading and entering our sweet giveaway for a $50 Amazon Gift Card

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Cue the Party Music!  

This is my new favorite song!  Why?  Because it involves splices of Love is Strange by Mickey and Sylvia from Dirty Dancing!  Duh!!!

My Goals:

  • Write Everyday.
  • Read 2 books a month.
  • Save money.
  • Work out at least once a week.

The Recap:

Write Everyday.

There were definitely days where only my minimum 5 things in the gratitude journal got written down.  Examples from the past few months include:  reading a good book, meeting bloggers I follow at the DFW Writers Conference, Joe cooking dinner, Bellavitano cheese, iced tea, leaving work on time, hammocks.  What really kicked my butt into gear on this goal was attending the DFW Writers Conference.  I decided to give Candace Havens’ Fast Draft a try.  Fast Draft is the idea that you complete your first draft of a novel in 2 weeks by writing 20 pages/day.

Now before your eyes bug out of your head, know thatI hadto adapt this goal.  On day 1, I did get 20 pages written.  But once I was back at work, it was too difficult to get to 20.  I set a minimum of 10.  Ten pages was exactly ten pages more than I’d been writing everyday.  And this process takes a lot of planning!  I spent the whole week before blogging ahead, reading books, and getting emails sent out so I could focus on my writing.

Then week 2 of Fast Draft came around and I had a really difficult time.  I was having arguments with my boyfriend.  I was trying to assist planning 2 weddings/bachelorette parties/getting dress fittings for the upcoming marriages of my two best friends.  My sister underwent surgery for her third recurrence of cancer and was recovering.  We had company stay at our house.  The cupboards were getting bare.  And I was up until somewhere between 1 – 4 a.m. every night?  morning?  I’ve lost track.

It wasn’t my week.  Still, I always got some writing done!  The least amount was one page, and the most on those awful days was eight.  But that’s one more page or eight more pages closer to the “The End.”  Despite all that happened, I’m proud and relieved I’ve completed this challenge.  It taught me what’s important to me.  What I’m willing and not willing to give up, and it showed me who truly supports me in this journey and who doesn’t.  I would like to give Fast Draft another go for the next round of LLC goals.

Read 2 books a month.

(gettingbetteratthings.com)

Right now I think I have 7 books going at once.  I’ve had to postpone a few in order to complete others.  Books read just this month:  Back to Madeline Island by Jay Gilbertson, Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James, and Red by Kait Nolan.  I also coordinated an author interview with Jay, and have one next week with Kait!

I’m currently on track to complete my TBR Pile Challenge book Blessings by Anna Quindlen this month, as well as my first Janet Evanovich book, Three to Get Deadly, and the final book in the Fifty Shades series, Fifty Shades Freed.

Looking for more book reviews?  Check out my Bookshelf!

Save money.

Believe it or not, folks, I made myself a sticker chart to save!  And it helped!  I was able to budget better and reward myself for not buying more clothes or jewelry, etc. and had enough funds to travel to South Korea and to Texas for the writers conference.  Next trip I’m saving for is Joe’s and my road trip out west in August!

I still need to visit with a personal banker yet and look into some better savings options at the bank and read Suze Orman’s Women and Money book.

Work out at least once a week. 

This goal was a bit hit or miss.  I dove back into working out and did so many weighted lunges around the gym floor that I spent a good 3 days walking around like an old pregnant woman!  I was literally hobbling and could barely get in and out of my car.  I did start up at the gym again, weight training, using the elliptical and stationary bike.  Even if I didn’t make it to the gym, I would have a dance party in my room – just to move around!

I did improve my diet.  For several weeks I limited the amounts of red meat and cheese in my diet (mostly cause my boyfriend is doing that on his diet), but I also tried several great recipes from Self magazine.  I found 2 awesome breakfasts, and made two different chicken curry dishes.  I’ve been better about packing my lunches again and eating salads or peanut butter and jelly.  For breakfast on the go, I invested in some nut mixes to get protein in my system.  I cannot agree to switch to Almond Milk.  I still prefer cow’s milk!  LOL.

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There’s my Life List recap!  Be sure to enter for all the great Life List Club milestone prizes by visiting our blogs!  You can find us all in the blogroll on the right.  And to enter for the $50 Amazon Gift Card, you’ve gotta get to the Life List Club blog!

