Garbage in, garbage out

I read Steal Like an Artist over the weekend.

I didn’t mean to.

Steal like an artistBut I picked it up, flipped through it for just a couple minutes and the next thing I knew I was already a third of the way through and only put it down because I wanted to go find a blank notebook like Kleon recommends.

I love books like this. Kat said it well, I love books that are made up of “things you know but maybe needed to hear, things you didn’t know that you knew, and things that shift the way you look at creativity”.

Kleon talks throughout the book about how each artist is influenced by dozens or hundreds of artists and thinkers that came before. You learn one thing from one person, and pick up another technique from someone else and are inspired by a third person’s big idea. It is the combining of all these ideas that you “steal” that makes your work original.

I love that idea.

To that end, and to make sure that I am only spending my time on work that truly inspires me, I really want to refocus my consumption habits. We haven’t had TV for pretty much our entire relationship, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t let all kinds of junk into my brain. I need to let go of my completist tendencies. For example, I should not have finished the Divergent series. I’m not calling it garbage, but I didn’t love it, and I knew it.

Some other filtering I’m doing:

  • I canceled a couple books on my library hold list that I’m not excited about
  • I deleted a bunch from my Amazon wish list
  • Goodreads To Read List – I’m coming for you next. I already try to only add U.S. History books with an average rating of 4.0 or higher, but still.
  • I’ve got about 5 boxes of books to get rid of, and I’m looking to filling more
  • I need to purge probably half of my Netflix queue

In the meantime, maybe I’ll read a few of Austin’s picks. And stay off sites like Facebook that just offer very little. Constant vigilance.

Pleas commit to the ‘Garbage In – Garbage Out’ mantra with me!

No more ‘hate reading’ of certain blogs. No more forcing yourself to read that chick lit (or classic) you think you should for whatever reason. No more trashy TV (you define what that means). (And join the L&R Book Club, while you’re at it)


Productivity resources

SoCal springtime weather!! Spring cleaning and reorganizing and blogging 2 weeks ahead and shredding all kinds of paperwork.

You ready? Here are some great productivity resources from around the web:


On needing silence

I live in the suburbs.

I live in a neighborhood that is made up of mostly older couples that have lived there for 20+ years and whose kids have moved away.

I live at the end of the street with only neighbors on one side and behind.

I live in a bigger-than-we-need house and am home alone most days.

I live in a lot of silence. By choice.

I used to listen to music constantly. I sang growing up, so music was an intimate part of my everyday. And then I married Andrew who is an even bigger audiophile than I am and there is music playing basically every minute that he is both home and awake. We’ve got multiple walls filled with records and CDs; we’ve got gigs and gigs of digital audio that we may never get through; and we’ve got a constant stream of entertainment via Netflix whenever we get tired of getting up to flip the vinyl.

But when Andrew’s not home I live in silence. I need it … When I am working I need the space and the quiet and the distraction-less atmosphere to think. I can’t write my blog posts or my email blasts with sounds in the background. I get easily sidetracked by dramatic plots on old Dawson’s Creek episodes. I waste far more time on social media if I’m trying to listen to an interview while blogging.

I know I’m probably missing out on a lot of great films, documentaries, TV shows, albums, podcasts, interviews and so much more by keeping my work space in silence. There’s that whole FOMO (fear of missing out). I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said, “No I haven’t seen Breaking Bad.”

But I much prefer the alternative. I’m creating a lot more. I’m writing a TON more. And I’m proud of what I can make if I just turn off the electronics for a few hours of sacred focus time.

How do you work best?


The benefit of limits: Break through a creative block

We’re about a quarter of the way through the year – are you still feeling that new-beginning high that you felt in January? Are you still powering through your to do list and ideas? Or are you in a slump?

Those frustrating creative blocks pop up all the time. Out of nowhere. You’ve got 14 million ideas going and are plowing full speed ahead and then all of a sudden you hit a wall.

