It’s a Real Job!

scheduleAs I’m creating this new direction in my career, I realize more and more that I have to make it a “real job”–that is, even though I’m a “home-based business” I need to behave like a professional “at work.”  Therefore, I’ve created a new 8-hours-a-day, 40-hours-a-week schedule.

I start “work” at 9 am daily, in my home office.  Up at 5:30 a.m., I have had my personal meditation/journaling time, exercised or gone for a walk, showered and dressed, eaten breakfast and put supper in the crockpot or prepared a casserole for the oven, and tidied the house as needed. And now it’s “off to work.”

My work day starts with 3/4 hours of writing time. Then it’s on to my daily schedule–which can include tutoring, followed up by reports and prep for the next lesson; business items (bookkeeping, recording keeping); blogging, e-newsletter prep, freelance writing, and other projects.  I take 45 minutes off for lunch mid-day, followed by 1/2 hour of relaxation: a nap, a walk with some photography, reading good literature, or a similar activity. Then the “work day” continues to 6:45 p.m.

In the past, I have often met clients at their home, or a coffee shop, or for a walk while we chat. But I’ve realized that these kinds of meetings easily take far longer than expected, and can easily descend into chit-chat and way too much coffee and snacks; therefore, I will now have client meetings in my office, or, in they prefer lunch meetings, I must be back to the office at the set time. It may not be as much “fun,” but it’s business, right?

After supper (which is already made, as I put on the crock-pot in the morning, or placed the pre-made casserole in the oven an hour before suppertime), I have the evening free for time with my husband, reading, gardening or other hobbies, or whatever doesn’t take too much “brainpower.” It’s a time to relax and slow down before bed, so I will sleep well. Bedtime 9:15 pm!

Oh! And one other very important change: I will do no more than 1/2 hour of personal e-mail and Facebook, once per day, and no more than 30-45 minutes of business e-mail and Facebook once per day.  E-mail comes first, and then Facebook if time is left over–I really need to cut back on my time-wasting with Facebook … and with the temptation to flop in front of the TV in the evening.  Oh yes, and I’m eating my meals at the table again, instead of in front of the TV or with my nose in a book or magazine (which always results in losing track of time).

And hopefully, this all means that I actually have real weekends!

Do you think I can stick to my schedule? Let’s see!

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My Spring Break Mini-Writers Retreat

writers retreatWell, I was planning to do a substantial personal “writer’s retreat” over Spring Break–and with grandkids visiting :-), some editing work, and various other unexpected hiccups, it didn’t quite turn out exactly that way.  But I did have a good holiday, with all my tutoring students taking holidays for the full two weeks.  And I managed to squeeze it lots of writing-related activity along the way:

  • I did a fair amount of journal writing
  • I finished up following through Charlene Kingston’s excellent “Create Ebooks Your Customers Will Love” course at her socialbusinesswebinars.com site. The workbook for the 20 lessons has been incredibly detailed with wonderful worksheets, and the lesson videos were also interesting and easy to follow. If you want a clear, detailed guide to creating e-books for your business, you should definitely check out this course–and her many other excellent mini-courses and webinars. Very helpful!
  • Then my “big job” : After researching, and making a big organizational wall chart with post-it notes, I did the first draft and the first edit of the e-book I have created during the course. Now I’m working on designing it using Canva.com’s templates.  Sweet! My goal is to start an e-mail newsletter on my penandpapermama.com blog and use the e-book as a gift for signing up for the newsletter.  The topic of the e-book is a clear and simple explanation of the 3 main types of publishing (traditional, hybrid, and self-publishing) and the several sub-types of each, with their pros and cons. Many writers find themselves confused by all the choices in publishing these days, so this e-book is my effort to help people make the best publishing decisions for their personal needs.
  • I enjoyed reading and getting inspired for my own writing, with magazines I’ve had stacked up for some time, like The New Quarterly: Canadian Writers and Writing, WordWorks: British Columbia’s Magazine for Writers (Federation of BC Writers), and Geist: Ideas and Culture.
  • I did the “childhood memories” challenge for the Penticton Writers and Publishers (PWAP) group’s March meeting–a description of my childhood home from ages 5 to 7, based on a “memory map” I drew for that period in my life.
  • I am going to be attending the Okanagan Valley Writer’s Festival April 8 – 10 in Penticton BC.
  • I finally got busy and really explored using my wonderful Christmas gift–an Intuous Art Tablet and Pen! I tried it out on a variety of software programs, both graphics programs and Word Processing software–and for playing Solitaire too 🙂
  • I attended a Word Guild writers meeting in Kelowna BC–and read a sample of a story I’ve been writing based on the biblical story of “Ruth.” Got some great critiquing input 🙂
  • Read and took notes on lots of useful online articles relating to publishing and writing.
  • Went for walks along Skaha Lake and by the local oxbows and had fun playing with the grandkids in local parks–and went for a wonderful lunch with one writer friend, and coffee with another.
  • While working on my “big project” I also researched producing e-books using Word, Publisher, and PowerPoint.  Lots of great options, and fun to explore.
  • I’ve been reading from an old-timey (pre-internet!) book called Writing Articles That Sell by G.J. Matson. It might be “technologically” out of date, but oh my goodness–crammed with great ideas and inspiration for writing magazine articles.

So what do you think? Does that sound like a pretty good “writing retreat” to you?  Now if only I’d been in a little cabin by the wild Pacific coast, it would have been perfect!  Oh well, something to look forward to another time, right?

 

New Directions

hourglassTwo months have passed since I last posted (actually almost 3 months if you don’t count my one post in January!). This was supposed to be my daily accountability method to keep going with the path I was on. The only thing is, I’ve changed directions, at least somewhat.

Some things are the same. I’m still tutoring, and I even have a couple new students. I’m still editing, too, though I’ve become more focused in what I’ll do. I love memoir, historical fiction, a variety of non-fiction, literary fiction, magazine articles, some kinds of spiritual writing, as well as some poetry and children’s stories.  I don’t so much love certain genres like romance, thrillers, occult, horror, and such, and I’m happy to pass those editing opportunities onto others who enjoy them.

So what, you may be wondering, is this “new direction?” I’ve developed a very strong interest in all the different aspects of publishing that are now available, and I’ve been exploring related topics with great interest: agents, queries, proposals, traditional publishing, hybrid publishing, multiple forms of indie/self-publishing, platform/brand building, book design, social media, email lists and newsletters, marketing, freelance writing (articles, guest blog posts, etc.).

The more I research, the more interested I’ve become, and I’ve been experimenting with a number of these areas myself.  I love to teach and share what I’ve been learning. I’ve decided to offer workshops and seminars, do research for writers, and consult in areas like understanding publishing options, writing queries and proposals, and finding agents and/or publishers.

Some of the “study” I’ve done in the past 2 months includes:

  • order and study the “Agent Kit” from Writers Digest
  • learn to use canva.com and do other design studies
  • listen to numerous webinars and videos such as “Successful Self-Publishing ” with Joanna Penn and Joel Friedlander
  • order and read books like William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Query Letters
  • read numerous articles on the internet
  • take Tim Grahl’s 30-day podcast course “Hacking Amazon” and some other similar online courses
  • follow a number of really good writing/publishing blogs
  • take Charlene Kingston’s “Create E-Books Your Customers Will Love” course
  • and much more!

Meanwhile, I’m still writing memoir stories, and working through Bill Roorbach’s Writing Life Stories. I’m also trying out the updated Grammarly software to improve my editing.

I’ve organized my life by creating a huge wall chart with mind maps covering my tutoring, editing, writing, publishing, online activities–and friends, family, spiritual, and creative life.

