My chalkboard wall of goals

I like to see things. I need the visual set up. I’m a visual person and will re-write something that I already have digitally just so I can change the way it is laid out. I’ve got this big chalkboard wall in my office that is just begging for a chart or list or goal-setting visual of some kind.

Especially now that I have embarked on this ridiculous venture of writing novels, I find myself deep in the weeds of an enormous project with little idea where I am, how much I have left, what else is going on, etc.

So now I can just check my chalkboard wall:

 chalkboard

The ‘titles’ on the left are obviously not the actual titles. The 3 stages across the top are obviously not the only things on my to do list. Admittedly there is WAY more to self-publishing a novel than these 3 steps, but seeing all the projects I’m in the middle of and where I am in the process definitely helps me schedule and be realistic about what I can finish in a given period of time.

Eventually, I may even fill in some of those blanks with target dates, but since I don’t yet have a handle on exactly how long something should take me that bit is for later.

I’m starting the first book in the Alterra series today. Hoping to finish the first draft by the end of October. And then after that we’ll see! But I know I’ll get to mark an X in the box on my chalkboard wall of goals!

How do you keep track of your projects?

P.S. My week long free productivity workshop

P.P.S. See also Sarah’s wall o’ goals

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Your job is to FINISH

“What you do for a living is not BE CREATIVE. Everyone is creative.
What you do for a living is SHIP.” — Seth Godin

‘Ship’ as in get it out the door. ‘Ship’ as in ready for customers. ‘Ship’ as in finished.

I don’t care how long you worked on that blog post if you didn’t finish it and hit ‘publish.’

I don’t care how much brainstorming you have done on your new fancy app if it’s not ever going to become available.

Creative work is fantastic. It is essential. And there is a lot to be said for the value of the process….

But if we are talking about work, business and making a living, your job is to FINISH. If you are building your online platform, you need to finish planning and get to work. If you are working on quitting your day job, you need to finish that first ebook, and release it so it can make you some money.

As creators we are constantly fighting against……apathy, the lizard brain, distractions, the Resistance, fear …. All of these things are fighting against us finishing our creative work. Arm yourself in order to finish your creative work.

The Finishing Manifesto will help you do that, of course.

But mostly you just need to look yourself in the eye and make yourself FINISH. Like it’s your job.

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Overwhelmed?

This is just a quick post for your Monday morning. It is Labor Day in the United States so maybe you’re taking the day off from your day job and trying to get everything done for your side hustle. Or, it’s starting to feel like fall so maybe you’re gearing up for a new school year.

Whatever is going on with you this Monday morning …. don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. By all the options or opportunities or tasks on your to do list, or expectations you have for yourself or any of it.

If you’re overwhelmed with too many to-dos and too many options, try following Ramit’s Rules of Letting Go:

“Let go of “should do”s that you don’t actually care about: In the scheme of all the things you want to do, do you really care about this? When I went to my cousin’s wedding in India a few years ago, I saw one of my friends order his food in fluent Hindi, and I thought, “Hmm…I should take Hindi lessons.” But when I got back to NYC, I put it on my to-do list, only to skip over it for months. The truth is, I really didn’t care enough to do anything. It wasn’t important enough. When I acknowledged I wasn’t going to do it and crossed it off my list, I could focus on doing the things I wanted to do.

Let go of feeling guilty: STOP LYING TO YOURSELF! Do you really care about learning how to kiteboard? Or is it just because that random guy you met told you how fun it was, and you said, “Yeah, I need to do that”? Life is short. It’s OK to use this exact script: “That sounds really interesting, but I’ve decided not to tackle that right now so I can focus on a couple other things I want to do this year.” Nobody is making you feel guilty except YOU. We realistically have the time to learn maybe three new major things per year. Do you really want this to be one of them?

Let go of waiting for inspiration to strike: Inspiration is for amateurs. I wake up every morning, rain or shine, feeling great or sore, and I get to work. Not because I’m a machine, or a better person than anyone, but because I have systems that I depend on — not willpower or inspiration.”

I really think the best resource that I have come across recently is the SPARK ecourse from Campfire Chic (review here). I want to unsubscribe, resubscribe, and let the emails all come in day by day all over again. That daily reminder is exactly what I need to keep myself on track.

