Posted by: devonellington | January 20, 2020

Jan. 20, 2020: Finding a Rhythm

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image courtesy of ionasnicolae via pixabay.com

One of the challenges of achieving one’s goals is to find the rhythm in each project.

It never ceases to amaze me how often the people we work for and with are absolutely determined to sabotage our productivity by constant interruptions. Sure, they call it “the ability to multi-task.” But that’s not what it is. It’s sabotage.

It’s difficult not to let that scattershot approach spill over into working on our own goals.

Each project has a natural rhythm. The only way you can find a project’s natural rhythm is via uninterrupted time on that particular project. Once you’ve found your own natural rhythm and the project’s natural rhythm, you can layer them over each other and get into the zone of the project.

But how do you do that?

Schedule Time
Decide on a block of time to work on the project. Early on, you might only schedule one or two blocks, until you find the rhythm; then, you’ll know how much time you need for each block.

Set Boundaries and HOLD them
“I’m working on something important for the next two hours. Please don’t interrupt me unless it fits MY definition of an emergency.”

Then stick to it.

“Oh, this will just take a minute” is the biggest lie people tell. It NEVER takes a minute, and it ALWAYS makes it harder to get back into the project.

Close a door, if you can. Or put on headphones.

WHEN someone tries to interrupt you, say, “No, I can’t right now. I can in (x amount of time).” THEN STICK TO IT. If they persist, repeat, “I said NO.”

Don’t answer the phone. Turn it off or on vibrate.

Don’t look at your email, unless you’re hunting for an emailed answer relevant to the project. Then look ONLY at that email.

Make sure you dole out consequences for interruptions. If you don’t respect your own boundaries, no one else has any reason to, either. “If I’m interrupted now for this, I can’t do that as planned later this afternoon.” THEN STICK TO IT.

My writing room at home is at the front of the house. Everyone in the house knows not to interrupt me when I’m working. You want a roof over our heads? You want to eat? Then leave me alone while I work.

I have a sign on the front door stating:
NO SOLICITATIONS

WHATEVER YOU’RE SELLING, I’M NOT BUYING.

I KNOW FOR WHOM I’M VOTING & YOU WON’T CHANGE MY MIND.

I AM NOT CHANGING MY RELIGIOUS PRACTICES. DON’T ASK ME IF I’VE “FOUND JESUS.” IF HE’S LOST, IT’S BECAUSE HE’S RUNNING AWAY FROM YOU.

IF YOU INTERRUPT ME WHEN I AM WRITING, I WILL BE RUDE.

In spite of this sign, you would be surprised how many people show up and pound on the door (there’s no doorbell). When I don’t open, they come to my window, and pound on the window.

Let’s just say that they don’t EVER do it again.

I had one particularly obnoxious salesman who wouldn’t give up. I told him to stop; I told his company to call him off. I finally called the cops on him. I had it all documented, so he couldn’t sleaze his way out of it.

He tried to get away with, “If you don’t want to be interrupted, you should have a REAL job, and you shouldn’t sit in a window at the front of the house.” I told him that my remote job is none of his business, nor is how I set up my workspace. What IS his business is that he respect my boundaries. Typical white misogynist.

I wrote to the executive office of the company he represented (again) to tell them what happened and that I would never do business with them. They sent me a coupon for “a 20% discount on your next purchase.” I sent it back, emphasizing there would be NO purchase. EVER.

I rarely say “never” because it comes back to bite me in the butt, but this was an exception.

Assemble Your Materials
What do you need to work on this project? If it’s a writing project, do you need your computer? Research books? A dictionary? Notes from previous work on it or research? Scissors? Paint? Hammer? Baking pans? Cookie cutters? Measuring cups? Ruler?

Have them at hand. You don’t want to break your rhythm to get up and search for something.

Have a beverage close by (but far enough away so it can’t spill on your work). Tea, coffee, water.

Project Bins
I’m always juggling multiple projects. I keep a project bin for each. This is similar to the project boxes Twyla Tharp talks about in her book THE CREATIVE HABIT.

I have a bin for the project that contains the draft, the notes, and any books or photos or articles or other research materials I need to work on it. If research books come from the library, I keep a bibliography of the materials I use, which includes from which library I borrowed it. This makes it easier to track down, if I need it again.

When I’m finished with a project, my own books go back in my personal library, ready to be pulled as needed for future projects. If I’ve used a project binder, it’s either shelved or boxed. If it’s a file, it’s put in the project files.

If it’s a painting project or a textile project, I keep the tools I need in them; at the end, I sort the tools and fabrics back into their proper stashes, so I can find them again the next time I need them. If it’s a garden or home project, again, I clean and sort tools as needed and put them in a bin at the start and back in their proper spots, so I can use them next time. If it’s an ongoing project, I keep everything in a project bin until I’m done. If I need it temporarily for another project, I put it back into the longest-term project’s bin each time I borrow it for something else. It’s the only way I can keep track.

If it’s a goal like walking more or yoga, I have a place for my walking shoes. I keep my yoga mat, blocks, and blankets together. I have my cookbooks together, and my baking supplies organized. As mentioned above in “Assembling Materials”, the less time I spent hunting things down, the more time I spend on the project or goal itself.

Project bins are terrific because they keep all the materials together from all the different sources. I’m not always hunting for that piece I need at that moment. If I work from a different location (like a library, a co-working space, or onsite with a client), or want to take a project with me on a retreat, I just pick it up and put it in the car.

