Tag Archives: productivity

Writing Journal 44: Creativity Tools for Writers

Writing Journal 44: Creativity Tools for Writers

My writing journal for Thursday, September 25, 2014. You can find all the writing journal entries here.

The first draft of the client’s novella is done; now for the editing. In preparation for that, I compiled it from Scrivener to MOBI, so that I can read it tonight without distractions.

That just took a couple of minutes, so I’ve got time to write a quick draft of a short story for my Christmas collection of 25 stories; I managed 1,500 words. It will grow to around 3,000 words at a guess. I’ve just sketched in a couple of the big scenes. I created a graphic of how many scenes you need for various types of fiction projects. Students have found it useful.

Next, onward to the company history I’m ghostwriting. This went slowly this morning, only 800 words. I need to get more information, and I need to backtrack too. Whenever I feel uncertain about a project, it’s always wise to go back. As I tell my students: you can’t have a strong book without a strong beginning, and it may take you a while to get there.

I fix Honey’s breakfast, then have my own, while reading email. I caught up on some email last night, but there’s still a backlog. I need to deal with some of it before it gets out of hand.

Then it’s time to get to work on the company history, and check my draft blog posts until lunch.

Readers have asked about productivity, and how to stay creative.

Creativity tools: clustering, free writing and doodling

You can’t push creativity. However you can use tools which will help you to be creative. My favorite creativity tools are clustering, free writing, and doodling.

Vital: give yourself space. If you’re working with clients, you’ll be tempted to push yourself hard, so that you can meet deadlines. When you do that, you risk burning out. Years ago, I went through a burned out period, and once was enough. I always pull myself back if I feel that I’m pushing.

A tip: have fun. I can’t emphasize that enough. That’s not a frivolous statement. New writers tend to think “having fun” is the last thing they should be doing, but as Carl Jung said:

“the creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by play.”

If you haven’t discovered this for yourself, you’ll soon learn from experience.

When you stop having fun with something, take it as a warning that you’re pushing yourself too hard. Step back.

Another tip: take BREAKS. I use timers, and after every 30 to 40 minutes (depending on the project), I take a five minute break. I’ll do a crossword, or listen to some music. I might make a coffee, or take Honey outside. I might send a couple of texts. Whatever — I get up, move around, and clear my mind.

Yes, sometimes I get so involved that I don’t do this, but I know that I’ll be more productive when I take regular breaks. I use various timers, my current favorites are Repeat Timer Pro, and Tomatoes.

Lunch at my computer today, while browsing social media. I didn’t get a chance to walk this morning. It’s raining.

A full afternoon

I start off the afternoon with the company history, and do 2,800 words. I’m pleased. However, it’s taken over three hours. I didn’t want to stop. I knew I’d have trouble getting into the right frame of mind for this section again.

Next, the Kindle ebook for my coaching client. I made notes and did some research an managed 1,000 words on that.

I had to break off to return some calls, and respond to an urgent email message.

With that done, it’s time for the daily review, and totaling my word counts. Tonight, I’ll need to catch up with email, and read the MOBI of the novella.

Team Up: yes, it’s the final one for the year

We’ve received some questions about Team Up.

Yes, this is the final program for the year. Once we hit October, we’re coming into the very busy holiday sales period. It usually means a rush of copywriting projects, so look for the next Team Up to be scheduled for March or April 2015.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Writing Journal 38: More On Bullet Journal

Writing Journal 38: More On Bullet Journal

My writing journal for Friday, September 19, 2014. You can find all the writing journal entries here.

A complicated morning. I managed to complete the nonfiction book edits; that’s now ready to go off to the client. I need to complete the rush copywriting job; that will take a while. I make a good start on it.

Time for Honey’s breakfast, and my own. I read email while I eat my toast, and have a couple of extra-strong coffees. All the student feedback will need to wait until tomorrow. I have a meeting late this afternoon. It will take several hours, so I won’t be able to write tonight. Julia can handle the general email enquiries.

