Bouncing Back on The First Day of Spring

IMG_6690

I published my last blog post on Sept. 1, 2014. Fast forwarding to today brings us to March 20, 2016 — the first day of spring, and the first day I’m bouncing back to blogging!

Yes, friends, it’s been that long since I last wrote here. To be honest, I was somewhat ashamed upon realizing a whole year and a half had passed. And that was without even a pseudo-farewell post to say, “I won’t be writing for a while.” (How rude.)

If you were consistently reading my blog at the time though, I’m sure you knew it was coming. Publishing four posts with gaps of four to eight months in between each of them (see for yourself: one, two, three, four) doesn’t necessarily scream, “This blog is SO active!”

But even when I was posting infrequently, it didn’t change the fact that I always experienced much happiness from writing here. I started this blog because I needed a creative outlet that would fulfill my desire to string words together and form ideas, narratives, stories…that you might be able to relate to. Not surprisingly, I’ve felt an obvious void since I stopped.

To get this thing up and running again, I had to make some commitments. I pray that these commitments will extend their reach beyond this blog alone and to all aspects of my life — what a difference that would make!

  • Save enough time. You can’t continue pouring out if your cup is empty. That’s something I learned the hard way. Loving others with a serving spirit and patient heart is so very important to me. But, I know now that I can’t love others as well as I’d like if I don’t commit to saving enough time to also rest, take care of myself and pursue my passions, such as writing.
  • Plan ahead. I’m a great planner at work and for other activities where I’m doing things for others. But for myself, I can be quite the poor planner, neglecting what actually means the most to me. For my blog, I’m committing to planning ahead (thanks to Wunderlist for keeping me organized) and setting aside a few hours each week specifically for writing.
  • Kiss perfection goodbye. No matter how much I plan, there’s bound to be something that won’t fall into place perfectly. In spite of that, I can’t stop executing, which is what I’ve  done in the past. Today, I commit to kissing perfection goodbye and pushing forward with writing no matter what, which leads to my last commitment…
  • Get back up. If I find that I haven’t followed through on each of these commitments, or that I’ve allowed my writing to come to a halt, I commit to getting back up. Simple as that.

Have you ever let a passion project fall by the wayside? How did you get back on track?

I’d love to hear from you now that I’m back in the game — don’t hesitate to comment!

Add me on Bloglovin’ or Feedly

Advertisements

3 Reasons to Work and Write From a Coffee Shop

photo

As I write this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop. The house music is playing at a dull roar overhead, countless conversations are bouncing off the shop’s exposed brick walls and I hear the constant whir of the coffee grinders and milk steamers. The natural light is pouring in from the tall windows to my right, letting all of us coffee-shop-goers take a peek at the goings-on outside.

Yet, I’m writing. And my focus is nearly unfaltering.

I’ve often asked myself, how does that work? Because on the other hand, I reach a point most afternoons at the office where I struggle to fully focus on client projects — no matter that we have a pretty quiet office environment. Even if it isn’t absolutely peaceful and silent, that’s not something that my noise-canceling headphones and music can’t cure.

Regardless, my mind wanders and I then find that I haven’t done any work in the last 15 minutes (well, there goes a .25 docked from my billable record for the day — see #21 of this article).

Every time I visit a coffee shop, however, my work flourishes. I’ve written personal blog posts in record time. I’ve written bylined articles and website copy, or developed a communications plan in a more efficient manner than if I’d been sitting at the office.

Wesley Verhoeve, founder of Family Records and GNTLMN.com, wrote an article for Fast Company a couple of weeks ago that explained exactly why working from coffee shops can help you to be more productive. His three reasons include:

  1. A change of environment stimulates creativity. Even in the most awesome of offices we can fall into a routine, and a routine is the enemy of creativity.
  2. Fewer distractions. It sounds counter-intuitive, but working from a bustling coffee shop can be less distracting than working from a quiet office.
  3. Community and meeting new people. Meeting new people always provides me with new ideas, a different perspective at existing problems, or an interesting connection to a new person doing something awesome that inspires me.

I agree with each of those points — they couldn’t be truer for me (and maybe you, if you decide to give working from a coffee shop a try!). Check out Verhoeve’s article, “Why You Should Work From a Coffee Shop, Even When You Have an Office,” for a fuller explanation of the three reasons above, and for his suggestions on how to make the most of your coffee shop visit. And when you make that coffee shop visit, let me know how it went for you!

photo credit:  Yours truly, @ Octane Coffee Bar

On Capturing Thoughts, Collecting Journals and Notebooks

I walked into Papyrus one day to purchase a bridal shower card and gift bag. After a few minutes of quick browsing, I almost walked out of the store with only the items I needed. That is, until I saw the display shelf of notebooks and  journals. I bet you can guess what happened next — I stopped. It just couldn’t be helped! I couldn’t take my eyes off this, that and the other…oh, and even more.