If you are completely electronically-based, you can create a similar structure on your devices. Since I have never have an electronic device that didn’t fail me, even with back-ups, and because I often use older sources that aren’t digitized, physical bins work better for me. Use what works for you.

Find Your Rhythm
The easiest way to find your rhythm is to follow your breath, the way you would in a yoga or meditation class. Listen and feel your heartbeat. The heartbeat is the foundation of our natural rhythm.

Find the Project’s Rhythm
You have your uninterrupted block of time. You’ve listened to your heartbeat and followed your breath.

Now, for this next block of time, this project is your entire universe. Nothing else exists. You approach it mindfully, you fill the project and let it fill you.

As you work on it, remember to breathe. Once I established a regular yoga practice, I realized how often I held my breath as I typed. I didn’t do it when I wrote in longhand; only at the computer. When I became aware of this weird quirk and adjusted it, my focus, my productivity, and, most importantly, my quality rose.

Being in the project’s rhythm doesn’t mean I don’t get up and stretch or walk around regularly, or take a bathroom break when I need it, or refill my coffee.

But, even as I do those things, if it’s within the time blocked out for the project, I’m still thinking about it as I’m moving around.

Sense Memory of the Rhythm
As you wind down the work on that time block, take a few minutes to remember how it feels to work on the project. It’s similar to the way actors use sense memory in performance.

This will make it easier to drop down into the project the next time you work on it.

All Day Projects
If you block out a full day to work on a project, plan breaks. I usually plan one break in the late morning to check email or handle necessary interactions. I take a lunch break, and maybe take a walk or do something physical after I eat, to get out the kinks. I have another email break mid-afternoon, along with maybe a few yoga poses.

I’m trying to be better about getting up and moving for a few minutes at least once every hour. When I’m deep in the zone of a project, I often forget. I can work for six to eight hours on something without noticing. That is not healthy, especially as I get older, and something I’m working to change.

Starting and Stopping Rituals
Start the project the same way each time, such as following your breath, or reviewing what you did on the project before.

When you stop work at the end of the block, be aware of stopping. Don’t just get up and walk away. Be aware of saving the document. Put new pages away in their file folder. Put research material back into its proper place. Turn everything off, put it away, and take a moment to acknowledge that you’re done for the time being.

Momentum
Once you find the rhythm of a project, it’s easier to drop into it for shorter periods of time when you have them. You know what it feels like, so it takes less time to get into the zone of it and continue. It’s a sense memory on both physical and mental levels. Each time you work on the project, you build momentum. If you can work on something every day, or at specific times in the week without too many days in between, its own rhythm builds the momentum.

Finding a project’s rhythm helps me concentrate, helps me organize, helps me create, and, most important, helps me FINISH.

Finishing projects is part of achieving goals. You’re working toward an end. The emotional boost you get from finishing something helps propel you toward starting your next goal or project.

How do you find the rhythm of your projects?

Posted by: devonellington | January 15, 2020

Jan. 15. 2020: Mid-Month Check-In

1 Play proposal out for 2 plays — both plays accepted
2 radio plays accepted & scheduled for production
Walks: 1
Article Pitches: 4 pitches to 2 different publications
LOIs: 10
Holiday decorations packed
8 pages written on first draft of “Trust” (short play)
10 pages written on first draft of Kate Warne curtain-raiser (short play)
2 books reviewed
Started reading contest entries
10 Specialty blog posts written
Susanna Centlivre research begun
Idea Cookies noted
Research books for Vaudeville idea arrived
Client work
Continuing work on 1st draft of Winter Solstice novel
Stuck to the weight training schedule
Maintained yoga & meditation practices
Worked on socializing the cats

How is your January going so far?

Posted by: devonellington | January 13, 2020

Mon. Jan. 13, 2020: Tools

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image courtesy of Astryd_MAD via pixabay.com

In order to succeed, we need a variety of things:
—Passion
—Skills
—Tools

Plenty of people will argue about the passion, and that’s fuel for a future post. But skills and tools are necessities.

I’m sharing some of the tools I’ve found helpful over the years, and some I’m eager to try.

90-Day Plan. I was so excited when Jenn Mattern posted this. A month is often too short a time for a big project. A year can cause one to lose track. But 90 days? A lot can be accomplished in 90 days. I’m not breaking everything down into that, but there are a few things I’m putting in this basket, and I’ll see how it works. Seeing the source, I have no doubt it will work, provided I put in what’s needed on my part.

Calendar. I prefer a paper calendar, although so many people use electronic nowadays. I’ve yet to have an electronic calendar that didn’t fail me. I have my datebook, of course. But I like a big, desk-blotter type calendar in my office, with projects in different colors. I can break projects down, and then track them by color.

Color. This goes back to the previous post about calendars. I like to sort projects by color. I went through a complicated phase a few years ago where I chose color by the stage of the project — edits in one color, proposals in another, etc. That got so confusing I was disheartened. Now, I assign a project a color — an ink color and a folder color (hopefully the same, or close). I keep notes in the folder (and on the computer) and dates on the calendar. It works for me.

Those of you who follow my novel writing know that I have one revision I call “The Multi-Colored Draft.” I print out the draft (usually the 2nd or 3rd). I choose one color for passive or past perfect, one color for adverbs, and one color for qualifiers. I go through the draft marking each type of word in the assigned color.

In the next draft, I have to negotiate each usage. Is that the word that best fits what I want to say here? If yea, I keep it in. If I can find a better, more active, more interesting way to say it, I remove it.

It’s worth the work.