What are your best tips for not getting overwhelmed?

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NURTURE: On 6 months of saying No

My One Little Word for this year is NURTURE. I think I’m doing OK with it.

At the beginning of the year I decided I needed to slow down, cut back, get to know my new life without a cubicle job and so much more. I wanted to spend more time saying No than saying Yes. I wanted to see what I could do with the products I already have than just launching a new one.

I’ve been backing away and keeping to myself and doing more or less the bare minimum I needed to do to keep up with everything.

I had more ideas of what I wanted to do this year, but I needed a break. I needed to stop looking forward and start saying No.

At about 6 or 7 months of not looking for the next big thing I feel…

  • Behind. Like everyone else is moving forward and I am being left behind.
  • Relaxed. Mostly.
  • Poor. Made far less money this year than last.
  • Lazy.
  • Productive. But only in writing fiction. L&R feels stagnant (to me).

Finding a common thread? It turns out when I don’t give in to my ambition and extreme work-ethic I feel bad about myself. <sarcasm> That’s healthy. </sarcasm>

To be honest, it IS good that I had planned on pulling back this year. Because Andrew has been working so very much, I need to be available for the house and to do things for him that he just doesn’t have time to do (when he’s only home 20 minutes out of a 6 day period). Also, I did finish some things, like my Scotland Blurb book and a few novel drafts. But overall when I look back at 2014 so far I feel unproductive.

So, that settles it. Not pursuing goals is bad for my self-esteem.

I’m going to be spending the next couple weeks going over my goals and my direction and what I want to accomplish before the end of the year. I’m really excited about setting up a new little niche site on Friday! It’s going to be a fun project for me that can also benefit you all.

I’m going to say Yes to a new opportunity. I’m going to say Yes to taking a new risk. I’m going to say Yes to growth and planning and working hard.

I want all of it to remain in the NURTURing vein, but I need to be working. I need to DO stuff and not just relax.

I can’t wait!

How do you feel about 2014 so far?

SHIFT_free creativity guide

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Your choices are not the only right ones

A few months before I was able to quit my job, but after Andrew and I had started talking about that being the goal, I saw a long-time-friend-of-the-family who has 3 kids a bit younger than me… We talked about my hopes and L&R and what I was working on and all the reasons I needed to leave my day job.

And to all of this talk of career and goals, she replied, “And, of course, now is really the time you need to take care of your home, and take care of your husband and take care of your marriage.”

I am sure she would never deliberately be rude to me, nor do I think she was judging me …..  but the way she said this sounds like her choice of staying home with her kids and not working outside the home for 20+ years is the only “right” way to live and something I “should” be doing if I wanted my marriage to work.

Even though my marriage is awesome (waaaay better than some). Even though (aside from the day job) I was perfectly happy. My husband is proud of me and wants to support my work.

I’ve talked about this before – I don’t have it all together.

But neither do I regret my choices.

Choosing to live on one small income while Andrew went to school. Choosing to move to one of the most expensive cities in the country. Choosing to buy a house that needs a lot of work. Choosing to continue to work the day job until we could save a little bit of money.

And, now, choosing to NOT work the day job even though the choice drastically reduced our income. Now, I’m sure, we have friends who think we’re being crazy because now we don’t have money for vacations, or landscaping for the backyard or a new iPhone. While I sit at home all day and read history books or build little websites.

It doesn’t matter what you are choosing to do – someone else will be choosing the exact opposite for incredibly valid reasons.*

Having me working from home is not something Andrew and I feel we are supposed to do because of gender roles. Nor is it something we are doing to impress anyone. We are the first to admit that having me not work a full-time day job is the biggest luxury that we are choosing despite not having any extra cash.

So … Try not to make hasty judgements or unrealistic expectations because you will never know what someone else is dealing with….. And remember to “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.

*Caveat: Of course, there are always those heinous and destructive decisions that are never a good idea, but let’s all agree that’s not what we’re talking about here and that even the people who make those decisions THINK they have valid reasons.

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Take time off

Don’t forget – you need to set aside your to-do list for a few days. Take time off. Take a sabbatical. Here are some more resources and inspiration:

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What I learned on my sabbatical

2 weeks ago week I wasn’t here.