A quick walk, and then it’s back to copywriting. I’ve promised the client that he’ll get it today, and he will. :-)

iOS 8 seems to have downloaded itself to my devices, so there’s short diversion while I get them updated. I’ve been so busy the past week that I haven’t had a chance to check what’s new in this iOS. I’ve heard that you can now copy straight into Evernote, which is good.

Love the bullet journal system

As you may know, I procrastinate, if I allow it. After just a day of using the bullet journal system, I’ve managed to complete two tasks which have been hanging fire for a couple of weeks. There’s something about seeing something written on paper which inspires a “must do this NOW” feeling. No idea why that is, but it’s working for me.

Ryder Carroll, the creator of bullet journal, is currently running a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign was fully funded within eight hours. And yes, I’m a backer. Not only do I like the bullet journal, I’m also a big fan of Leuchtturm1917. So Ryan’s new “unlimited” funding tier appealed to me.

More writing on the copywriting project. It’s moving right along, so I’ll get it done after lunch.

Ghostwriting: the company history

I manage 2,200 words on that; I’ll need to do more over the weekend. Julia’s scheduled more chats with the client for next week. Let’s hope we can keep up the momentum. That’s always a challenge when you’re ghostwriting — you need the information to keep flowing, so you can keep writing.

And it’s time for lunch. Today, we’re having our usual Friday lunch out. Hummingbird cake, here I come. :-)

Back again, and on with the client’s copywriting project. Finally, it’s done. Julia will proof it, and send it off to the client.

Back to the novella

I feel odd writing fiction in the afternoon. To me, it’s an early-morning activity. I get into it, and a manage 1,800 words, which is good. I need to outline the next couple of scenes, so that I can start work on them tomorrow morning.

That’s it for today. I’ve done my daily review, and totted up my word counts. A meeting tonight, and the week is done too.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Writing Journal 37: Bullet Journaling

Writing Journal 37: Bullet Journaling

My writing journal for Thursday, September 18, 2014. You can find all the writing journal entries here.

No fiction this morning, because I need to get the client’s rush copywriting job done by tomorrow. (The one to promote the inventory of new products.) I worked on the nonfiction book edits late last night , because I need to get those done by tomorrow too. Therefore, I spent the first three hours of my day focusing on those two projects. This week has zoomed by so quickly.

Oooh… the embarrassment…

Last night, while rearranging my schedule for the next couple of weeks, I discovered that I’d allowed a small copywriting project to slip through the cracks. Highly embarrassing, and guilt-inducing, because this client has been with me for years.

How could this happen? I use OmniFocus, Things, Evernote, and my handwritten journals. After I stopped slapping myself upside the head, I decided to implement a bullet journaling process. Not only because of the missed project, but also because I forget to add ideas, insights and inspirations from my daily handwritten journal to OmniFocus et al — I tell myself I’ll do it “later”, and later never arrives.

More on bullet journaling later today.

Breakfast for Honey, and breakfast for me, while I scan the day’s email. I deal with the responses which will take just a few minutes. (The two minute rule makes sense.) I leave the rest for Julia to schedule.

Then I deal with the missed copywriting project; I make a good start on it, and will have it done by close of business today. Before I start, I call the client and leave a sincere apology on his machine. I feel horrible over this. It should never have happened.

Next, a super-quick walk.

Copywriting marketing materials, and blogging

I need to get this rush job with the product inventory done tomorrow, so I spend the rest of the morning on that.

Phone calls, and lunch at my computer, while scanning social media, and checking over my draft blog posts.

Next, blogging for clients

I love blogging, but it’s relentless. No matter what else is happening, you need to keep up with your blog posts. I complete four posts, and create drafts for several more. I also add content for other posts which will be published this week. I schedule three posts.

Then it’s back to the copywriting project I missed. I leave it for Julia to proof and send to the client. I draft a quick note from me, apologizing again. Thank heavens that’s done.