But first, enter here!  Win an additional $10 I-Tunes Gift Card by subscribing to the Happiness Project and leaving me a comment about a learning moment or success story from your own life list!  I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

We’re Taking Over WordPress: Life List Club – New Blog, New Prizes!

Big news!  Huge!  Spectacular!  Extra, Extra! 

The Life List Club Launches Own Blog!

That’s right guys and gals!  The Life List Club has decided to launch their own blog site and make things easier ON YOU!  Instead of trying to bounce around between 8 or more blogs on one day, we’ll be able to space out our plethora of viewpoints and encouraging ideas over the course of a month at our site.  We’re posting on Wednesdays and Fridays all about achieving goals, and using Mondays for any announcements or guest posts that may occur (hint, hint – Who’s interested?)  Please give a round of applause to my co-founder, Marcia Richards who worked doggedly on setting up our site.  You can visit us at our new blog, and we’ll officially transfer there the first wednesday of April!  Don’t forget, we hang out at the hashtag #LifeListClub too, so you can always give a shout out there!

And Now a Word from our Sponsors:

Ok well not sponsors, I don’t currently have any of those, but if companies like Bath and Body Works, Lush, Target, Barnes and Noble would care to make a contribution, I’m sure it would only do wonders for the ol’ Witkins’ Happiness Project.  ;)

It’s time for our Milestone Party!

You can’t have a party without dancing!  Previously you’ve raved to Ce Ce Penniston’s Finally, you’ve jammed to Ke$ha’s Tik Tok and here to teach you how to boogie is the Bingo Boys featuring Princessa singing ‘How to Dance!’

The point of a Milestone party is to celebrate the strides you’ve made on your life list.  A few months ago I condensed my list to the core necessities, and here’s where I’m at with my progress:

1.  Write Everyday – My minimum goal was to write at least 5 things in my gratitude journal each day, with a long term goal of scheduling time each week to get writing done on my book.  However, in the last month, I changed projects.  Instead of the paranormal young adult novel I was working on, I switched to memoir.  Pretty drastic switch there!  I got some good tips from my Warrior Writers Boot Camp gang and will be starting to piece together this project in the next weeks.  I’m also attending the DFW Writers Conference in May, featuring guest author James Rollins.

(My favorite items to have made the Gratitude Journal lately)

  •  Writing a letter home
  • Crossing paths with 7 young deer while hiking in Hixon Forest
  • Reading the fun comments on my Musicalpalooza blog
  • Watching the finale of Season 2 The Walking DeadOMG! What is about to happen??!
  • Feeding the ducks down at Riverside Park
  • Discovering Joe Lando (Yes!  As in Joe Lando who played Sully on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman) is playing Cassie’s father on The Secret Circle

2.  Read Two Books a Month - I’ve excelled at this goal!  In February I read four books, and hope to complete that same number by the end of March.  My upscale in reading led to two author interviews for Shifting by Bethany Wiggins and The Doctor’s Lady by Jody Hedlund!  It was an absolute treat to get to chat with these phenomenal women!  I also felt a big push to get to that “To Be Read” Pile and cut out costs of buying more and more books before getting to the ones on my shelf, so I joined the 2012 TBR Pile Challenge.  I’ve completed 5 out of my 12 books so far, two more in progress, so I just need to finish writing the reviews.

3.  Save Money - I was amazed at how much money I could add to my savings after using my ridiculous star stickered chart to track when I didn’t spend money frivolously!  I was able to save up funds to ensure my trip to South Korea is a go!  (I leave in a week and a half!)  I have yet to meet with a personal banker to find a better savings account and finish Suze Orman’s book, Women and Money. 

4.  Work out at least once a week - I’m probably most behind in this goal, but I have stepped it up nutritionally.  I started keeping a food journal along with my gratitude journal so everything’s in one place.  I track what I eat each day, and just writing it down keeps me accountable enough to make sure more fruits and veggies find their way onto the plate.  I’ve made some new recipes including CM Stewart’s Green Smoothie!  And I’ve definitely been buying more produce instead of junk snacks at the grocery store.  On days off, I’ve been good about doing some hiking or walks because I read an article about how even 10 minutes/day  in nature can do wonders for anxiety and fatigue  issues (which I’ve been battling as of late).  The next step is to go full swing with some consistent workouts!

