If anyone asks, I do know that no one really cares that I have a Master’s Degree in English. Yes, it’s an interesting talking point and theoretically, I *should* have been paid more at my last day job because I had it, but that never happened. Not that it mattered. My Master’s Degree didn’t really make me any better at the job than any of my co-workers.

My Master’s Degree would not help me get a job any more than a Bachelor’s would (except for teaching at a community college but I don’t have any teaching experience, so that’s out). My Master’s Degree gets me a *little* attention for potential editing clients, but since most of them are all indie authors all perfectly happy to operate outside of the traditional path, an advanced degree is not a must-have.

Sometimes I look at the total in school loans I still have due and think, “Man, that was a lot of money to spend on something no one cares about.” It seems illogical. Impractical.

But most of the time, even if I’m in the minority of thinking this, I believe that getting a Master’s Degree in English was my best investment.

Here’s why: I think that my experience in graduate school taught me the critical thinking, problem-solving and writing skills that have allowed me to build my blog and pursue my own path.

Hiring English majors seems like an easy choice for any industry. As I mentioned in a recent interview, “Let’s be honest. People are idiots. If you can write with proper spelling and grammar you are already ahead of a giant portion of America. If you can ALSO think critically (about a problem, text, etc) you’re doing even better.”

I got a few questions on social media about this, that I thought you all might be interested in:

What skills did you learn in traditional schooling that applies well to your non traditional career path?

Thinking. No, seriously. Graduate school in particular taught me how to think critically, how to examine all aspects of a problem, articulate the holes or flaws and come up with solutions. These are skills that anyone could use, but solo entrepreneurs in particular.

Would you recommend other bloggers getting a Masters?

Nope. Not unless you have a couple years of time to kill and someone else is paying for it. If you’re smart enough to get a graduate degree, you are also smart enough to teach yourself this stuff without going $30,000+ into debt.

Want to understand people? Read literary fiction. I feel like I have gleaned so many life lessons just from the Anne of Green Gables series.

Was it hard to shake off the academic dust from your subsequent writing?

Yes, ish? Since I had been blogging (read: casual writing) for years I think I had a pretty good balance away from the strict, formal academic writing. It’s nice, actually, that I learned about having a thesis, and making the subsequent paragraphs support that thesis. Not all that different from writing a sales page, actually.

So, yes, I know that getting a Master’s Degree in English and then following my current career path may not have been the most practical choice to most people, I still think that it was a solid investment. My full experience in college and how I feel about having a graduate degree in English is detailed more in this interview here.

Emily is collecting interviews from English majors, talking about how their degree has helped their current career. Check them out here.


L&R Book ClubOur last book of 2014!

I thought since so many of us are memory keepers AND since NaNoWriMo begins in November, this would be a great selection.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I learned to live a better story by Donald Miller

Blurb from Amazon:

After writing a successful memoir, Donald Miller’s life stalled. During what should have been the height of his success, he found himself unwilling to get out of bed, avoiding responsibility, even questioning the meaning of life. But when two movie producers proposed turning his memoir into a movie, he found himself launched into a new story filled with risk, possibility, beauty, and meaning.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years chronicles Miller’s rare opportunity to edit his life into a great story, to reinvent himself so nobody shrugs their shoulders when the credits roll. Through heart-wrenching honesty and hilarious self-inspection, Donald Miller takes readers through the life that emerges when it turns from boring reality into meaningful narrative.

Miller goes from sleeping all day to riding his bike across America, from living in romantic daydreams to fearful encounters with love, from wasting his money to founding a nonprofit with a passionate cause. Guided by a host of outlandish but very real characters, Miller shows us how to get a second chance at life the first time around. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a rare celebration of the beauty of life.

I remember liking this book when I read it a couple years ago. I’m looking forward to the re-read!

Grab your copy on Amazon, the library, your personal bookshelf or your local bookstore. Reading begins November 1.

Note: This book is categorized under Religion and Christian Living on Amazon, but I don’t remember it being religiony at all. That categorization MAY just be because of who the author is, his previous book and the business decisions behind ranking in a small category. I could be wrong or misremembering of course. That said, you’ve been warned.


For the long run

Every day for the last few months, I’ve been getting up at 6am and writing fiction for 2+ hours (usually more). I have spent lord knows how much money on learning about fiction writing and the self-publishing industry.

I am not going to lie to you guys, it is HARD work. Just yesterday (Sunday), I wrote 2400+ words and it took me until about 1 in the afternoon. Today I woke up and I have to do the same thing all over again. And tomorrow. And on and on until I’m done. Because I have a deadline and I have ambition and I don’t want to embarrass myself I have standards.

I have yet to earn a single dime from all of this time and money invested.

But I don’t even care, because this is a long-term game. I am in it for the long run.

(I feel bad for my husband. I apologize to him regularly that I am spending all this time without a way to help pay the bills. Fortunately he understands and is totally behind this plan.)

Twyla Tharp has a chapter in The Creative Habit about doing creative work for the long run. Steven Pressfield breaks it down to just getting on base and worrying about it from there. Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hours.