Journal. I have my personal, handwritten journal in which I work out my life and work. I also have the blogs, where I talk about whatever I please, especially onInk in My Coffee,where I’m constantly trying to figure out the balance between my writing and my life. Plenty of people keep journals on computers. Plenty of people find bullet journals useful. Bullet journals don’t work for me — too much like lists. For me, the journal needs to be a place of expansion, not contraction. From that expansion, I can pull what I need to focus and make action lists. Try different styles of journaling, and see which works for you. I’ve taught and taken many journal writing courses over the years, and the only rule I believe in is “date every entry.”

Business Card. Pretty basic, right? Yet I don’t think I’ve EVER been to a networking event where I tried to exchange cards and the other party didn’t have one with them. At networking and professional events, I’m good about it. I’m bad at what a look at as “social only” events (mostly because I want a break). Yet, I have learned to carry them there, too. I keep a card holder in my purse, and refill it before I go out to any type of event at this point. I have several business cards — for Fearless Ink, and for each of the names under which I publish. My card holder is sectioned, so I can separate the cards and pull the one I need.

Mailing List. Again, basic. I am not one who puts out a monthly newsletter. I do quarterly, or when I have something special to say. I am not as on top of my mailing list as I should be. That’s one of the things on which I’m working this year. As an aside, one thing I HATE is a pop-up demanding I sign up for the newsletter as soon as I land on a site. If I have to sign up to look at the website, I’m simply clicking away and not going back. It’s especially annoying when I’m on my phone, and the “X” to get rid of the pop-up isn’t on the screen, and it won’t let me scroll. Buh-bye. Lost me forever. Also, any place that sends me daily sales pitch it crossed off my list.

What do business cards and mailing lists have to do with achieving your goals, dreams, and resolutions? They build your network. I’ve met people I enjoyed, kept in touch, and five years later or more, we ended up working together. This is a long game.

Social Media. Yes, it can be a huge time suck, and there’s toxicity on the platforms. But social media is a wonderful tool to learn new things, ask questions, answer questions, meet interesting people from all over the world with whom your paths might never cross. Because people are more than one thing, very often a wonderful resource comes from an unexpected contact. I use multiple platforms for different things. Also, remember it’s a conversation. It’s not a bulletin board. If you post without interacting, it won’t work.

Canva. Their suite of online design tools helps with marketing, communication, and social media needs.

SurveyPlanet. I prefer them to Survey Monkey. They have more flexibility, and I find them more useful. You might never need to set up a survey, but if you do, I recommend them.

Clippings.me. I keep some of my online portfolio for business writing there. I have links to others on the Clients and Publications page of my website. I used to be a fan of Contently, but they made some changes that didn’t work for me; so far, I’m happier on clippings.me.

Imagination. That sounds strange to list as a tool, but it’s important. My position is that if you can’t imagine, you can’t achieve. Carve out time every day, or, at the very least, every week, where you can daydream, look at art, dance, do something that refills your creative well.

The Artist Date. I learned this from Julia Cameron’s books. I’ve now incorporated it inot my life over the years, and it’s made a huge difference. The Artist Date is a weekly date you have to go and do something YOU want to do — go to a museum, go out for coffee, etc. It’s supposed to be done alone, but for those of us who work remotely and spend too much time alone, I use this is a reason to spend time with friends.

The Library. Libraries have a wealth of resources. Many have a variety of databases you can use for free at their computers, which helps in research and sourcing for your work. They have programs, training sessions, art exhibits, books, videos, music, ebooks. Google is fine, but a great reference librarian can’t be replaced. Support your local library. This is especially important for writers. If you want them to support you (and local librarians are great about supporting local authors), support them. Program numbers and circulation numbers are a major component of funding formulas. Do your part.

Silence. This is my most important tool. I like large swaths of uninterrupted work time when I write. No interruptions. That’s why I prefer working remotely to onsite. I am far more productive. Too many businesses claim they want their people able to “multi-task” when what they mean is they want to be able to interrupt them constantly. Psychology Today talks about how you could lose 40% productivity with multi-tasking. It hurts work quality and productivity. I like silence. Most of the time, I don’t even play music. If I do, it’s instrumental only. Silence is my best tool.

Tools I Look Forward To Trying:

Evernote. A colleague on The Art of Working Remotely’s weekly Remote Chat suggested Evernote. While I carry around a reporter’s notebook for physical notes, I’m going to try Evernote this year as well, to see how it works for me. I trust this colleague, and therefore will give the product a try. Because I use Google, I planned to try KeyLight, but I can’t get it to download on my phone with the rest of the Google Suite.

Kantree App. Another trusted colleague I met via Remote Chat. I like what I know of this  work management platform. I do not yet need it, but if I put things into place the way I hope to this year, I will, and this is the organizational app I am eager to try.

High Fidelity’s VR App. Another colleague from the Remote Chat. I have several issues for the constant demands for video conferences. One is that I am a writer; what I look like has nothing to do with the quality of my work. I am not an actor. As a writer who publishes under multiple names, I do not post selfies, or use author photographs. I use icons tied to each name instead. Another issue with video conferences is that, again, I am not an actor. In a video conference meeting, I feel like I have to perform in a way I never do at an in-person meeting. Perhaps it’s because I’ve worked in theatre, film, and television, and I have a different relationship to the camera than many people. It’s also a reason I refuse to “create” video interviews in lieu of a two-way interview with potential clients. I’m not an actor auditioning. Unless our meeting is a two-way street, we are not a good fit. What I like about this app is that you can create an avatar, and the meetings happen in a virtual space. In other words, it solves my issues. Again, right now, I don’t need this app, but as I reconfigure certain things in my working life, I will, and I look forward to it. Unfortunately,  the company is making changes, and it doesn’t look like I’ll have that opportunity.