If you’ve got a creative block right now, I have a little bit of a counter-intuitive tip for you:

creative blockGive yourself limitations

That might be a time limit – force yourself to write a blog post in only 30 minutes. That might be a medium limit – make a scrapbook page using ONLY cardstock (no patterned paper or embellishments). What you decide the limit is depends on what the project is.

The best way to think outside the box is to know what the box is.

For example, I ALWAYS have plenty of blog post ideas because I stick to an editorial calendar. I’m able to get all my blogging done for the week in about 4 hours because that’s the time that I schedule for myself. I’m able to put together minibooks and creative projects that I love with only a few supplies, because I don’t let myself spend money on more.

Giving yourself that kind of challenge makes your brain work in the opposite direction. Giving yourself limitations forces you to find an alternative solution – and can help you break through any creative block.

Here are some more resources to break through that creative block:

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Getting ahead is my favorite

I’m writing this blog post about 2 weeks in advance. Because of the magic of editorial calendars.

As of the time of this writing, I know I’ve got a big weekend coming up AND it turns out I need to go out of town for a small family emergency and may not have internet for 5 days. Being able to work ahead is a god-send in this specific situation, but even aside from that …. I get A LOT more done when I write and format a bunch of posts in a big chunk.

And then I can sit back and work on another project or two in a big chunk. Being able to FOCUS on just one project, and not jump in between tasks, allows me to be SO much more productive!

If you also want to get ahead on your work:

Know your priorities:

What are your deadlines? What needs to be done next? The first thing is to make sure that you’re not going to miss an important date on Project B while your working on getting ahead on Project A. It just doesn’t make sense to work ahead on your blog posts if you’re going to miss an important guest post deadline.

Plus being aware of your REAL priorities helps keep you off of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and other (super-fun and addicting) time wasters.

Do your homework:

Here is my post on how to maintain an editorial calendar. The *specific* examples in that post are a bit out of date, but the strategy is the same. The trick is, of course, to know what you’re going to work on. Knowing what you’re going to blog about 3 weeks out is the biggest step in being able to get those posts written 3 weeks out. I’m working on a new model this year, where each month has a rough theme of blog topics, and it really does help me plan and come up with topics even easier!

Focus and get rid of social media:

This last step is hard for me. I took Facebook and Twitter off of my bookmarks toolbar, and yet I STILL find myself going to those sites (and others). Like, every 3 minutes. Just to “see” if anyone replied to my post/update/etc. It’s ridiculous. Truly. I’ve taken alerts off of my phone AND I keep it on silent always, so that helps a lot. My next attempt will be to write blog posts off the internet. But even with those distractions, I can still set aside enough focus time to work ahead.

And what am I going to do now that I’m a couple weeks ahead? Enjoy my weekend with my husband. Not stress about being unplugged for a few days. Finish the first draft of the novel I’m working on. Read A TON. Any of the large number of projects I’m still in the middle of.

How far ahead do you usually work?

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Finishing Manifesto redesigned

how to finish

I haven’t told you yet! The Finishing Manifesto has been redesigned!

As part of my NURTURE plans this year is getting all my previous ebooks and offerings aligned under the same new-ish branding. It’s a long, slow process, obviously, BUT if you have already purchased it, you should have already gotten the new design (email me if not).

The content is the same, but it is SO much prettier to look at.

I’ve been working with Allie of Alexandra Rae Design to get all these done. It’s so nice working with the same designer for all of these, because she KNOWS the colors/style/typefaces of my branding and we don’t have to go through the same process every round.

Contact Allie now about designing yours!

 A little more about the Finishing Manifesto….

This ebook is both my challenge and my encouragement to you to FINISH your creative projects that you’ve been dreaming and planning. We’ll look at barriers to finishing as well as steps to get over those barriers.

This manifesto is not for the faint of heart.