I’m busy updating my brochures, and preparing to start an e-newsletter using MailChimp.  I’m also starting an actual “writer’s blog” in addition to my penandpapermama.com site. And yes–my new site will use my name: normajhill.com. Coming soon!

It’s Spring Break this week and next, and my tutoring students are all taking a break. So this is my opportunity to take my own “writer’s retreat” and do lots of writing–including blogging again–and get my “new direction” in gear. Enough with the studying (though I’ll continue to keep up-to-date); but it’s time now for ACTION–starting with reorganizing my office and writing 3 blog posts today.

So … am I forgiven for my temporary disappearance?

Back from holidays

happy new yearNo, I didn’t stop this blog! But I did have a houseful of family guests, kids and grand-kids, over the entire Christmas and New Year holidays.  I did a lot of cooking and cleaning and visiting–but not a lot of brain work, unless you count a few games of Scrabble.

My last guest left yesterday, so today I am back on schedule. I did do a bit of tutoring last week, and I actually wrote my better-late-than-never 2015 Christmas letter just one week after New Year’s Day. It was quite a surprise to me to sit down and realize how much I actually accomplished in the past year, even though I wasn’t well a lot of the time. I am pleased!

Also, this past week, I received a copy of the most recent issue of Archivos magazine, which just came out. Archivos is the journal of the Okanagan Archive Trust Society , and I have edited articles for them in the past, but in this issue I have had an article of my own published: “Mott Family Memories.” It has been a long time since I have submitted articles to magazines, so I am delighted that my first submission was accepted–in fact, I was asked to submit!

Also, in the past week, after the majority of my company left, I read the January issue of Writer’s Digest–one of my favorite magazines. For Christmas, my daughter gave me an “Intuous Creative Pen and Tablet–Art” and I’ve been having fun learning to use it to create drawings on my computer. At the same time, I’m learning to use Gimp and Canva graphic design software. I am really enjoying it!

I also ordered an “Agent” kit from Writer’s Digest, to learn more about how to deal with literary agents. And I reorganized the filing system on my computer so I can find things more easily and efficiently. I had a lot of files, both written and picture files, filed in several locations, so with my reorganization, I have also deleted the extras, freeing up space on my computer.  I also made sure everything was backed up. And then I made a “2016 To-Do List.” It’s a bit overwhelming–I really need to sit down and prioritize–and do some deleting as well! And I watched a couple video webinars and read a couple articles related to writing. So I’m back to work and looking forward to a great new year!

Mystery project

mysteryOver the weekend, I continued to go through old journal notes, picking out bits that could be potential writing prompts to develop. But mostly I did a big mystery project over two days using photos and interview stories. I am putting it together with Publisher. And that’s all I’m saying right now! More details when it all comes together 🙂

This morning I spent some more time on “the project,” then had a meeting with an editing client, worked with two tutoring students (and did reports and preps following), and also did my usual Monday admin stuff.

And that’s it! Enough!

busy busy busy

22aThe past couple days have been busy!  Thursday we went early to the grocery store to get a good deal on Christmas turkeys and ham. Then home and posted “Tips on Working With an Editor” as well updating my “tutoring topics” page and “editing and writing topics” page on my penandpapermama.com site.

Then on to this site, posting a new header photo (after trying out several), and adding a new section, “Prayers and Meditations,” with 10 posts to start.  I had done the drafts a long time ago but forgot to post them!

After that, drive around town, getting gas, doing business at the Strata office, working with our strata maintenance guy to fix some cameras, and finally coffee with a fellow writer.

I spent much of the afternoon working on editing old journal notes to eventually post on the “Prayers and Meditations” section I set up earlier.  And in the evening, my husband and I went through his childhood snapshots, and labeled them with post-it notes.

Today I wrote a post on My Church Journey site and did more work on editing old journal entries.. I taught 2 tutoring students, and did preps and reports for them, as well as for another student. Finally, I scanned my husband’s childhood pictures, as well as pictures taken at the various logging camps he worked at over the years. I posted an album of them on his Facebook page. The childhood pictures are for a special project!