Bullet journaling: write, see, remember

As I said yesterday, I keep several handwritten journals, because they help my productivity, by keeping me focused on the tasks at hand.

Journaling averts inertia. Inertia is always a big danger for writers. You’re battling inertia every time you begin a project. You battle it during projects too… You daydream and muse, instead of writing. Yes, thinking is important. However, general “thinking” tends to drift off into floating clouds of fantasy, and before you know it, you’re mulling over your next vacation, or wondering what happened to your red-headed best friend from second grade.

It’s no wonder that writers procrastinate. I used to be the queen of procrastination, and it’s an on-going battle to keep it under control. Journaling helps.

I investigated bullet journaling a few months back. A couple of writers I trust are keen on it. However, I didn’t see the need at the time. Now I do, because there’s a big problem with digital scheduling. Yes, it’s effective. However, it’s also possible to back-burner tasks endlessly, and there’s no real day by day archive of what you’ve done, and why you did it.

I’m not calling out any product, but have you seen the archive in OmniFocus, for example? Totally useless. Everything’s jumbled in together. I should say that I’ve used OmniFocus for years — even before it was OmniFocus, and will continue to use it. OmnifFocus started out as Ethan Schoonover’s Kinkless GTD — which was amazing for its time.

So, I decided to implement my own bullet journal. It’s easy to set up in just a few minutes — watch the video here, and you’ve got the gist. Once I’d set it up — in the Leuchtturm1917/ Whitelines medium hardcover notebook I received the other day — I immediately entered the starred items from my handwritten journal. I star items I want to transfer elsewhere, but I rarely get around to doing it.

Of course, it’s MUCH too early to judge how my new system will turn out. I do feel more in control, however. And in the course of setting up the Leuchtturm1917, I remembered several tasks I’d forgotten to enter anywhere else. Yes, writing by hand is slower, but it helps your memory. I’ve created a couple of Collections too, and have added them to the index so that I can find them again.

Fiction, at the wrong time of the day

I returned some phone calls, then opened Scrivener to get back to the novella. I thought that I’d just write a few hundred words, so I wouldn’t lose the thread of the project, but I managed just over 1,000 words, which is excellent, considering how distracted I’ve been.

Finally, my daily review — of my bullet journal and others :-) — and the day’s done. I’ll spend some time on the company history tonight, and the ebook I’m writing for a client. You end up having to scramble to catch up when things slip through the cracks. :-)

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Presentation Apps: 5 Haiku Deck Tips

Presentation Apps: 5 Haiku Deck Tips

While there are many presentation apps, there are none which are as useful as Haiku Deck. Not only can you use this app for personal presentations, you can publish them on the Haiku Deck website, and share your decks with the world.

What’s Haiku Deck? Martin Smith nails it:

Haiku Deck is a magical visual merchandising tool… Haiku Deck combines visual marketing, tactics and strategy into an easy to use online marketing tool.

If you normally create presentations with PowerPoint or Keynote, you’ll be thrilled at how FAST you create them with Haiku Deck. Here’s why:

  • Instant images. You don’t need to buy images, or search for free images with CC licenses, or resize and otherwise mess with images. Consider how many more presentations you could create – and will enjoy creating – if you don’t have to spend time collecting images;
  • Instant formatting. Haiku Deck uses themes, so there’s no formatting. That said, you can easily start your next PP presentation in Haiku Deck by collecting the images you need there, then export your deck to PowerPoint.

PowerPoint

My Authentic Writing deck exported from Haiku Deck to PowerPoint.

Our first three tips cover presentations in general. The final two tips increase your creativity and productivity when you use Haiku Deck.

1. BELIEVE: Be Passionate

If you dislike presentations, focus on your enthusiasm. Become enthusiastic about your topic, and smile. Visualize yourself giving an upbeat, energetic presentation. Watch Steve Jobs. Here’s part of his 2010 keynote for the iPad. If you can match Jobs’s enthusiasm, you’ll give a great presentation.