That’s what I’m up to!  How ’bout you?  Do the Bingo Boys inspire you to take dance lessons?  How’s your writing going?  Your workouts?  What dream vacations are coming up?

AND…any time the Life List Club has a Milestone Party we give away prizes!  Drop me a comment below sharing your goals and you’re entered to win a blog swap and I-Tunes Gift Card!

More fabulous prizes to be had!  Visit each contributing writer of the LLC for a chance to win:

Marcia Richards Guest post swap and Amazon gift card

Sonia Medeiros A guest post from Sonia or the winner’s work featured on Sonia’s blog

Jenny Hansen A Margie Lawson lecture packet and a $10 Starbuck’s gift card

David Walker A free download of his “Web Wisdom: Inspiration from the Inbox”

Gary Gauthier A choice of 3 eBooks

Lara Schiffbauer A $25 Gift card

Happy Friday Everyone!

A Guest Post on Positivity by Lara Schiffbauer

Hello Ladies and Gents!  I’ve got some mood boosting tips to share with you courtesy our Life List Club guest today, Lara Schiffbauer!  Get your happy on by reading her post and then, if you miss me, blog hop on over to my fellow founder’s place, Marcia Richards, where you’ll find me telling you why sleep is a good thing!  Zzzzzzzz  *Oops, nodded off there for a minute!  Back to Lara!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

A husband and wife are getting ready for bed. The wife is standing in front of a full-length mirror taking a hard look at herself.

“You know, dear,” she says, “I look in the mirror, and I see an old woman. My face is all wrinkled, my hair is grey, my shoulders are hunched over, I’ve got fat legs, and my arms are all flabby.” She turns to her husband and says, “Tell me something positive to make me feel better about myself.”

He studies hard for a moment, thinking about it and then says in a soft, thoughtful voice, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with your eyesight.”

I don’t think she got what she was wanting, do you?

The problem?  She is looking for affirmation outside of herself.

“Self-confidence gives you the freedom to make mistakes and cope with failure without feeling that your world has come to an end or that you are a worthless person.” -Anonymous

How many times do we set goals and then, when we attain them, we aren’t satisfied?

Or, the satisfaction is short lived, and we begin to doubt ourselves again once the heady rush of success passes.

Or, we receive a compliment that, in the moment, seems to be the justification we need to feel confident about the path we are treading, only to return to insecurity within moments, hours, days, etc… of being given the compliment.

It seems crazy, and maybe we feel a little crazy when we are blown about by our emotions like this.  I sure do!

Self-confidence must be grown, most usually by experiencing success in the areas that you wish to have achievement.

(source: google images)

Positivity, the quality of being encouraging or promising of a successful outcome, is a personality trait that can be developed.

We can change how we think, and thereby change how we feel.  Instead of waiting for others to encourage us, we can encourage ourselves, if we follow the simple steps below.

  • Recognize when we have unhelpful thoughts.  The words ‘what if’, ‘why me’, ‘if only’, ‘I should have’, or any time we look for other people to give us value or worth are indications that we are not being positive.
  • Stop! Interrupt the negative little voice in the middle of your mind.  You may have heard about people snapping their wrists with a rubberband to break a habit.  The idea is the same, but you don’t have to hurt yourself.  When you hear the negativity start, all you have to do is firmly say to yourself “STOP.”
  • Replace the thought with a positive one.  Talk kindly to yourself.

Let’s use the opening joke as an example.

The woman was criticizing herself.  When she first thought “Look at me, I’m an old woman,” she would recognize that perception of herself as unhelpful.  She would have told herself “Stop.  I am no longer a youngster, but I still can walk, I am good at hang-gliding, and I have a lot of fun when I play in the park with my grandkids.”

She wouldn’t lie to herself.  That’s not helpful, and neither is dwelling on what she cannot control.  But instead of dwelling on what she is not, she would focus on what she is.

(source: google images)

And that’s the key to positivity.

We don’t ask others to support us, with platitudes or compliments.

By focusing on who we are and/or what we do well, we encourage ourselves through the process of goal achievement.

Once we’ve attained our goals, we increase our self-confidence, and the positivity loop continues on and on and on!

Lara Schiffbauer writes contemporary fantasy and general fiction, and has been lucky enough to see some of her short stories published.  By day she works as a school social worker in an elementary school and at night juggles writing, playing with her two adorable little boys, and doing everything else that has to get done in a day. You can find her on Twitter at @LASbauer or blogging at Motivation for Creation.