I mean I was ‘here’ in my house, but there were no blog posts going up here at Lemon and Raspberry. I gave myself a teeny tiny sabbatical. For a lot of reasons, but mostly because I am really working on NURTURing this year. Time off is totally part of that.

When I was in grad school I was fascinated by the idea of sabbaticals. One of my thesis advisers was on sabbatical the semester I graduated so I had to find someone to take her place on my thesis defense panel. She studied early American literature, material culture and women’s studies, primarily. If I remember correctly, she had gone to England for her sabbatical to do research for her next book Women and Things.

The idea of a sabbatical was totally new to me at that time. You’re telling me that you’re taking MONTHS off of your regular job to go do some side (work-related) project that interests you? And they’re paying you? I admit, I was definitely tempted to go into academia.

Unfortunately, working for yourself isn’t the same thing. I am slowly (slowly) building up my passive income so I can give myself mini-sabbaticals here and there, but for now just a week off has been so great! I was so ready to return and jump back in to the work I love.

So, what did I do when there weren’t posts going up on the blog? I … wrote blog posts for the following week. I finished brainstorming the BUILD virtual retreat. I wrote Andrew 33 love notes for his birthday present. I wrote an entire short story (in 1 afternoon). I read for fun. I chatted with my brother about self-publishing. I caught up on some (long-ish) videos I have been saving.

These are all things I would have done anyway, but not having to think about L&R posts gave me a little cushion of a few hours to focus on these other projects.

I feel so much more productive now that I’ve given myself that teeny tiny break!

It’s remarkable how much good a little bit of rest can do.

Coincidentally, that week happened to be the same time that all of Andrew’s work stress finally caught up with him and he spent hours in Urgent Care and a fancy schmancy chiropractor because he couldn’t move his shoulders or arms. I literally had to roll up his sleeves for him one of the days. He couldn’t shave because he hurt so bad. This isn’t a new phenomenon. 2 years ago he landed in the emergency room because of stress.

He was told to take time off to rest. Yea, like that is going to happen. He regularly works 90 hours each week and has some very stressful responsibilities. But! Saturday being his birthday, he actually got most of the day off work. He ….. well, he kind of rested. He spent a good portion of the day going through boxes of CDs deciding to get rid of some. But, for Andrew organizing like that IS relaxing.

And, what do you know? Just that Saturday afternoon and evening rest helped so much that Sunday morning he woke up and almost had full mobility of his shoulders again.

So, when are you going to take time off?

Take out your calendar. Block off a day. Or two. Or 7. Release yourself from your regular responsibilities. Just for a little while.

You’ll love it. And then you’ll be so energized to return.

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Book Review: Uncertainty

As part of my attempt to stay BRAVE, I read Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields

I enjoyed this book – but it is definitely ‘light’ reading for me. Kind of a feel good, encouraging, don’t really have to think that much self-help book. The subtitle – Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance – is promising, but I expected the actual content of the book to more clearly show how to do it.

I guess I just have a very picky editor with high standards inside me that is hard to please. I mean, how many times in a 195-page book do you need to tell me what we’re “going to” be discussing? Just get on with it!

That said, there were some great takeaways:

Like this quote about living with uncertainty:

“One of the single greatest determinants of high-level success as an innovator or creator in any realm is the ability to manage and at times even seek out sustained high levels of uncertainty, bundled lovingly with risk of loss and exposure to criticism” (10).

As last was my YEAR OF BRAVE I’m still really trying (trying) to be more comfortable with uncertainty. Some of my brave choices have been incredibly nerve-wracking. I’m a planner by nature so having any kind of unknowns in my future is totally new to me.

I’m working on it. I don’t know about “sustained high levels of uncertainty,” but I’m getting there.

Another great idea Fields suggests is the power of ‘certainty anchors’: “A certainty anchor is a practice or process that adds something known and reliable to your life when you may otherwise feel you’re spinning off in a million different directions” (46).

For example, I heard Judd Apatow say in an interview that he will go to Gap and just by 12 polo shirts in various colors so he doesn’t have to think about it. Or, Fields uses examples from novelist CJ Lyons or blogger Darren Rowse who both structure their work and daily routines to be anchors in their life.