I never thought of myself as someone who would enjoy collecting things. But I was wrong. Some people are avid about collecting coins, others collect stamps and yet others collect Beanie Babies (hello, 1990s). If I were to collect anything, I’m pretty sure it’d be journals and notebooks.

I fought against buying anything from the display, but in the end, I picked up a 2-pack of the Volant Moleskine journals anyway. I walked up to the register and had a surprisingly enlightening conversation with the store associate. It went something like this:

Him: Did you find everything alright?
Me: Yes, I did, thank you. I shouldn’t be buying these notebooks…but I had to pick them up.
Him: I get that way every time I see journals in the store. I have plenty of blank ones on my shelf, but I continue to purchase new ones anyway.
Me: Same here.
Him: You shouldn’t hesitate. I’d suggest picking up the journals whenever you want them. Because you know what? You’ll eventually fill them up with the most creatively written ideas and thoughts — so creative that you never would have imagined them coming to mind before.

And he’s right. For me, there’s something that’s incredibly fulfilling about writing in journals, so why hesitate? I’ve written before about how I start almost every writing project with pen and paper, so I think I’d rather continue to fuel that fire.

Not to mention, I let ideas float away from me far too often. Like bubbles ascending toward a bright blue sky, those ideas pop, and I can never find them again. Keeping that in mind, I’ve started to make sure I always have one of my notebooks with me — whether in my purse, in my car or in a coat pocket — to make sure I can capture each of my thoughts in an instant. That’s an important takeaway from Aristotle Onassis: “Writing ideas down will make you act upon them. If you don’t write them down you will forget them. THAT is a million dollar lesson.”

So from here on out, you won’t find me hesitating in bookstores when I see a journal or notebook and instantly fall in love. You’ll instead see me walking away with it and either adding it to my collection at home or dropping it into my purse.

One day, the pages will be full.

photo credits:
Amir Kuckovic via photopin cc
[Clint] via photopin cc
Jeff Kubina via photopin cc

4 Ways Pen & Paper Can Kick Start Your Writing Process

The Pilot G2 Gel Ink Pens and Moleskin notebooks are my all-time favorites.

I’m old fashioned when it comes to writing — I start everything on pen and paper, whether it’s a blog post, press release or article. My coworkers discovered this tendency of mine about a couple weeks ago, and they were appalled. I think I can almost hear your surprised interjections now.

But honestly, writing with a pen and paper gives me a better push than starting out cold on the computer. In fact, some people believe pen and paper are the “most underrated creativity and productivity tools,” and  I couldn’t agree more. As much as you might hate writing by hand, you may want to consider trying it. Here are four ways “old-fashioned” pen and paper can kick start your writing process in our digital age:

  • Less  distractions. If you write your first draft by hand, you’re less likely to become distracted by your email alerts, breaking news or friends’ updates on social networks. After all, the pen, piece of paper and hard surface on which you’re writing will be the only things in sight. Unless you for some reason get distracted by flaws in wood grain (which I hope is unlikely), you’ll really be able to hone in on the task at hand.
  • Quicker progress. Let’s face it, filling up a page on Microsoft Word is 10 times tougher than filling up a sheet of lined paper by hand. In an hour, you might fill up just one page on Word. So instead of feeling like you’re making zero progress, make it easier on yourself — you’ll feel like you’re making quicker progress after you’ve filled up three sheets of lined paper in just one hour.
  • Lower pressure. I don’t know about you, but I’m incredibly critical of my writing when it’s in an electronic form. When I write on pen and paper, it’s a different story. I allow myself to write sentences and phrasing that aren’t necessarily up to par, which helps me get into a groove without frequent pauses  and self-interruptions. Sometimes it really is best to leave the nitpicking out of the first draft phase.
  • A hard record. When writing in Word, you delete entire sentences and phrasing with no record of how they were written them previously. It’s different when writing by hand — if you strongly dislike how you’re not a fan of how you wrote a sentence or phrase the first time, a simple strikethrough will fix that. You’ll still be able to read the original phrasing, in case you want to revert to it. (It’s always great to have options!)

After you’ve finished writing your first draft by hand, it’s smooth sailing. It won’t take much time to transfer your writing to the computer, and from there, you can go through rounds of revisions. The important thing is that you’ll have the hardest step — the first draft — out of the way.

Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts. Why do or don’t you use pen and paper as part of your writing process? Leave a comment on what works best for you, or answer the poll to weigh in!