The big thing to remember is that you use the tools. Once you let the tools use you, it’s a losing proposition. Also, your list of tools will grow and change as you do.

What are some of your favorite tools?

Posted by: devonellington | January 6, 2020

Mon. Jan. 6, 2020: Jumping In: How Much is Too Much?

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image courtesy of sasint via pixabay.com

First of all, happy Twelfth Night! May the last twelve nights of dreams bring you lots of luck and joy in the coming months. Happy start to Carnivale season, too.

One of my goals this year for the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions site is to offer ideas, tools, tips, and opinions that will help us all achieve our goals, dreams, and resolutions over the year. The lists are helpful for public accountability, but there needs to be more. We can share ideas and support as well as sharing lists. I think (hope) it will make the site more useful to all of us.

There’s a lot of whining around the end of the year and the start of a new one. People grumble about not making New Year’s Resolutions because they only break them.

I believe people often break resolutions they feel they SHOULD make to appease others instead of the ones the WANT to make for themselves. The Shoulds don’t mean enough to do the work to achieve them; instead, they cause resentment, procrastination, and, too often, are ignored instead of a measured choice made to say, “I don’t want to do this. I’m going to drop this resolution.”

I believe resolutions are important. If someone doesn’t want to do them, that’s fine. But they need to stop berating those of us who make resolutions so that they feel better about not bothering to keep their own in past years. You don’t want to set resolutions? Fine. You need to do what’s best for you. But keep your derision and sarcasm away from those who are working toward something.

I believe it’s important to set goals and make the bar high for oneself. If you make a list of things that are easy and you do anyway (like brush your teeth) just to cross them off, you’re not stretching yourself and it defeats the purpose. On the other hand, if you set a goal that’s so far out of reach you can’t even break it down and work on any of it, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

I believe it’s important to stretch AND balance.

Do I overload my yearly and monthly lists? Yes. I get discouraged when I don’t get it all done. But I’ve also learned (the hard way, through life experience) that it’s important to have the list and yet remain flexible when life throws things at me. It feels a bit like log-rolling, but there it is.

How much is too much?

We each have different answers. I have different answers on different days. There are days when I feel ready to take on anything. There are days when I just want to go back to bed. There are times when I have to push harder, no matter what I’m feeling, because I don’t have the luxury of not getting something done. There are days I have to let something go in order to preserve my health, or because someone close to me needs help.

The desire to start fresh and make each year bigger and better causes us to overload ourselves at the beginning. While I’m a big believer in working ahead rather than procrastinating, it’s easy to overestimate what we can achieve on both physical and emotional levels, and to remember that life will always throw us curve balls.

Life is messy. We try to organize with lists and apps, but, ultimately, it’s messy, and coping skills are our best defense.

I have things that HAVE to be achieved this year. My back is against the wall on them. I have things I WANT to achieve this year. I have to constantly weigh each of them against each other and make daily choices.

You’ve seen my January list. It’s huge.

When it comes to the writing, I have to take the project on the tightest deadline and work on it first (my first 1000 words of the day) and build all the other projects around it. The client work has to be slotted in, too, because that’s what keeps a roof over my head. I’ve added health and fitness to the list, because regaining some of the fitness ground I’ve lost and keeping healthy is the only way I can meet my goals. I can’t let purging the basement go any longer because I need to clean and let go of everything I don’t need in order to move later this year. When we moved here, we didn’t purge much — we took it all along, planning to purge when we got here, and then never did. That has to change.

But if I plug away every day, and use some of the new tools on my list, I believe I’ll be in better shape a few months down the line than I was last year.

I’m already in a better place mentally than I was last year over the holidays and at the turn of the year. That helps enormously.

Never underestimate the strength of willpower and determination.

Every goal boils down to “How badly do I want this?”

When you don’t want it badly enough to do what’s necessary to achieve it, it doesn’t get done. It’s not a failure. It’s a choice. Make this the year you own your choices. When you choose to let something go — celebrate it.

How much is too much? I’ll know at the end of every month, and on December 31 next year!

How do you decide what is too much?

Posted by: devonellington | January 3, 2020

January 2020 To Do List

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image courtesy of alexasphotos via pixabay.com

Here we are in January, with a fresh, shiny To Do List:

12 LOIs
4 Proposals (over an array of topics)
8 Article Pitches
Finish BALTHAZAAR TREASURE revisions
Work on DAVY JONES DHARMA revisions
Work on draft of THE BARD’S LAMENT
Work on radio adaptation of BEHIND THE MAN
Work on Kate Warne 10-minute curtain raiser
Work on draft of Solstice romance
Work on draft of ELLA BY THE BAY
4 How-To posts for this site
Keep up with Ink in My Coffee (and do 4 Intention posts)
4 posts on A Biblio Paradise
4 posts on Gratitude and Growth
4 posts on Affairs of the Pen
4 posts on Ink-Dipped Advice
1-2 articles for Medium
Keep up with reviews
Start reading contest entries
Re-read Dawn Powell biography
Pack away holiday decorations
Purge 20 boxes from basement
Complete 2019 filing
Set up 2020 files
Update Fearless Ink website
Intensify yoga/meditation practice
Put the weight training back in 2X/week
Walk 2x/week (weather permitting)
Work on vegan cookie recipe
Prep winter business postcard

What’s on your list?