Scams: A Guest Post by David N. Walker

It’s another round of the Life List Club blog hop!  Here with me today is David N. Walker, Texan Extraordinaire!  He’s here today to teach us all a lesson about scams.  And you can find me over at Jenny Hansen’s blog, More Cowbell, talking about why wearing pajamas might be the best thing you do for your career!  Sort of…

You can also visit the other Life List Club crew by clicking on any of the names in the sidebars of our blogs and we’ll all be around in the comments section!  See you there!

Scams by David N. Walker

WANA: We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

Not too long ago, everyone in my Yahoo contact list received an email purporting to be from me and stating that I was stranded in Madrid penniless and without ID because I’d been mugged. More recently I received this email.

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Barrister Manuel Francisco Suarez Calafell, an Attorney at Law, in Madrid-Espana.

I am writing to notify you of the unclaimed inheritance deposit (US$37.3Million) of our late client, Mr. MROTZEK GERD who passed on to the Great beyond on August 21st, 2008 in the Spanair Flight JK-502 2 Crash in Madrid.

I got your name and email address through a web search engine in my quest to get a reliable individual who shall work with me in claiming this inheritance deposit since all efforts to get the biological relative has proved abortive.

Conclusively, I await your urgent response to include the following:(1).Your full Names & Address. (2).Your Telephone and Fax numbers. (3).Your business name if any: for more information on how to release the inheritance deposit, procedure and legality of this claim via email: manuelfrancisccalafell.suarez@aim.com

Regards,
Manuel Francisco Suarez Calafell (Esq)
Attorney At Law

Has Spain become the new Nigeria? I haven’t received anything lately from any Nigerian bankers asking me for a processing fee so they could send me several million dollars. Maybe someone from Spain stole all their computers.

Have you been spammed with any junk like this letter? Had your email account commandeered or your identity stolen? This seems to be growing in seriousness.

David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since his retirement from insurance a few years ago, he has devoted his time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and trying to learn to write a successful novel himself.

What is Love? A Guest Post by Jenny Hansen

Welcome to Life List Friday here at Jess’ Happiness Project. She’s hanging out over at David Walker’s place while we chat it up here.

Every commercial I’ve seen today is about romance. It’s almost Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. And on TV…in magazines…and spreading like wildfire across the internet.

(source: fucsia.hubpages.com)

The yearning for love and connection seems to be built into our DNA. And humans, particularly those in the Western world, place an incredible amount of focus on the subject.

We dream of love. We write songs and novels about it. We chase love. We build shrines to it. We sacrifice for love, work for love, and cry about love, in all its various embodiments.

It’s stunning to see such a wealth of attention paid to a topic with very few clear answers. Is it just me, or have you noticed how difficult love is to define?

  • There’s love between friends
  • The deep connection between parent and child
  • The close community of family
  • Romantic love typically seen during dating
  • The deeply shared life-bond of romance and friendship in long-term couples.

Certainly, there’s more but these are the first five that came to my mind. Here’s how Psychology Today answers the question.

What is love?

Three different people will give you three different answers. Heck, I might give different answers on different days. As a psychology major at the University of Missouri, I participated in an experiment where we walked around campus, asking this question.

Here are the five answers to “What is love” that I never forgot:

  1. Love is finding joy in the other person’s happiness.
  2. Love is wanting what’s best for one another, even when it’s not what’s best for you.
  3. Love is not being able to imagine your life without that person in it.
  4. Love is a completeness of being. Where the other person not only fits with you, but becomes a part of you.
  5. Love makes you braver than you ever knew you could be.

Complete strangers gave me food for thought that affected me for the rest of my adult life. So, now I’m asking you: “What is love?”

I can’t wait to hear your answers down in the comments section!

Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.

When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her group blog, Writers In The Storm. Every Saturday, she writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.

What You Don’t Know Can Save Your Writing: Guest Post by Sonia G. Medeiros

Hello readers!  It’s another blog hop of the Life List Club!  I have the fabulously funny and intelligent Sonia G. Medeiros with me today and I can be found blogging at Gary Gauthier‘s talking about crossroads.  Then, you can enjoy your cup of morning coffee and read the other Life List Club posts by clicking on the names in our sidebars!  We love to chat, so strike up a conversation in the comments, you’re sure to hear back!  Take it away, Sonia!