Old timey books

Little Women A friend was downsizing his family’s book collection recently and asked me if I’d like their copy of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. On a whim, I said, “Sure!”  I haven’t read it since I was a child, nor have I seen the movie. But I opened it up and started reading. My goodness! It brought back such memories, not just of that story, but of many of the books I read during my childhood–especially books from my grandparents. It really reflected the day and age when they were brought up, and reading Little Women I understood their attitudes and actions so much more clearly–beliefs and values which they passed on to my parents, and they all passed on to me.  Indeed, many of which I also passed on to my children, who are now passing them on to my grandchildren. Some people think our children and grandchildren are kind of old-fashioned, but so many others compliment them on their respectfulness, honesty, caring, helping, work ethic, and beliefs.

Yesterday I spent most of the day doing a variety of short editing jobs. I always enjoy so much reading new material, and trying to help writers refine their work while at the same time respecting and maintaining their personal voices.

Today was mainly taken up with tutoring, catching up email letters, and writing a post at my penandpapermama.com site . . . which I just now remembered I haven’t quite finished. Guess I need to complete it before bedtime!

Short note

This weekend was “family time” — wonderful to have the grand-kids sleep over. But sad to lose a precious niece.

Today was a bit of a mix-up, with me feeling so emotional. But I did get my Monday “admin” items completed finally, did my tutoring, lots of tutoring reports and preps, and a wee bit of editing.

Freebie Friday again

freebiesYesterday evening I had fun working through some Gimp tutorials . . . and am looking forward to using what I’ve learned–with some excellent help from Shelby, thank you!–to label the photos on my haidagwaaibuildingbridges.com website to make the posts more easily accessible.

Today I added a post to my “My Church Journey” site; I also added some “Friday Freebie” items on penandpapermama.com — fun “Read and Do” activity suggestions, and two free downloads of reading comprehension activities for some Scooby Doo titles.

I did some tutoring with one of my regular students, as well as spend a couple hours helping out a local young man with his journalism writing skills. He is developing his own local news online site–good for you, Jordan!

I sat in on a live webinar from Verbal to Visual, and used some of the visual note-taking skills I’ve been learning there to write a fun “rebus” type letter to my grand-kids; I’ve also been using visual note-taking sketching to develop learning activities for my young tutoring students.

And my aunt, who I haven’t seen for ages, dropped by to visit for a couple hours. An awesome surprise!

Focus on blogs

blog updateThe past couple days I have been focusing on improving my blogs.  One big update was at HaidaGwaiiBuildingBridges.com, where I changed to a different WordPress theme–and while I was at it, discovered that at some point I had written a bunch of draft posts, and totally forgot about them. So I’ve started editing the posts, and digging through my photos for images that work with each post. I’ve been getting tips from various people about how to make the site more accessible, like labeling the pictures which comprise the front page and actually are links to the posts. Since I don’t have any decent graphics software, I’ve been directed to check out Gimp, and now will be on a big learning curve to figure that out.  I’ve wanted for a long time to become more tech-savvy when it comes to graphics, so I’m actually looking forward to this new adventure.

I also did some work on the blog on my PenAndPaperMama.com website.  Unbelievable as it might seem, I never bothered to use categories for my posts, even though the blog covers a variety of topics. What on earth was I thinking (or not thinking!)?  Anyway, I have gone through all my posts, and have created categories for all of them–which are now listed on the sidebar, which should make searching the site much easier. I’ve also put up links to my social media and a “subscribe by email” widget as well. About time.  Oh, and links to my main other websites.  I must have been in a haze when I set up the site!

Oh! In my last post I mentioned I had sent copies of a “letter to the editor” to 3 local newspapers. I’m happy to report I’ve been getting some pretty amazing responses from readers 🙂