In my own life, I realize that this is why my husband and I pretty much eat the same thing all the time. In the summer we almost only eat salad. I don’t have to think too much when I go to the store. I don’t have to find new recipes or plan time to experiment. I buy vegetables, wash them, throw them in a bowl with whatever protein is on sale that week and we’re done. (In the winter I have about 4 soup/stew/chili recipes that I make over and over and over).

I think the longest chapter is actually about meditation, which is a little too much for me. Personally. I know plenty of smart, successful people swear by it but I am just not ready and reading about it in the middle of a work/business/self-helpy kind of book just seemed out of place.

I still think you should read Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields. At least once. Especially if you have any intention of carving out a creative life for yourself.

P.S. A year ago today is when BUILD ecourse launched!

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1 year quit-iversary: An ode to support from a spouse

I quitRather quietly last week I celebrated the 1 year anniversary of quitting my day job. My last day in a cubicle was Friday, June 21, 2013.

There are a lot of things I could say in this post, like how to quit your day job yourself, or 3 things I wish someone had told me, or plans for my future non-cubicleness. …

But really, I just want to tell you how grateful I am to my husband because I 100% could not have done this without his support.

I suppose as a proper blogger, I should be focusing on a good takeaway for you the reader. I should be able to distill this into a couple good lessons or tips for you do use in your own journey. I shouldn’t make this all about me.

But I can’t do that. Because I could not have quit my day job at this point in my life without Andrew’s whole-hearted commitment to make me happy.

You see….  When I quit last year, I was *barely* making enough money through L&R, #30Lists and working for Maggie to cover what Andrew’s salary did not.

Since then, a year later, I have not really increased my income at all. We still have very little money. And what is Andrew’s response to that? “Read in the hammock. Watch a movie. Do whatever makes you happy.”

Yes, I have read a lot in the last year. 50+ books since the beginning of 2014. But I have done more than read in a hammock too. I’ve painted the garage and done more yardwork than I ever wanted to. I launched a minisite and a book club just for fun. I’ve written 2 novel rough drafts, and edited 2 more. I’ve completed my big ecourse and grown that community. I’ve shot a few weddings and shuttered that business. I spent a whole week taking care of my grandmother in Phoenix. I’ve dropped everything to drive to Andrew’s work for an impromptu date. I’ve thought and dreamed and planned and worked (and planned some more).

I may not be making any more money than I was a year ago, but I am approximately 17,000x happier than I was in the cubicle.

All because my husband supports me, supports my goals, and (most of all) believes that me being happy with zero expendable income is a much better way to spend life than me being miserable and having a bit more money to spend.

I’m super excited for my next year of cubicle-less-ness.

Feel free to go tell Andrew how awesome he is on his Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. It will embarrass the heck out of him.

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Are you prepared to be lucky?

“Your creative endeavors can never be thoroughly mapped out ahead of time. You have to allow for the suddenly altered landscape, the change in plan, the accidental spark – and you have to see it as a stroke of luck rather than a disturbance of your perfect scheme. Habitually creative people are, in E.B. White’s phrase, ‘prepared to be lucky.’” — Twyla Tharp; The Creative Habit

We have been reading The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp for the L&R Book Club this month and it is *so* fascinating to be thinking about creative work while I am testing the waters of writing fiction. This is a new-ish creative workspace for me, and figuring out what skills I need to work on and what methods work best for me and how I can more fully get the most out of my ideas … It’s all part of my everyday thinking.

I think a lot.

I plan a lot.

I feel like my planning is what allows me to be ‘lucky’. I create this structure, this scaffolding as a place to welcome ideas. So when a perfectly worded conversation between 2 characters pops into my head I’m ready. Or when some random topic rolls across my line of vision I know exactly how it can fit into to my next story idea.

Want to know how you can prepare to be lucky?

get luckyWrite down ideas every day

Be interested in a variety of topics

Always have SOMETHING with which to take notes.

Have a set working time (and be consistent)

Don’t judge the inspiration when it does come to you (there’s nothing wrong with getting an idea from a billboard or trashy reality show).

Don’t compare yourself to others. Or do anything else that can affect your confidence.

How do you prepare to be lucky?

It is worth noting that I did a few different online searches and could not find the original E.B. White quote she is referring to. Which I assume means that “prepared to be lucky” is a paraphrase.

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