Looking Back on 2019

Yes, I’m a bit late in looking back on 2019. But I found it difficult to put into words my feelings about the last year and the three previous ones.

 
Before talking about 2019, I want to thank my followers and readers for their patience. My on again off again presence during the last four years can’t have been easy to follow. You have been faithful in spite of my erratic posting and communication and for that I am grateful.
 
As I typed this post title, I shuddered a bit as I thought about the year 2019 and what preceded it. It’s difficult to believe I’ve been in and out of blogging for almost four years. Additionally, I set my memoir manuscript aside in September 2018. I’ve not touched it since.
 
Progress in my mobility has encouraged me. My walking has improved thanks to the use of trekking poles rather than a cane or walker. Pain levels are down, thanks to a new pain management doctor. To my delight, a loss of nine pounds, despite my inability to engage in aerobic exercise, has lifted me up. All positives at the end of 2019.
 
These changes near the beginning of a new decade have infused me with a desire to begin writing again. I’ve been reading several books on nonfiction essay writing. I find I love this area of nonfiction storytelling. Current plans don’t include revisiting my current memoir manuscript any time soon. I have a couple of projects in mind which I’d like to try first.
 
As for the blog, posts will appear weekly on Wednesday. At the moment, I am uncertain when I will begin sending out my newsletter again. When its circulation is on the horizon, I will post about it here. 

Featured Image Attribution: Schwoaze from Pixabay

December 2019

December 2019 is here. Where did November, October, and September go? In my world, they seemed to fly by. How about you? The image above reflects mostly what I’ve been doing–reading by the fire.

In looking through my blog yesterday, I was shocked to find my last post was on November 19, 2019. The post is my review of Kathy Pooler’s second memoir, Just the Way He Walked (see Disclosures). I have other book reviews to share but I’ll be honest and not beat around the bush. My motivation to write, even a book review, is gone. 

I seek inspiration looking out the windows, listening to music, reading others’ work. Nothing happens. Nothing comes to me. I go back over my list of ideas for blog posts. Nothing jolts me into action. And it’s not just writing. 

Some days I can’t find interest in doing much of anything. I tackle the mundane–household chores, laundry, cleaning the kitchen following meals, wiping down countertops. These are chores that cry out to be dealt with NOW!

Why am I telling you all this? Simply to let you know that I’m going to turn out the lights on the blog until January 2020 in hopes of feeling more like the writer/blogger I have been. I may even tackle sending out a monthly newsletter. Who knows what the new year may bring?

With the preparations needed for the holiday season and appointments four out of five days next week, I need to devote time to get through this month. 

I came across this quote from Marianne Williamson this morning. 

Ego says,
‘Once everything falls into place,
I’ll feel peace.’
Spirit says,
‘Find your peace, and
everything will fall into place.’

A still small voice said, “You need to find peace with your current situation.” That’s my plan for December 2019.

Just one more thing before I go…

and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Put a Stop to Your Inbox Managing Your Time

Don’t Know About You, But My Inbox Has Taken Control!

It’s Sunday night around 10:30 pm. I’m taking one last look at my inbox before the new week starts. “What??” I scream. “159 emails in my inbox? It can’t be!” But it was. It often is that and worse. And it’s out of control at my hand. I allow my inbox to control my time.

How do I let it happen? By subscribing to this newsletter and the next one. Each tells me they will make me a better writer. Don’t we all want to be better at our craft? But that’s not all I subscribe to. Tempt me with platform building, social media expertise, writing courses, how to topics for writers, and I’ll subscribe.

And there are the emails that come from places like WordPress (my platform here), BlueHost (my site host), Google+ and Google Business, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Hootsuite, MailerLite, and the list goes on. They all want to make me aware of improvements or upgrades to make their service better for me. And all of a sudden, I’m buried in unread emails.

What Do You to Regain Control of Your Inbox?

I turned to my friend Google to try to solve my problem. Perhaps a little reading (in my spare time!) on the subject of too many emails would help. What I learned is: Everybody has a system they want you to believe is the best system ever devised to keep your inbox empty. Okay, okay! Enough is enough! Everybody seems to have a solution to every problem.

Out of all the ideas Google coughed up, I decided I’m comfortable with the one I’m using currently. I’ll explain how it works below. But first, I want to say you need to be certain you want to make changes in your email handling before you start. Otherwise, it’s going to be a hard journey. Maybe some redoing and undoing, which could be more frustrating than what you experience now.

How I Manage My Inbox.