2. Nouns. And Verbs. Keep It Simple

Although you can use bullet points in your presentations, don’t, unless you have a very specific reason for it. Bullet points deaden a presentation. Use nouns, and verbs. Check out my Authentic Writing deck – nouns and verbs.

Ray Bradbury’s a wonderful storyteller, and has a great writing strategy. He makes lists of nouns:

He began making long lists of nouns as triggers for ideas and potential titles for stories…

3. Rehearse. Then Be in the Moment

Why just nouns and verbs? So that you stay in the moment when you present. Simple slides, with images which make an impact on you and your audience force you to be present – you can’t read your notes. Rehearse your presentation, using notes, until you can give your presentation smoothly, without notes.

Then have fun with it. Interact with your audience. It’s not the end of the world if you have to go back a couple of slides because you forgot to mention something.

4. From Haiku Deck to PowerPoint, PDF, and the World

As we suggested, you can use Haiku Deck to kickstart your PowerPoint presentations. Create your deck, then export to PowerPoint.

Alternatively, export to PDF, to get full-sized images from their source.

Here’s Kent Gustavson’s PDF-export process:

“In preparing for my TEDx, I used the web app, and exported the presentation as a PDF, which allowed me to find the original images on Flickr, and insert them into a presentation that was at a higher resolution to the TED specifications.”

Once you’ve completed your Haiku Deck, you can embed the deck into your site or blog, and can send links to your social media accounts.

5. Let Haiku Deck Inspire You

Every blogger and content creator feels totally uninspired at times. Haiku Deck can help. Begin a new deck. Add a noun and a verb to a slide. Search for images.

I’ve found it helps to doodle as you do this, here’s why. Doodling helps creativity. The benefits of doodling:

.. include increased creativity, because you’re liberating your mind from traditional, linear and linguistic thinking and moving into a more organic thinking space, heightened information processing, heightened information retention and the ability to view content from a variety of different angles.

Keep adding slides to your Haiku Deck, and doodling. You’ll get inspired very quickly. When you’re ready to create content, start creating. Haiku Deck automatically saves your “inspiration”decks. You can work with them later, or just delete them.

Presentation Apps: 5 Haiku Deck Tips

My decks on Haiku Deck.

So there you have it. Give Haiku Deck a try. It’s a superb presentation app; you’ll speed through your presentations, and you’ll enjoy it.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

My Writing Journal: Fiction, Nonfiction, Copywriting

My Writing Journal: Fiction, Nonfiction, Copywriting

Here we go with the first day of my writing journal – I hope it inspires you to buckle down and write. Why a journal? Explanation here.

A 5 AM Start, With Fiction.

Out of bed, without hitting the snooze button. Snoozing the alarm is always a temptation, but when I do it means I start the day way behind, so I avoid it. Otherwise I feel pressured all day, and the extra few minutes of dozing aren’t worth it.

I let Honey, my Jack Russell terrier, out while the coffee’s brewing. I gulp coffee and jump right into my current fiction project. It’s a series of historical romance novellas, which I’m ghostwriting for a client. I’m on number three. The client’s thrilled with the first two. He originally commissioned three novellas, but has asked for two more.

So, now I have five to write. Luckily they’re huge fun. I’m halfway through the third, and they’re getting longer and longer. Oops… I need to rein it in, otherwise we’ll end up with two novellas and three novels.

At the end of an hour – two timer sessions – I’ve written 1,200 words, which is enough for today. I need to plan the next couple of scenes; I’ll do that late tonight, or first thing tomorrow.

Fueled by coffee, I feed Honey, and carry on with a nonfiction book, also for a client, for another two timer sessions. Only 500 words of new material, but I’ll take it. I went back to revise a couple of chapters, and exported them to Word from Scrivener, ready to send to the client.

As a reward for my early-morning productivity, I get to read email messages. I answer questions and send feedback on exercises to writing students. I also send a quote to a client. Time flies by, and it’s almost nine o’clock. Time for breakfast, then out to run some errands.