What You Don’t Know (Can Save Your Writing) by Sonia G. Medeiros

Writer’s Block (noun): a (possibly imaginary) condition afflicting writers, characterized by severe word-constipation; symptoms may include extreme procrastination, uncontrollable weeping, hair loss, blank stares, and binge drinking/eating.

I’d like to be one of those folk who states, without the slightest hesitation, that I do not believe in writer’s block. And I do know that it’s more psychosomatic (emphasis on the psycho) than anything else. But, when I’m staring helplessly at a blank screen/page, it seems pretty real.

The thing is, if it exists at all, writer’s block is only a symptom.

Alrighty then, mis smarty pants, what’s the disease?

Fear? Could be all sorts of fear that gets in the way of our creative flow. Fear of failure or success. Fear of change. Fear of fear.

Maybe it’s the inner-critic who won’t shut up. You know that guy, the one that’s always telling you that you’re gonna suck anyway, so why bother? Always wanting to correct the work before it’s done…which always makes the muse stomp out in a huff.

Or maybe it’s a result of not taking care of our bodies or the creative self.

But sometimes writer’s block is not about fear, the inner-critic’s filibuster, or a lack of self-nurturing. Sometimes it’s about what you don’t have for your story. About what you don’t even know you don’t have. The catalyst that will start your story’s chain reaction.

A story is like a living thing. It needs a skeleton (structure), flesh and blood (plot and characters) and a soul (that certain something that makes the story gel). Take away any of those things and the story falls apart.

Those of us that tend toward the pantsing end of the spectrum may struggle more with structure. Sometimes we just get it and sometimes we don’t. And, when we don’t get it, we often don’t even know what we aren’t getting because we’ve relied on the creative flow to carry us through.

A thorough and ongoing study of structure is the sure cure. Larry Brooks Story Engineering, Jack Bickham’s Scene & Structure, and James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure are all invaluable resources for any writer, whether pantser, plotter or pantsing-plotter (like yours truly).

If character and/or plot are ailing, the cure is likewise more studying (and you thought you left studying behind in school). Making great characters or gripping plots isn’t a cookie-cutter process but the elements that make both great can be learned. Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s 45 Master Characters and Story Structure Architecht and Christopher Vogler’s The Writers Journey are great resources.

And if it’s the soul that’s missing? What then? That’s a little trickier. There are no writing craft books (that I know of anyway) that can tell us just what that something is. All we can do is give it some brewing time while continually asking ourselves “what do I need to make this story work?” The answer can come from anywhere, especially from where that’s least expected, so a whole lot of keeping-our-eyes-peeled is in order.

So when it feels like writer’s block is not such a myth, take a deep breath, screw your courage to the sticking place and hunt up the reason. Kick the fear in the butt, tie and gag the inner critic, love yourself and then pull out your latex gloves and give your story thorough exam. And, when your creation lives, cackle like Dr. Frankenstein…just because.

Have you ever been completely stuck in a story? What was holding you back? How did you overcome it?

Sonia G Medeiros is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She’s the author of more than a dozen short stories and flash fiction pieces, blogs at WordPress, and is working on her first novel, a dark fantasy. When she’s not wandering along the tangled paths of her wild imagination, she wrangles home life with one fabulous husband, two amazing, homeschooled children, a part-alien half-chihuahua and two cats who battle each other for world domination.

Three Ways to Trick Yourself Into Organizing Your Social Media

Happy Life List Club Friday, everyone! I’m so happy to be here at Jess’ Happiness Project again. It’s so much fun ’cause you never know what could happen. She could jump out from behind the screen in a crazy costume or bring in a critter she found on vacation, like that baby alligator, and scare the you-know-what right out of me!

“Who me?”

Anyway, Jess is occupied now over at the blog of our newest Life List Club writer, Lara Schiffbauer. PLEASE go over to visit Jess when you’re done here so I won’t get pranked. While you’re there, say ‘Hi’ to Lara and introduce yourself. So, while I’m here and Jess is over there, Sonia Medeiros is at my blog Doing The Write Thing by entertaining you all. Stop by and give her some comment luv, too, would you? Thanks.

Note: Since I began writing this post, several other bloggers’ posts have been published with similar and/or additional useful information. I’ll link to some of those posts in the body of mine.