Posted by: devonellington | January 2, 2020

GDR Questions Answered for 2020: Transition and Transformation

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image courtesy of johnhain via pixabay.com

GDR Questions for 2020

I’m doing something a little different this year. I have a theme for 2020: “Transition and Transformation.”

I anticipate several huge transitions in my life in the coming year. I want to use them to transform my life and get it back on the track I need it to be on for this next cycle.

So let’s start.

1. Reflect on 2019. What worked? What didn’t? What did you release, even if you thought you wanted it early in the year, because it didn’t serve your life?
What worked:

–Writing in the mornings, sometimes in longhand, sometimes on the computer
–Two early morning writing sessions, before any client work
–Some afternoon/evening writing sessions, as needed
–Deepening my yoga/meditation practices
–Expanding my social media presence. Adding a business Twitter account. Working on Ink-Dipped Advice posts
–Getting the blogs up to speed and keeping steady with them
–Redefining what I want and need out of my career
What did not work:
–Financials. Every time I started to gain ground, I got hit with something else.
–I wasn’t able to put all the pieces into place to move this year; therefore, I have no choice but to make it work for 2020.
–I didn’t get enough work done on the novels. The schedule nearly killed me, and had to be adjusted.
–I didn’t succeed in balancing the fiction/plays effectively with the client work.
Released:
My idea of how I thought I wanted to adjust my work situation. When I started down a particular road, I didn’t like it, so I have to re-adjust for 2020.

2. Do you have any regrets? Are any of them something you can work on in the next cycle, or do you need to let go and move on?
I regret that I didn’t write enough or pitch enough articles. Yes, that can be adjusted for 2020. Sleep less, write more. I didn’t make the financial leap I needed to make in 2019, in order to make the other things happen. I laid a good foundation, but it hasn’t paid off yet. I also let go of the fantasy that this is the place where I’ll retire and live the rest of my life.

3. What was your biggest obstacle in 2019?
Finances. Every time I started to get ahead, I was hit with another emergency. Not only do I have to put the finances in place for some major life changes, I need to build a better cushion.

4. How do you plan to transform this obstacle in 2020? List several active steps so to do.
I want an
d need to do a hell of a lot better financially in 2020. Among the steps to achieve it:
–1. Better rates from better clients.
–2. More aggressive campaigning to land better clients.
–3. A steadily increasing slate of article pitches to high-paying markets.
–4. More corporate work; less non-profit work.
–5. Increase my regular client load instead of doing mostly one-offs — and make sure the regular clients are reliable payers.
–6. Use Jenn Mattern’s 90-Day Plan on several goals to hit the points, which I need to hit.

5. Where are you getting in your own way of achieving your goals, dreams, and resolutions? Is there anything you need to change in your approach in order to achieve what you want and need?
I refuse to work for companies/individuals I believe are unethical or who support rightwing political agendas. Unfortunately, those tend to pay the most. I have to work harder and cast a wider net to find ethical clients who pay well.

6. Are there specific goals you know you MUST reach this year, instead of simply WANTING to reach them? What are they? What steps do you plan to take to get there?
Goals I MUST reach this year have to do with moving, a new-to-me car, updating my computer system. They are not optional, and it’s stressful that they all hit at once. The steps to reach them are to removed financial obstacles and earn more money, to make sure it all happens. Easier said than done.

7. How does your health affect these other aspects of your life? What can you do to improve your health and build strength to make necessary changes in the next cycle?
I have had more health issues this year, and more stress issues due to insurance problems. It looks like those might be sorted out, but I am cynical. I worked steadily to deepen my yoga and meditation practices, which helped. But menopause, lower back problems, eye strain, headaches, and all the rest — the stress of the insurance issues made it impossible to heal. As the financial stress eases, so will the insurance stress. Right now, illness is a luxury I can’t afford.

8. What illusion do you need to release in order to move forward?
That the area in which I live will ever respect working artists.

9. Did you make any compromises in 2019 that you regret? What kind of course correction will you do in 2020?
I regret giving too many potential clients the benefit of the doubt early in our meetings. It resulting in ridiculous demands, changing parameters, and expectations that I will accept demeaning behavior on their part because I’m desperate to work for them. I’m not. Also, the demands for unpaid labor or video auditions as part of the initial meeting process is ridiculous, and I won’t tolerate it. My adjustment for 2020 is to cut off waste of time meetings as soon as I intuit we are a bad fit.

10. What tools for organization, health, and creativity did you find most useful last year? Will you continue to use them?
–My handwritten, personal journal. That’s the most important tool for every aspect of my life.
–Yoga and meditation practices. I will continue to deepen both practices. I want to make time for several retreats this year.
–Large calendar (a real one, not electronic). Different projects are on the calendar in different color inks.
–Social media expansion. It has helped a lot, and I believe I can do even more with it, remembering it is a tool I use, not letting it use me.
–Twuffer. Made Twitter much easier for both my clients and me.

11. Is there a tool you are eager to try this year? What is it and why?
–Jenn Mattern’s 90-Day Plan because I think it will help focus
–Kantree App when and where it is appropriate
–High Fidelity’s VR app — again, when and where appropriate.