If you like flitting from project to project without getting anything done. If you prefer to pin on Pinterest instead of stepping away from the computer to work on your art. If you make a list of goals and projects and then promptly forget about them …. This might not be for you.

The world is looking for finishers. We need creative souls who can also produce. We need more people like Rachel and Elise (both used as examples in the book).

If that sounds like you, download The Finishing Manifesto now and get to work!


On focusing and pursuing less

I am LOVING the L&R Book Club! Last month we finished up reading focus : a simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction. I think this was the perfect book to start off the year. While basically everything in it I already KNOW, I still need the reminder to simplify, let go of distractions and pursue less.

In fact, that is my #1 goal this year – to NURTURE what I already have and pursue less.

Between focus and my OLW and the recent business resources I’ve been consuming, the idea of clarity and single-tasking and pursuing less is everywhere.

This means some in-depth “spring cleaning” to purge books and craft supplies and other things that I don’t need. This means not launching a bunch of new products under Lemon and Raspberry. This means eliminating some of my commitments to give a better effort to the ones that remain. I started last fall with discontinuing blogging on my family blog, and right now I’m considering blogging fewer times here at L&R.

It’s all a process on focusing, pruning, pursuing less and nurturing what is left.

I love the discussion of this in this article The Disciplined Pursuit of Less: “The price of his dream job was saying no to the many good, parallel paths he encountered.” I tend to overestimate what I can realistically accomplish, which is why I’m trying to use this year to pull back and basically rebuild my workload along more reasonable lines.

The whole point of quitting my day job was to be able to work less and be more present during the (few) hours that Andrew and I have together.

Which means I’ve got to really focus.

How are you focusing this year?

Reminder: For March and April 2014, we will be reading Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? by Seth Godin

SHIFT_free creativity guide


How to be awesomer: My #1 tip for motivation

be awesomer: Best tip for motivationI am all full up on motivation right now. I’ve done more writing in the last couple weeks than I did the full 3 months before that. I’m just about done with the first draft of my second novel, and I’ve started mentally outlining my third novel (and very very roughly fourth and fifth).

I genuinely want to be published. I want to finish these books, get them published, work on more books. I’ve started thinking about a pen name (whole different post) and reserved a URL and found a WordPress theme. I’ve started giving myself more and more time to write (doing even less housework than usual). And, honestly, my end game is to sell film rights and maneuver a way to work as a film producer on those films. And novelist when I’m not producing (yup, a tad ambitious. Not really embarrassed about that).

Anyway, the point is I am TOTALLY motivated. I am on a roll and I am making things AWESOMER.

You can totally replicate this motivation….. My top tip for motivation is:

Hang out with people who irritate you with their awesomeness.

Find someone who is doing what you want to do but in such an amazing, unbelievable, completely obnoxiously awesome way that it just irritates you to the point of making you say to yourself, “I could do that, darn it!” Gather people like this around you and roll around in their awesomeness and let that stubborn streak of yours (mine) spark your motivation.

How to “hang out” with people you admire:

  1. Read every single thing they’ve ever wrote – books, blog posts, twitter updates. Every day.
  2. Listen or watch every single place they’ve appeared – podcast interviews, TED talks, scour YouTube’s archives. Every day.
  3. Re-read or re-watch every single thing – Every day.
  4. Actually hang out with them – Skype dates, coffee dates if you possibly can. Not necessarily every day.

You just want to immerse yourself in their thought process. They are doing amazing work and the more you expose yourself to that work, the more their awesomeness will both impress and drive you crazy. And the more annoyed you are, the more motivated you will be.

At least, that’s the way my stubborn brain works.

So I’ve been listening to the Self-Publishing Podcast. There are a few years of archives, so I can listen to at least one a day. I don’t know what I’ll do when I catch up and only get 1 episode each week. I’ve also read their book Write.Publish.Repeat. (with plans to re-read) and Yesterday’s Gone and have downloaded the first episodes of a bunch of their other series.