We have been Comcast customers for years now. Although we have our gripes and complaints, when they make a change we grumble and it serves us well anyway. One feature in the email service I appreciate is the ability to use colored flags. Below is a screenshot of my inbox showing several colored flags.

The flags you see denote the email’s status. Red means immediate attention required. The purple tags relate to book reviews coming up. Light blue is an indicator that this should be read before others when I have reading time. There are other colors in my “crayon box:” orange = urgent follow-up, and yellow = no urgency follow-up. Other colors are available but not in use.

When I sense my inbox is crowded and my “tenants” aren’t happy, I sort my emails by “color,” giving me an overview of what needs to receive my attention. If an email not flagged is more than 3 weeks old, I take a quick look and either delete it or file it away in one of my email folders (see above at left margin). Note the use of a hashtag (#) with the top folders under my folders. These folders represent emails I move routinely from inbox to folder without opening them.

This method works well for me. For it to work for you, your email provider must have a way for you to mark emails, such as the flags I use. If that is not the case, you’ll need to design another plan or use one from the links I provide below.

One of my biggest stumbling blocks.

Remember all those people I mentioned in the second paragraph above? The ones who have a better way to build a platform, want to teach you how to be a better writer, who have the latest greatest book on social media and how to manage it, and on and on.

It’s often tempting to subscribe to some of these people, especially when you’re in a low place and looking for an easy way to remedy a problem you’re having. After a while, you find yourself with this inbox stuffed like a turkey on Thanksgiving. Do yourself a favor. Get rid of the newsletters and emails that are not benefitting you as a writer. Use that “unsubscribe” link. If you’re not receiving information or material that enhances your writing life, save the action of deleting the email for another task.

Now to Some Potentially Helpful Links.

Declare Email Bankruptcy and Get a Fresh Start by Michael Hyatt

How to Manage Your Email for Inbox Zero by Gretchen Louise

How to Keep Your Inbox at Zero by Caitlin Muir

4 Tips to Better Manage Your Emails by Jacqueline Whitmore

Seven Ways to Manage Email So It Doesn’t Manage You by Jeff Weiner


Perhaps you have a method of keeping your inbox clean or managing so that it’s not managing you. If so, please share your methods with us in the comment section below.

 

 

 

When Panic Sets In

Where did I put that?

Have you ever misplaced something? And then months later or maybe years have passed by, and guess what? You can’t remember where you put that treasured item. Then you panic!

On the evening of September 10, 2018, I found myself in a quandary. Husband Bob had left for his weekly Monday night band practice leaving the house empty save Maggie and me. I knew what I wanted/needed to work on…an outline for restructuring my memoir project. But where was that draft I so carefully wrapped in a bundle with beautiful ribbon back in 2016?

I searched high and low all over my sewing room/office shared space. In every nook and cranny. All this searching suited Maggie’s curiosity and the idea she was helping. My investigation took me nowhere. No folder, notebook, box, stack held my priceless (to me) stack of paper.

Frustration and panic set in.

What to do next? A cup of coffee, a good book, and Maggie in my lap. A calming and relaxing combination to ease the mind from my self-imposed stress. Perhaps I would think of someplace I hadn’t searched.

A half an hour or so later I had finished my coffee and put down my Kindle. As I stroked Maggie’s back, I struck upon an idea. Putting Maggie to the floor, I stood up and headed back to my workspace. I began plowing through standing magazine holders. To my surprise and relief, there it was–my beautiful, beribboned, marked up manuscript!

By now, it was time for bed and the next day other things took priority. However, I now know where that manuscript is, and I will try my hardest to remember its location.

Q4U: Have you ever forgotten where you’ve placed a manuscript, essay, or story you’re working on? Or do you have a nicely organized plan for keeping up with unfinished projects? Please share with us below.

Header Image Attribution: Via Lifewire

Chronic Illness and the Writer: A Series (Part 3)

Today’s post brings to a close this series. The first and second posts on chronic illness and the writer can be found here and here. The five remaining tips for coping with chronic illness and/or pain are shared below. As stated before, I’m not qualified to say these will work for everyone. I share them because, on occasion, they have worked for me. You know your body better than anyone and your illness as well. Let no one tell you what will work best for you. Decide for yourself. 

Tips for the not so good days.

If you need a refresher of the first five tips, take a moment to go back and review those in this post.

6. Practice Acceptance.

We all have dreams. Some come true. Some don’t. The part of my dream that came true is the publishing of several essays for inclusion in anthologies. So far my bestseller hasn’t seen publication.