12. For your big goals, how can you break them down into specific steps to reach by specific points in the year, in order to achieve them?
All of the big goals demand I earn more this year. That is step 1.
Step 2 is putting aside something toward each of the major goals from each payment, and handling in the smaller goals as I can.
Step 3 is increasing my workload in a smart manner, not a scattered, panicked matter, and try to earn as much as possible as early as possible in the year.
Step 4 is ongoing research for my big goals, so when I gather the resources for each, I already know the smartest way to deploy them.
Step 5 is making decisions, trusting them, and acting on them.
I intend to use the 90-Day Plan to help with these steps.

13. What are you not willing to compromise?
I am not willing to work for unethical individuals who do not believe that I (or anyone) deserves a fair wage, health care, or basic human dignity and quality of life.

14. How can you build or strengthen your support system to work on your goals, dreams, and resolutions?
Stay in contact and interact with my favorite online groups. Some of the best business contacts are made in social conversations, based around other activities. I want to expand my contacts in the fields that interest me the most, and do so on an international scale. I honestly do not want to attend more local networking events, even though I know that I should. My time is better spent courting potential clients on the mainland and internationally. I do want to attend more art openings and other such events. I will continue to work regularly with my elected officials.

15. List a handful of smaller, fun goals that you have on your list because you WANT them, not because you have to get them done. Things that will give you pleasure, that you’ve always wanted to try.
1. Continue working on my French.
2. Go back to walking on the beach on nice days.
3. In general, walk more.
4. Learn how to make a good pie crust.
5. Cook more with lentils.
6. Get back to sewing. I miss it.

16. Are you more comfortable in gradual transitions or in fast changes? This year, do you want to do anything differently than you usually do?
I always WANT gradual transitions and, too often HAVE to make fast changes. I’m hoping it will be more balanced this year.

17. Do you need or want to change anything about the way you present yourself to the world?
When I was young, I didn’t give a damn what anyone thought. I’ve lost some of that, although, this year, I started to get it back. Accept me as I am, or get out of my way.

18. How does the economic and political landscape affect your goals, dreams, and resolutions? How will you deal with them this year?
I’m worried about a recession. I may make some short-term decisions with that in mind over the next couple of years, and then making course corrections from there. The political situation sickens me. The level of corruption and the sale of our country to our enemies, the turn toward authoritarianism. I will continue to work with my elected officials and support candidates I believe will do the best for the country, not just me. We have decades of work ahead of us to fix what the GOP has sold off/broken/destroyed through their greed.

19. There’s a lot of talk about ending the decade and what we’ve achieved in the last ten years. When I look back at the past decade, on the one hand, I’m discouraged because things didn’t manifest in the way I hoped and planned. On the other hand, I’ve been through a lot, learned a lot, grown a lot. I made a choice not to let myself be discouraged and angry and feel “less than” because life took different directions. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan to work hard in the next cycle to achieve certain things. I feel like this was a decade of change, but also of refueling and preparation for the cycle I’m about to enter. How does the change of decade affect your choices this coming year, if at all?
This was a decade of resting and re-grouping for me. It didn’t turn out the way I hoped in many ways, and yet I got a lot out of it. It’s given me the determination to do what I want and need to do in the coming years.

20, What are three DEMANDS (things you have to do or need to get done, that might not be a goal, dream, or a resolution, but are necessary to your life). How will you integrate them with your goals, dreams, and resolutions?
The big house move and the car are the two biggest demands. They have to be goals as well as demands in order to get done.

21. List your three biggest goals, and at least 3 steps to achieve each.
1. Move
A. Decide where I want and need to be
B. Get the finances in place
C. Find the right place and go
2. Car
A. Get the finances in place
B. Research what I want, which will depend on what I can afford
C. Make the purchase
3. Work
A. Change direction to the next tier of client
B. Research and send proposals
C. Juggle both long-term and short-term projects

22. List your resolutions and at least 3 steps to achieve each.

1. Yoga/meditation
A. Continue my daily practice
B. Take more workshops, whenever possible
C. Do at least 2 retreats this year.
2. Fitness
A. Walk more
B. Put the weight training back into the routine
C. Lost 30 pounds over the year — goal of 10 pounds every 4 months.
3. Boundaries
A. Keep a balance between flexibility and boundary, and handle each situation individually
B. Give less benefit of the doubt when it’s obvious a situation is the wrong fit
C. Not be silent

23. List one dream you’ve put aside, and list 3 steps you will take this year to make it a reality.
I’ve always wanted an upright piano and to learn how to play. There are a ton of them on craigslist for free all the time.
1. Put aside money for movers
2. Find the right piano
3. Get it delivered and start practicing

24, List 3 dreams you have and are either still working on (from previous years) or will add into the mix this year, and 3 steps for each you plan to take.

Again, I’m not comfortable sharing these publicly right now. But I have three, and the goals and resolutions will play into them.

Please feel free to share any answers you are comfortable with sharing.