It doesn’t matter what you call it, but spending hours, blood, sweat, dollars, tears and love on projects that may not pay off for a long time is what helps us grow as people. Instant gratification is for 1-minute rice and microwave popcorn.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have at least the next 15 or 18 months of this planned. Who knows when it will pay off?

 What is your long-game project?

P.S. I was interviewed recently about my fiction.



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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Who is inspiring you? Make a HERO List

I’ve watched the ‘Appendices’ of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies about … 30 times. Give or take. Significantly more than the movies themselves. Why? Because I love film-making, and I really admire the way Jackson does it, and I just want to immerse myself in his work as much as possible.

I will never be a movie director, but Peter Jackson is one of my heroes for different reasons – his creativity, work ethic, his generosity with his fans, his sense of play (even in the midst of a millions-of-dollars-project). He is DEFINITELY on my HERO list.

Why make a HERO list?

I believe in goals. I believe in having a direction. I believe in being flexible but still knowing where you want to be headed. For example, if I’m going to drive to Washington DC I may experience a ton of amazing things along the way, but I still need to know to go east. Kristin of rukristin papercrafts is making this part of her year-long projects. One of her goals this year is to embrace female characters into her life.

I think a lot about what I want to do with this one life and having HEROes to look up to, learn from and emulate in some ways helps. There’s no point in making your own mistakes if you can learn from someone else’s. It’s easier to be BRAVE when you see how fearless someone else has been.

Everyone has a handful of people they admire – making a specific HERO list forces you to weigh why you admire them and really decide if they are worth your respect.

How to make a HERO list

Just write it down. Who do you love? Who do you want to emulate and why? Whose work do you follow obsessively?

Heroes that inspireJust off the top of my head and in no particular order, I try to emulate:

  1. Jim Henson
  2. Peter Jackson
  3. JK Rowling
  4. John Quincy Adams
  5. L.M. Montgomery
  6. Lin-Manuel Miranda
  7. Anne Tyler

and others I’m sure I’m forgetting …. Each for a different reason. ALL of these people are creative (and all but 1 made their living from their art).

What do you do with your HERO list?

Make a Pinterest board full of all the inspiration you need to get you going. Photos, quotes, examples of their work. Anything that helps remind you why that person is so awesome.

Use your HEROes to help set your goals and intentions each year. So I want to build my email list this year? What would Jim Henson do?

Make yourself a minibook of quotes and other lessons you have learned from your HEROes. Like a commonplace book with very specific subjects.

And then, of course, make sure you immerse yourself in their thought process and work to up your motivation. Let them inspire you and motivate to do your own GREAT WORK.

Someday I want to be on someone else’s HERO list.

What else will you do with your HERO list?


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?


What is your purpose?

“Life planning begins with an unfortunate fact: many people have no idea what they really want to do or accomplish over the course of their time on earth. Instead of moving toward a destination, they become mired in ‘life avoidance’ by ambling around without a clear sense of objective or purpose.” (Chris Guillebeau in The Art of Non-Conformity)

You have a purpose. A GREAT WORK. You are meant to leave some kind of legacy.

what is your purpose?Maybe you know what it is. Maybe you’re still searching for it. Maybe it’s your little baby business that you are nurturing. Maybe it is your local non-profit passion project. Maybe it is raising your kids to be amazing adults that can live their own purpose.

It is the unfortunate fact that most people don’t think about what their legacy will be until they are close to the end. Wouldn’t it be far better for us to decide earlier what we want to get out of life and move in that direction all through life? Most people regret things that they haven’t done – there aren’t many who regret what they HAVE done.

Now, remember, your GREAT WORK does not necessarily have to be a full-time job. Nor do I believe that your purpose has to be something unconventional and independent. Nor do I believe that your legacy has to be some selfless, headline-producing act.

But even though I DO believe this – I absolutely believe that I can make my life whatever I want it to be – every week it’s a challenge to keep believing this big idea. I have to remind myself every month (every single week) to keep thinking big. I have to constantly (constantly) keep in the forefront of my mind the fact that I CAN change my life, and that these little tiny steps that I take every day and the choices I make every hour to blog on Lemon and Raspberry instead of rewatching another episode of Friends are helping me work toward that change.

What is your GREAT WORK? What is your purpose?

Your great work is likely to be something that changes the status quo and changes the world. Will you feel fulfilled if your work doesn’t make a difference to anyone? Will you feel like you are really doing your best work if you don’t make things just the smallest bit better in someone’s world? Granted, it may be a small world – like the world of professional librarians in the Midwest, or the world of small business owners who can’t manage their own taxes – but it is still SOMEONE’s world.

The world needs your gifts. You have those gifts for a reason – whether you believe in God, fate, genetics, or some combination of those. You have been given skills (or the time to develop skills) that not everyone has.

And you have those gifts so that you can do remarkable things. Remarkable things that will change someone’s whole world.

Here’s you challenge for this first week of 2014:

Write your manifesto.

Write your purpose. Identify your life’s intentions. Bonus points if you have the tech knowledge to make a /purpose page.

The fine folks of Fictive Kin created slashpurpose.org. They believe that the world would be a better place if the people trying to shape it spoke openly and plainly about their vision for the future.