I know, you’re asking why should you have to tone down your socializing. Being social and friendly is so much more fun than working, right? Right.  You can socialize all you want IF you don’t have a day job, a book to write, a family to feed, a need to sleep now and then.

We’ve all admitted to having a very full schedule and now we’re adding social media networking on top of it. That means you have to allot a specified amount of time to take care of your social networking ‘needs’. I’m going to show you how you can have fun and not overdo it at the same time. Bonus – you’ll also be able to keep track of whom you’ve visited or supported!

My Desk Before*

Now don’t get the idea that any of these organizational skills come naturally. Uh, uh. Only since I’ve been retired have I had the time to work at being organized. Prior to that, it was hit-or-miss success with keeping it all together. I have always been a list maker and that’s the ONLY thing that saved my butt previously. Even now, it’s a struggle but it keeps my fading memory from totally burning out.

One important thing to remember: Writing is a business. Start treating it like one and you’ll be amazed how productive you can be.

Roll up those sleeves. We’re about to start working smarter, not harder, at keeping up with our self-imposed obligations to network and support others.

1. Get Tough - Make a list of all the blogs you follow. Assess each blog on the list and decide if it falls into one or more of the following categories: Blogs I LOVE, Blogs with info I NEED. Some will overlap categories and some won’t fit at all. For those that don’t fit into either category–UNSUBSCRIBE.

While you’re listing them, put them into a spreadsheet format where you can keep track of whom you visited. Fabio Bueno published a great post on this so, instead of writing my own explanation, check out his HERE.

Overall, I probably cut out about 1/3 of the blogs I was reading. You can do it, too. When you try to find relevance in what they have to offer you and you find there isn’t much–snip, snip. I’m left with the blogs to which I’m comfortable giving my time and support.

 2. My Editorial Plan - a. Take the time to write enough blog posts to cover you for two weeks and then maintain that number. If you just can’t find the time to do that, at the very least, write 2 blog posts that you can save for emergencies.

b. Stockpile a list of topics that are timely, interesting and viable for your blog. I use a big desk calendar–you know the kind with big squares for each day. This is where I plan my topics for each posting day. I write very specific topics on my posting day squares. When the blogs have been written, had photos and links added, and scheduled in the queue, I write DONE in the square. I can see at a glance how many more need to be written or whether I need to go back to a particular post and add pictures.

c. If you use WordPress for your blog, you can schedule a specific publishing date and time, and you can set it up to automatically post your blog to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

d. Planning ahead for Tweeting is even easier when you use TweetDeck or HootSuite to schedule the tweets to go out 2-3 times a day. Jenny Hansen at More Cowbell just posted about a new-ish timesaver for promoting your own blog posts, as well as those of others. It’s called Triberr. It will increase the number of people you reach with your posts, too. Check out Jenny’s post HERE, and then watch for her next two posts in the series that further explain this new idea.

My Desk After*

3. Watch the Clock - Decide how much time you can realistically devote to social media. Your WIP writing should take precedence. After all, you’ll have no writing business without the written product. Determine how many hours you need to devote to your WIP.

Then comes the foundation of your platform, your blog. How much time do you need to keep up with it each week? For example, if it takes you 2 hours to write posts for your Wednesday theme and 3 hours to write for your Friday theme, 30 minutes for ROW80 and your easy day’s post only takes 1 hour, you need 6 1/2 -7 hours a week to write for your blog.

How many hours do you have left in your week for other social media? You still need to read other blogs, comment on them and tweet/facebook/google+ them.

This is where you begin feeling overwhelmed, right? I’m going to set you free from guilt right now! No matter what your schedule looks like -

No one has unlimited time to support and network with other writers, friends, and associates. You are not alone!

Do not feel guilty if you don’t comment on every post everyday-even for your close friends. If you can’t keep up, shorten your list. Choose one day a week to visit, comment and promote. OR Choose to visit, comment and promote on no more than two posts a week for each person. There is no reason to feel a sense of urgency in commenting on blogs. Whenever you are able to visit, the post will be there, still shiny and new for you. Your comment at any time will be appreciated.

If you’re regularly following more than 25 blogs, you should take a closer look at how many of those are really important and beneficial to you, then see where you can make that list more manageable.

Do you have other timesaving practices to share? What’s your biggest time-suck?