Nothing would be more fulfilling than to have my memoir published alongside others in my online writing family. But it hasn’t happened for me. Soon after retirement, I began planning to my memoir, and I have a completed draft which I’ve revised again and again. What I didn’t plan for were the health issues that came galloping into my life. Continuing spine degeneration and chronic pain more or less control many of my days now. I find myself forced to accept the things I likely won’t do as a writer.
 
I have learned and also accepted that it takes me longer than others to complete tasks and projects. Patience isn’t one of my best traits, and learning acceptance of what isn’t going to happen is hard for me. There are days when my mental processes won’t wrap around my writing goals and projects. Some days I’m too fatigued to write. Or the pain is too much and the medications make me sleepy.

Acceptance is all I can do on those days. If you have to work through this process, please learn to practice acceptance with grace.

7. Put your health first.

This topic probably should have come earlier in the list of tips, but I think anyone with a chronic illness knows that putting your health first is important. If you have a day when nothing works to keep you comfortable other than taking a nap, take that nap. With a chronic illness or pain, your body and its systems are already compromised. Doing what your body requires will keep you feeling better in the long run.

On the “not so good” days it may be that all you feel like writing is one sentence. If that’s all you can get out, congratulate yourself. Perhaps using these days to brainstorm a new project is the best purpose you’ll find. Envision your characters and begin to structure their personalities. Another good use of down days is to read books by other authors. Learning from other writers is one of the best ways to learn how to write.

8. Seek out a support network either online or in your community.

As writers, we are encouraged to build a community of support and encouragement. As a chronically ill writer, this is even more important to your well-being and writing life.

The worst thing about a chronic illness or condition is being alone. Writers tend to work alone for the most part so it isn’t something new to those of us limited by our health issues. Yet, as you look around, you see everyone else looking healthy and energetic, having fun and being happy. And there you sit all alone taking medications and feeling sorry for yourself. Wouldn’t it be better if you had a place to go where others understand what you’re going through? After all, if they’re going through the same situation, there’ll be understanding and compassion.

One of the best ways to find such a network or supportive community is the internet. Take a look at Facebook or websites focused on your illness for recommendations. I’ve joined a couple of Facebook groups and have gotten answers to questions and found support on bad days. On good days, I can then encourage others. It’s a great way to find common ground with others in your situation.

9. Use a to-do list to reward yourself.

Rewarding yourself from time to time for even the smallest accomplishments is a great motivator. Using a to-do list not only gives you a way to track the things you want to accomplish but also a way to assign a reward of some kind when you check off an item. For example, if you write 500 words, allow yourself a certain amount of time on social media. Or let’s say I finish my book. I can buy myself that piece of exquisite pottery I’ve been wanting. This is a way to work your way through smaller amounts of the work effort and at the same time give yourself a reason to feel good about what you’re accomplishing on your good days. And sometimes even on the not so good days.

If you are looking for an app to help with tracking your tasks, look at one or more of the following: (1) Todoist (free/premium options) lets you keep track of everything in one place; (2) Wunderlist (free/premium options) tracks your tasks for home, office, school and more; (3) Microsoft To-Do (free) keeps your day in focus; (4) Ike (free) is a playful to-do list created in the spirit of President Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower; and (5) Habitica – Gamify Your Tasks (free) helps motivate you to get things done using a video game to improve your life habits. I’m not a user of any of these apps. I use Google Calendar to track things I need to accomplish–simply and easily. And free!

10. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes.

Whether it’s meeting writing goals, progress made in physical therapy or nutritional therapy, or completing an online course, celebrate your successes! Remember as you struggle with a chronic illness each day you’re up against obstacles not everyone else has to battle.

Did you get out of bed this morning despite the depression you’ve been fighting? Maybe you finished that short story and submitted it to a contest despite the fact that your fingers and hands were enveloped in pain. Or is that book on its way to the publisher? If any of these or some other accomplishment found its way into your life, celebrate the victory over your situation.

Don’t let the impossibility you feel about big goals get you down. Look at the small accomplishments you’ve already made. See how far you’ve come. Look at the number of bad days you’ve already survived. Set your modesty aside and be proud of yourself!

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Header Image Attribution: Chronic Fatigue Clinic

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Coming soon:

  • A look at successful writers despite their battles with chronic illnesses.
  • Review of a new memoir by a young man from Cameroon and the struggles he has overcome.
  • Some time for a couple of day in the life posts (if you aren’t familiar with these, check out this and another).