Posted by: devonellington | December 31, 2019

2019 Wrap-Up

2019 Year-End Wrap Up

COMPLETED
Client work
More LOIs than I can count
Book review gig steady
Domain and host renewals
“Horace House Hauntings” radio play written, accepted, produced
Venetian research
Taught at the NECRWA conference
“Confidence Confidant” radio play produced/performed in Boston
“Intrigue on the Aurora Nightingale” radio play written and accepted for future production
“Light Behind the Eyes” radio play produced/performed in Minnesota
“Pier-less Crime” radio play written and accepted for future production
THE QUALITY OF LIGHT written and submitted
GRAVE REACH (Coventina Circle #5) published
Kept up with Ink in my Coffee, Ink-Dipped Advice, Gratitude and Growth
Did the Reader Expansion Challenge on A Biblio Paradise
Judged three categories of a contest
Outlined a handful of novels
Personal strategic plan
Fulfilled my commitment to Upbeat Authors
Deepened my yoga & meditation practice as I planned
Wrote for a Llewellyn 2021 Almanac
Stuck to my conscientious consumerism
Expanded my social media presence
Getting “Affairs of the Pen” — the blog under the Ava Dunne name — launched
Testing some of the monologues from WOMEN WITH AN EDGE RESIST in front of an audience

IN PROGRESS
Straw Hat radio drama (“Dashed Dreams”)
Monologues for WOMEN WITH AN EDGE RESIST
First act of anti-gun violence play
“Organizing the Dead” radio play
Revisions on THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE
Revisions on DAVY JONES DHARMA
First 2/3 of the first draft of ELLA BY THE BAY
Solstice romance novel
Working on my French
Recipe development skills

MOVED/DROPPED
Work on Justice By Harpy trilogy moved to 2020
FIX IT GIRL revisions moved to 2020
Jain Lazarus Adventures re-launch moved to 2021

UNEXPECTED ADDITIONS
ELLA BY THE BAY
“Intrigue on the Aurora Nightingale”
“Pier-less Crime”
Adopting the traumatized cats Willa and Charlotte, and working with them

DISAPPOINTMENTS
Lucy’s death
90% of so-called “HR professionals” with whom I dealt this year were a waste of space, disorganized, and unprofessional.
The constant demand for free labor as part of an interview/meeting process
The corrupt, unethical regime currently in power
I didn’t pitch enough articles this year, and let it slide by the wayside
Car issues
Couldn’t work the schedule so I could take the courses I wanted to take
The apathy and small-mindedness of too many people

SUCCESSES
3 radio plays produced by 3 companies in 3 states over 7 weeks
2 more radio plays commissioned, written, accepted
THE QUALITY OF LIGHT
GRAVE REACH
Getting back on track with the blogs
Published in the 2020 Lewellyn almanac

Overview:
It was a tough year on every level. I laid down some good track for the changes that MUST happen in 2020. Since not everything that needed to happen in 2019 did, it increases the pressure on me for 2020, because I’m out of wiggle room.

I was not focused enough nor ruthless enough in 2019, and that has to change for 2020.

How was your year?

Posted by: devonellington | November 14, 2019

GDR Questions for 2020: A Year of Transition and Transformation

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image courtesy of johanhain via pixabay.com

Questions for 2020: A Year of Transition and Transformation

I’m doing something a little different this year. I have a theme for 2020: “Transition and Transformation.”

I anticipate several huge transitions in my life in the coming year. I want to use them to transform my life and get it back on the track I need it to be on for this next cycle.

So let’s start.

1. Reflect on 2019. What worked? What didn’t? What did you release, even if you thought you wanted it early in the year, because it didn’t serve your life?

2. Do you have any regrets? Are any of them something you can work on in the next cycle, or do you need to let go and move on?

3. What was your biggest obstacle in 2019?

4. How do you plan to transform this obstacle in 2020? List several active steps so to do.

5. Where are you getting in your own way of achieving your goals, dreams, and resolutions? Is there anything you need to change in your approach in order to achieve what you want and need?

6. Are there specific goals you know you MUST reach this year, instead of simply WANTING to reach them? What are they? What steps do you plan to take to get there?

7. How does your health affect these other aspects of your life? What can you do to improve your health and build strength to make necessary changes in the next cycle?

8. What illusion do you need to release in order to move forward?

9. Did you make any compromises in 2019 that you regret? What kind of course correction will you do in 2020?

10. What tools for organization, health, and creativity did you find most useful last year? Will you continue to use them?

11. Is there a tool you are eager to try this year? What is it and why?

12. For your big goals, how can you break them down into specific steps to reach by specific points in the year, in order to achieve them?

13. What are you not willing to compromise?

14. How can you build or strengthen your support system to work on your goals, dreams, and resolutions?

15. List a handful of smaller, fun goals that you have on your list because you WANT them, not because you have to get them done. Things that will give you pleasure, that you’ve always wanted to try.

16. Are you more comfortable in gradual transitions or in fast changes? This year, do you want to do anything differently than you usually do?

17. Do you need or want to change anything about the way you present yourself to the world?

18. How does the economic and political landscape affect your goals, dreams, and resolutions? How will you deal with them this year?

19. There’s a lot of talk about ending the decade and what we’ve achieved in the last ten years. When I look back at the past decade, on the one hand, I’m discouraged because things didn’t manifest in the way I hoped and planned. On the other hand, I’ve been through a lot, learned a lot, grown a lot. I made a choice not to let myself be discouraged and angry and feel “less than” because life took different directions. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan to work hard in the next cycle to achieve certain things. I feel like this was a decade of change, but also of refueling and preparation for the cycle I’m about to enter.  I realized that, even if I’ve failed in some areas, it takes off all the pressure. It gives me the freedom to do anything. How does the change of decade affect your choices this coming year, if at all?

20, What are three DEMANDS (things you have to do or need to get done, that might not be a goal, dream, or a resolution, but are necessary to your life). How will you integrate them with your goals, dreams, and resolutions?

21. List your three biggest goals, and at least 3 steps to achieve each.

22. List your resolutions and at least 3 steps to achieve each.

23. List one dream you’ve put aside, and list 3 steps you will take this year to make it a reality.

24, List 3 dreams you have and are either still working on (from previous years) or will add into the mix this year, and 3 steps for each you plan to take.