Those jokers are OUT OF CONTROL. There’s 3 guys who, teaming up in various combinations, make a full-time income self-publishing fiction. Which is CRAZY to me! I want to be them when I grow up, and I get so worked up when they talk about how much they are writing. I think I can absolutely do that I totally get all full of motivation to write so I can finish all of these works I have partway done.

It is a HUGE motivation for me to listen to them talk for an hour about how THEY made this model work and I immediately get off and write for an hour or so. And now I want to go work on my novel. Because I’m so annoyed by how much they do the same.

Who inspires you to an annoying level?


That fine line between nurturing and lazy

As you know, this year I’m trying to be more NURTURING to myself.

I tend to go a *little* overboard with ambition and over-committing myself and then I run myself ragged and feel bad about myself for needing to take an afternoon off to read. And then I feel bad about giving myself time off, so I throw myself back in to work and ambition and over-committing.

It’s a vicious cycle.

So that’s what I’ve kind of been working on over the last few weeks.

I got *crazy* sick. First time in my adult life I’ve gotten a fever, as a matter of fact. Very exciting. Andrew came home from work to take care of me and I didn’t open my laptop for 48 hours. So I took 3 full sick days, and then took it easy for the 2 days after that. But then? Then I was feeling guilty about being behind on my emails and projects and commitments to other people. So what that I had been sick? I’ve got to power through, right?

These are the conversations I have with myself. I’m trying to feel less guilty about being idle.

But there’s such a fine line between being lazy and giving yourself much-needed downtime and I don’t know where that line is.

I’m terrible at relaxing so even when we’re watching a movie I feel like I should be working on something. I actually do give myself afternoons to read for fun and then I feel like a “bad entrepreneur.” Because we’re supposed to be working 18-hour days, right?

Any tips for how to identify when you’re being lazy and when you’re recharging?

This is what I’m trying to work on in 2014. 10.5 more months to nail it!


One Little Word: January

The beginning of any year is always my favorite. I’m a planner, so I love love love just researching and day dreaming and lining up to-dos of how I want the rest of my year to look. So, of course, I am 100% all-in with the January prompt for Ali Edwards’ One Little Word® workshop.

For this first month, Ali provides a few handouts to help us establish our word, our intentions and a little inspiration to start the year off right. I’ll be simply adding these pages to the same 8.5×11 binder that last year’s BRAVE exercises are in.

First page:

One Little Word - NurtureNote: The loose cards on the right will go in the back side of the page protector on the left.

In Ali’s personal example, she uses a transparency for that top 8×5″ pocket. I don’t have any transparencies, so I went with simple paper layering. The back side of that pocket is currently just white, but since one of my goals this year is to do something with our backyard, I’m hoping to have a decent garden-y, growing, backyard photo to add sometime later in the year.

You’ll also notice the bottom left pocket is empty … I don’t really have any recent photos of *just* me that I like. No one ever takes them of me. So I need to either think about a self-portrait, or get Andrew to take one. We’ll see. Still thinking about it.

The remaining 3 4×6 cards are all from the handout. Defining my word, a short essay on why I chose it, and a related quote.

I *love* the quote I found: “Everybody needs beauty, as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir. It doesn’t actually use my word NURTURE, but it expresses my overall intention with choosing this word.

Second page:

One Little Word - Nurture intentions

These will just go back-to-back in a single page protector.

These prompts are more about being specific in your intentions and goals for the year. Thinking about what you want to add to your life with this word. Thinking about the direction you want this word to take you. Thinking about what you are hoping for.

A lot of this is a combination of what I wrote about here and what I had in mind when I created these.

One random takeaway from looking at these pages: I’m starting to like my handwriting more and more.


For more about my 2014 One Little Word, check out my NURTURE posts

What are you hoping for this year?

P.S. My fellow Americans, happy Martin Luther King, Jr Day!