*All images from Google

     Marcia Richards is a veteran blogger and author of Marcia Richards’ Blog…Sexy. Smart. From The Heart. Marcia writes about Sweet Obsessions, Women, History, and the path to realizing your dreams. She has a Historical Trilogy and a collection of Short stories in progress. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing with the grandkids or her husband, traveling or turning old furniture into works of art. She believes there is always something new to learn.

Come hang out with Marcia at: http://twitter.com/MarciaARichards or http://facebook.com/MarciaARichards .

Visit Marcia at: http://Marcia-Richards.com

Join the Hottest Resolution Club in Town: The Life List Club

I'll be sporting this look when I go out! (Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally)

Bon jour mon amies!  It’s almost New Year’s Eve and that means we’re all accessorizing our sequin gowns and full tuxedos with laser beams and microscopic eye wear.  Not catching my drift?  New Year’s means New You.  It’s the time to look back on the past year (hopefully without much regret) and make the resolutions you want to work on in the new year.

If you’re like the millions of us that struggle to keep your resolutions, or make the same ones every year without much difference in your lifestyle, then allow me to introduce you to The Life List Club.

The Life List Club is a group of writers and readers bonding together over life’s hardships, writing meltdowns, publishing successes, treadmills, dating advice, risky baby business, inner demons, and cyber drinks.  Sounds fun doesn’t it?  Here’s a little more about what we do.

The Life List Club posts every other Friday at our contributing members’ blogs.  You too can be a contributor, just send me an email to jessi (dot) witkins (AT) gmail (dot) com.  We blog about achieving goals and the life lessons that happen while we’re working towards them.  Anyone can be a member.  Just make your own Life List page on your blog.  Studies show that writing down your goals does help make them more real!  Every three months, we have a Milestone Party.  We share our progress on our goals and if there were any setbacks.  We have a party and you pick the theme!  I’ve decided on glow sticks at my celebration cause I’m obnoxious like that!

Pick a color and vogue, my friends!

I’ve been thinking for awhile about what my resolutions or new life list are going to be.  I’ve been able to complete several of my goals so far this year.  But where some faltered, I realized I hadn’t made a specific enough action plan.  You can see my full Life List from 2011 here, with my progress toward it, but I’m sharing with you all my new plan for 2012.  Why is it ok to change my list some of you may be asking?  Because it’s important to adapt!  My life changed this year, I’m working a different role at my job, I’m involved in several writing groups, I have different things I’m saving up for.  And let’s face it, I have a glow stick and I’m not afraid to use it!

So here it is!  Jess Witkins’ New Rules for Me, Myself, and I in 2012:

Write Everyday. 

This was a previous goal that didn’t always happen, so the specifics include the minimum of writing 5 things in my gratitude journal each day.  Also allowing myself to work on multiple projects, because sometimes (let’s face it) we do get stuck, and moving to a different project could free you up enough to get back to the main one (the BOOK).  I also plan to attend another writer’s conference.  In fact, this year I may be going to the DFW conference in Texas where I’ll actually get to *gulp* meet some of my fellow Life Listers, who are AMAZING by the way if you haven’t yet checked out their blogs, do so!  As much as I may hate it about myself, I’m a “scheduler.”  That means, I need to schedule myself time to write each week and stick with it, and as part of my checkpoint, I’ll be relying on my Warrior Writer Boot Camp friends to keep me in check and to inspire when I’m thinking of killing off my main character.  :D

Read 2 Books a Month

I’m keeping this goal as I loved it!  It helps my own writing and it is relaxing.  I’ll continue to keep a blog page of my 2012 bookshelf and write reviews.  I’m also participating in the 2012 To Be Read Pile Challenge, and if you hurry quick you too can join!  Now that Santa gave me gift cards, I’ll also be investing in an e-reader (I’ve finally succumbed!) so I’ll be able to travel easier with my books.  I also will continue with my book club and attend some at the library because any book becomes richer when you get to discuss it!

Save money. 

Between my car going kaputz this year, paying for a gym membership I never used, and eating out too much, the checkbook and savings accounts have looked better.  I’m now going to use a website that let’s you track your spending and see where I can cut back and put in savings towards my conference fee and summer trips.  I will finish reading Suze Orman’s book Women and Money and open the right savings account for me to get some frickin interest already (pardon my french) so that I can feel like my hard earned money is growing in savings.  I also plan to manage my finances at least once a month in accordance with the website so I don’t forget any purchases made.  And I plan to meet with a personal banker about what the right account type is for me to boost savings. 
 