We will post our answers to these questions on the Home page of the GDR site on January 2. I am posting these questions on both the Home page and on its own page. The 2020 Questions page will remain up all year so that people can join in at any time they find the questions useful.

Posted by: devonellington | September 30, 2019

Mon. Sept. 30: September Wrap-Up

 

Not the traditional month-end wrap today, because things went cattywumpus again. Even though my list was reasonably short this month, other things kept charging in to interfere.

So my list is off-kilter, and a lot of things are up in the air, and I can’t even make the To Do list for October until some things are settled which are up in the air.

I’m working on the GDR for 2020. That will probably get done before the October To Do List.

How was your September?

It feels like it was over in a heartbeat.

Posted by: devonellington | September 23, 2019

Mon. Sept. 23, 2019: Just One Thing

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image courtesy of Bessi via pixabay.com

Feeling overwhelmed by all you have on your list?

Pick just one thing.

Look at your list. Pick the thing that you feel is the most important.

Do it.

Now you have one LESS thing on your list.

Celebrate.

Look at your list.

Pick just one thing.

Do it.

Focusing on one thing mindfully and completing it will help you complete your list in a way staring at the whole thing and feeling overwhelmed will not.

Try it!

Posted by: devonellington | September 16, 2019

Mon. Sept. 16: September Mid-Month Check-In

How’s your September going?

We lost our beloved rescue cat Lucy on the 7th, which has set back everything. Grief is a heavy emotion; although sitting down and doing the work gives some relief, I can only do so in short bursts.

I’ve gotten some good work done on the radio play “Pier-less Crime”

I’ve worked steadily on this draft of GRAVE REACH and on the first draft of ELLA BY THE BAY (which isn’t on the To Do list, but I’ve been working on it steadily for the past few months)

I’ve been playing with some other ideas to see if they are viable.

I’ve already sent out 15 LOIs, and am on track for quite a few more.

Only 1 article pitch out so far, but I’m working on some more.

I’m doing well on keeping up with the blogs and expanding their reach. I’m happy with the way Affairs of the Pen is coming along, and I hope that gets more readers.

I started a separate Twitter account for Fearless Ink here, so that I can separate the business writing from some of the other stuff I do. That was a good choice. As always, I build the Twitter following slowly, but there’s genuine interaction.

I’m keeping up with client work and putting together a direct mail for new clients.

I’m not where I’d like to be on everything, but I’m working steadily. I love autumn – it’s my favorite season.

Where are you on your goals?

Posted by: devonellington | September 9, 2019

Mon. Sept. 9, 2019: Flexibility is the Necessity

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image courtesy of Pexels via pixabay.com

We post lists and try to hold ourselves (and each other accountable). Often, we don’t achieve what’s on the list.

Nothing annoys me more than the “experts” who say that’s the time to lower expectations. No. You keep your expectations high. If you only post what you know you can achieve, you won’t grow.

You SHOULD be frustrated when you don’t reach your goals.

The solution, however, isn’t to throw up your hands and whine that you’re depressed and anxious because you didn’t meet your goals, and give up.

The solution is to analyze what those goals are and figure out WHY you didn’t achieve them.

Often, it’s time management. We all have 24 hours in a day. How we choose to use them defines us. We have demands on us about earning a living and taking care of our families and also doing stuff that makes us happy and helps us recharge so we CAN earn a living and take care of our families. But we also have to figure out how to work our goals into that mix.

We get tired. We get discouraged.

Maybe some of the goals aren’t things you actually want, but things you THINK you want. If that’s the case, there’s nothing wrong with removing them from the list.

As we learn what we want and need in our lives, our goals shift. That’s a good thing.

Often, my To Do list is derailed because an unexpected opportunity lands on my desk. Unexpected opportunities are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if you follow every “new, shiny” you will never get anything finished, and it’s a self-defeating spiral. On the other hand, Opportunity often knocks once. If you dither or don’t do it out of fear or because it’s not on your list, it won’t come back.

And, with unexpected opportunities, you usually have to make a decision FAST.

The trick is to trust your instincts. Your heart will work on impulse, your head will make everything ten times more complicated than it needs to be, but your gut will lead you true. Trust your gut. As you get into the pattern of making the best decisions for you, you’ll learn how it feels when it’s “right.”

What happens if you make a wrong decision? Then you correct course. Take what you can from the experience and apply it moving forward.

Life is about movement, change, growth. Just because something is or is not on a list doesn’t mean there isn’t room for something better.

Learn to trust your gut. Learn to be flexible in a positive way. See how that improves your life.

In this month, this new cycle, keep an eye out for opportunities. Grab one that you normally would hesitate to try — IF IT FEELS RIGHT. Knock something off the list, if you need to, that feels less right.

Keep track of how it works, or doesn’t work.

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

Posted by: devonellington | September 3, 2019

September To Do List

September To Do List

The summer went cattywumpus, so I’m trying to get back on track. September often feels like the start of the year, to be met with fresh enthusiasm and organization. Here’s what needs to get done in September:

Finish galleys for GRAVE REACH
Start THE BARD’S LAMENT
Finish, polish, and submit “Pier-less Crime”
Start writing the play about Canaletto’s Sisters
Finish next draft of THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE
15 LOIs
8 Article pitches
30 boxes cleared out of the basement
Keep up with blogs & expand blog reach
PR for GRAVE REACH
Client work
Refinish the sewing table and the small drop-leafed table

What’s on your agenda for the month?

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