Go visit LemonandRaspberry.com/purpose to read mine.


Memory keeping is human: David McCullough on story

I linked to this interview in September and I hope some of you read it:

I literally almost cried when reading it because I want to do that. I want to do what he does and immerse myself in a topic and be able to make a living telling the stories of those that came before us.


McCullough: It’s not just something that we should be sad about, or worried about, that these young people don’t know any history. We should be angry. They are being cheated and they are being handicapped, and our way of life could very well be in jeopardy because of this.

Since September 11, it seems to me that never in our lifetime, except possibly in the early stages of World War II, has it been clearer that we have as a source of strength, a source of direction, a source of inspiration–our story. Yes, this is a dangerous time. Yes, this is a time full of shadows and fear. But we have been through worse before and we have faced more difficult days before. We have shown courage and determination, and skillful and inventive and courageous and committed responses to crisis before. We should draw on our story, we should draw on our history as we’ve never drawn before.

Cole: Our strength comes from our story.

McCullough: Absolutely. If we don’t know who we are, if we don’t know how we became what we are, we’re going to start suffering from all the obvious detrimental effects of amnesia.

Cole: Collective amnesia.

McCullough: Furthermore, we face an enemy who believes in enforced ignorance. And it’s what all that we stand for . . . is the open mind–

Cole: Right. Tolerance.

McCullough: –the generous spirit, the ideal of tolerance, freedom, education, opportunity. All that is in the paragraph that John Adams included in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which is the oldest written constitution still in use in the world today. It predates our national constitution by ten years. “Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties”–you have to have wisdom and knowledge as well as virtue to preserve your rights and liberties–“and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people”–in other words, everybody–“it shall be the duty”–the duty–“of legislators and magistrates in all future periods of this commonwealth to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them. . .”

Then he goes on to say what he means by education. And what he means by education clearly is everything. No boundaries. It’s all important. “. . . to encourage . . . for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings, sincerity, good humor”–there will be good humor–“and all social affections”–

Cole: That’s wonderful.

McCullough: –“and generous sentiments among the people.”

There had never been any such statement in any proclamation or constitution ever in the history of the world. This was radical in its day. It’s saying not just that it would be a good idea to educate people, it’s saying it’s the duty of the government.

The pursuit of happiness. What did they mean by “the pursuit of happiness”? They did not mean material wealth. They did not mean ease, luxury.

[ …… ]

I’m absolutely positive it’s in our human nature to want to know about the past. The two most popular movies of all time, while not historically accurate, are about core historic events: Gone With the Wind and Titanic. There is a human longing to go back to other times. We all know how when we were children we asked our parents, “What was it like when you were a kid?” I think it probably has something to do with our survival as a species. For nine-tenths of the time that human beings have been on earth, knowledge that was essential to survival was transmitted from one generation to the next by the vehicle of story.

My strong feeling is that we must learn more about how we learn. I’m convinced that we learn by struggling to find the solution to a problem on our own–with some guidance, but getting in and getting our hands dirty and working it.

I have an idea for a history book to write. But it’s a BIG idea and might even need a Kickstarter or similar to make it happen.

Working on narrowing down to a smaller idea to start with, finding the time, finding the money to travel to where I need to travel to do the research. Projects like this just thrill me, and taking that very (very) first step is always the scariest.

But even before that, I would LOVE to be able to approach my memory keeping and storytelling from this point of view: There is a human longing to go back to other times. We all know how when we were children we asked our parents, “What was it like when you were a kid?”

Why do you tell your family stories?


5 easy ways to deal with failure

I wrote this post – How to Fail – a year or so. It’s a bit tongue in cheek – it doesn’t really give you actionable steps for how to deal with failure. Still go read it; it’s a good way to prep your mindset for getting used to failing.

But I know that is not enough.

how to deal with failure

Step back:

Give yourself a little distance and take stock of the situation. You may need to give yourself a little time and distance to really be able to grasp what happened. Maybe your launch fell flat – do you need better copywriting next time, or should you finally start your email list? Maybe your first attempt at quilting is a wreck – ask an experienced sewer what you might have done wrong, or sign up for a class to learn more.

Change your beliefs about failure:

Again – go read this post, and start changing your mindset around failure. It WILL happen; you need to be mentally ready for it. Failure will happen and if your brain is in the right place to accept it, you will definitely find it easier to deal with it.

Get fired up:

Use the failure as a leverage and a source of energy to try again and do better next time. I am always so inspired when I think I can do something better the next time – I want to jump right in.

Make some changes:

Do you know why it failed? What can you do different next time? Albert Einstein had it right: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Make even just a small tweak and try again.

Try again:

The sting of failure goes out of it the more and more. You’ve got to practice starting, practice finishing and practice failing.

P.S. Don’t let fear of failure keep you from starting. If you don’t start, you WILL fail.

Week 8 of the Onward and Upward workshop is all about getting it done. Goal setting and goal accomplishing. Focusing and finishing. Sign up for the email list here and get in with all the pre-registration extras and discount!

live your great work online workshop


Resources for writing your life list