Work out at least once a week.
 

I’m not sure if I’ll be keeping my gym membership, but I’m going to start using it now.  In the meantime, I’m going to get a welcome pass at the local Y and see if I’d consider switching there, since it is closer to my house.  I also want to set aside some funds to attend my best friend’s zumba classes more often.  In addition to work outs, eating healthy needs to be a commitment.  I’ve begun loading up on produce lately and am shocked at how few chips I’ve eaten in the last couple of weeks.  For those of you know I survived NaNoWriMo two years ago just eating cheetos and chocolate, this is a big step up for me!

There you have it folks!  My action plan for 2012.  I hope you’ll share your own with me!  What are your new year’s plans?  What goals are you hoping to accomplish?  What do you want the Life List Club to write about this year?  And ideas on improvements for us? 

Now, don’t forget to blog hop this party with us!  Prize giveaways at every stop!  I’m offering an I-Tunes gift card and a chance to either guest post or be interviewed here at the Happiness Project!

Prizes also include:  Amazon gift cards and a chance to guest blog from both Marcia Richards and Sonia Medeiros, a copy of Totally Cliche’ from newly published author Jennie Bennett, and more blog swapping or guest posts for you from Pam Hawley, Jenny Hansen, David Walker, and Gary Gauthier.  Visit their blogs by clicking their name in the sidebar!

Holiday Books To Inspire You to Write: Guest Blog by Jennie Bennett

Take this Friday to settle down with the Life List Club as we keep you sane and inspired through the holiday season.  Today my guest is the lovely Jennie Bennett, author and mom extraordinaire!  She’s here today giving her favorite holiday reads to inspire you to WRITE!  And I’m writing a letter to myself, my teenage self, over at David Walker’s blog.  Please stop by!  But first, here’s Jennie!

Holiday Books to get you Inspired to Write

Welcome fellow #lifelistclub followers and a very happy holiday season to you! As writers we are all looking for good books to read, right? So today I have a few of my favorite Holiday recommendations.
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
     The blurb on Goodreads:
This inspiring holiday tale tells the touching story of a widow and the young family who moves in with her, and the ways in which they discover together the first gift of Christmas and what the holiday is really all about. Written by the author as a token of affection for his daughters, The Christmas Box has captured the hearts and minds of over a million readers.

 

 

 

The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
     The Blurb on Goodreads:
Trisha loves the eight days of Hanukkah, when her mother stays home from work, her Babushka makes delicious potato latkes, and her Grampa carves wonderful animals out of wood as gifts for Trisha and her brother. In the middle of her family’s preparation for the festival of lights, Trisha visits her closest neighbors, expecting to find them decorating their house for Christmas. Instead they are all bedridden with scarlet fever. Trisha’s family is one of the few who has been spared from the epidemic. It is difficult for them to enjoy their Hanukkah feast when they know that their neighbors won’t be able to celebrate their holiday. Then Grampa has an inspiration: they will cut down trees, decorate them, and secretly deliver them to the neighbors, “But what can we decorate them with?” Babushka asks. Although it is a sacrifice, Trisha realizes that Grampa’s carved animals are the perfect answer. Soon her living room is filled with trees — but that is only the first miracle of many during an incredible holiday season.
Based on a long cherished childhood memory, this story celebrates the miracle of true friendship.

The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke
     The Blurb on Goodreads:
John Weightman wanted the best of everything. He surrounded himself with beauty and riches, and was very careful with how he spent his money. No pennies in beggars hats, he liked to say. Until one night he dreamed that he died . . . Finding himself with a group of travelers dressed in white, John joins them on their journey to the Celestial City where each individual will be rewarded with a mansion based on treasures set aside. Thinking that his mansion will be the most grand, John Weightman learns what it truly means to lay up treasures in heaven. The Mansion is a classic tale told at Christmastime that illustrates the importance of giving unselfishly.

 

 

No matter what you will be celebrating this time of year these books will inspire you to become better writers. Happy Holidays!

BIO: J. A. Bennett is a stay-at-home mom of a three-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl. Besides writing, she has a passion for cooking and good movies. She blogs at A Book, A Girl, A Journey about writing and other life musings. She is currently working on a young adult novel that involves time travel, world destruction, and the awkwardness of teenagedom.  She is also on Twitter, Facebook, and Google plus

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