Writing in the Library, and Then Lunch.

I need to return some library books, so I decide to spend an hour writing in the library. Not only is the library peaceful; I enjoy writing there. I outline a couple of new projects in Evernote, then write 700 words of draft blog posts.

After a quick lunch with a friend to discuss a writing project, it’s back to the office.

Afternoon: Reading, Research, and Client Projects.

Chat to Julia. Then more coffee, and more email: quotes for clients, and feedback for students. Then onto the phone, to return some calls.

Time to relax for an hour. Unless I’m traveling, or working on-site, or at meetings, I use afternoons to catch my breath, and work on short projects. I’m most productive in the mornings, and I’m pleased with this morning’s effort, so I allow myself some reading time. I open my ReadKit newsreader. I browse some blogs, make some notes.

Next, I need to do some research for a couple of copywriting projects. I make notes, and do a couple of mind map diagrams, then draft the ads. I call the graphic designer. He uploads a composite for me.

More copywriting. I work on a writer’s bio for an hour, and send him a draft. (More on writer’s bios below.)

Time for a walk. Alone, sadly. Honey’s aging. She rarely walks with me when it’s cold. I take my phone, so I can make some audio notes in Evernote.

Back again. More phone calls. And the day’s done. I’ll review the day’s word counts later.

Daily Review and Word Counts.

After dinner, it’s time for a review of current projects. Everything is on track. However, I’ve put off some administrative stuff I need to do, and I didn’t get around to working on new materials for a writing class.

I check my word counts for the day, and enter them into my log. I’m not in the mood to think about fiction, so I’ll do the scene planning tomorrow.

Writer’s Bios Closed for New Bookings This Year.

I enjoy writing bios, but it takes time, around three to four hours each, at least. We ran an offering on writer’s bios and had lots of bookings, so they’re closed for the rest of the year. Here are some tips on writing a quick bio if you need to write one.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Productivity Tricks: Time Yourself

Productivity Tricks: Time Yourself

How often do you find yourself working hard, and achieving little? Usually this happens when you take your eye off the ball, so to speak.

An example. I’m ghostwriting a series of Regency romance novellas for a client, and I’m endlessly distracted by research — this morning I read about bag wigs for example. This took me on a journey of further reading, and before I knew it, I’d wasted 15 minutes on pointless research, since bag wigs were long out of fashion in the Regency period.

Obviously I have a problem with focus, so let’s look at some productivity tricks this week.

The first one: use a timer.

I’ve been using Repeat Timer Pro which is excellent. However, it doesn’t allow you to track your productivity, so I was looking for an app which would help me to do that. I’ve been hearing good things about Tomatoes (Mac), and since the app looks easy to use, I’ve just installed it.

Tomatoes app

Jens-Petter Berget said of the Tomatoes app:

I have full control over each day and how I’ll be working. Every completed pomodoro is archived. This way, at the end of the week, I can evaluate the week and how productive I’ve been. I’m also tracking all interruptions, to see what I can do to have more focus when I’m working.

We’ll see how it works for me. I’ve never followed the Pomodoro Technique in any meaningful way, but I do find that it suits me to work in 25 minute sessions for some tasks. You can work on anything if you know that a distasteful task will be over in less than half an hour.

When I first installed the Tomatoes app, I freaked a little, because I couldn’t see a clear way to edit the timers. In Repeat Timer Pro, you can set timers of various durations. I have a five-minute timer, for example, for free writes, which I do as warm ups for most projects, to clear my mind and help me to focus before I get started on a task.

In Tomatoes, you set one duration. I decided on 40 minutes, because 25 minutes isn’t long enough for most of my projects.

We’ll see how it goes by the end of this week; I’m hoping that using Repeat Timer Pro, and Tomatoes in combination, will help me to limit distractions, and increase my productivity.

If you’ve got a favorite productivity trick, please share. Leave a comment here, or on Google+.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, too.