Goals, Resolutions and Organization–Oh My!

Welcome to the second full week of the new year! Hope all is well with all of you. 🙂 As you can see, the holiday decor is down and all looks bare–kind of like my home. (I’m really missing the Christmas decor, more so than in other years, I guess.)

At the end of last week’s post, I alluded to some aspirations for this year. Since I didn’t do a New Year’s “resolutions” and/or “goals” post, I thought the comment below might apply. I left it in response to a recent post on staying organized at Jami Gold’s excellent blog. She is so dedicated to her followers. I’ve yet to fathom how she has the time to work a day job, stay on top of her many projects and write the detailed, ridiculously informative articles she posts for writers at her site. (Just scroll down the right sidebar. I promise you’ll find something that speaks to you.)

When I have the time and some structure, I can do very well in the organization dept, but mostly of ‘things’ or ‘duties’ (i.e., household papers, closets, notes for school, etc).

Re: writing and projects: I’d gotten insanely overwhelmed with trying to do too many other ‘writing-related’ tasks while working on developing some workshops I plan to teach. (Last year) I wrote some specific goals re: the workshops, and made a conscious decision to put the fiction writing to the side for a while. (Story ideas weren’t getting me anywhere either.) That helped big-time. Although one piece is missing (publishing the digital and paperback companion booklets), it won’t hold me back from starting the contact phase.

Goals: I jotted a few down last January. They’re on a word-doc somewhere. I revisited them once and found I’d made more progress than expected.

Every step forward gets me closer to my goal(s). I can slow myself up by judging the pace, or just keep on feet-forwarding it.

I also came across this: “The first and most important step toward success is that we can succeed.” Nelson Boswell, as quoted by Don Charisma at his awesome and highly inspiring blog.

Do I have the organization part handled? Eh, never so much as I’d like. Daily life keeps me very busy w/o the avoidance tactics I manage to throw in there on a regular basis.

Allow me to own this too: I think my biggest issue is the fear of failure/fear of success thing, so my newest goal is to hit SEND and initiate the contact needed to set up speaking gigs—with a spreadsheet to keep track of who I contacted and follow up via phone or email.

Here’s the irony: Whenever I do a workshop, I start out exactly the way I sing: a touch tentative up front, but get into the groove fast. I always come out energized and excited b/c my inner performer LOVES being at the front of the room. Just sayin’.

So what is the ultimate outcome behind resolutions and/or goals for you? Is it to forward your career or to self-improve? In the final analysis, I don’t see how one can truly be separated from another.

Awareness of one’s motivation, however, can make all the difference.

What drives you toward achievement?

Have a wonderful week,


How Far Will You Go To Impose Order–On Others?

It’s been a busy past two weeks, folks. Between being down with a nasty cold and (good) family stuff going on, last week got away from me. Hope all is well with all of you!

I love when my blogger-pals’ posts spur me toward a post of my own. (I’ve been having a run of that lately. Thanks, friends!) Last week, Stacey Wilk zapped me into action with one of her most delightful write-ups yet. Those who crave order, check it out. You might find a kindred spirit at Stacey’s stop!

Sounds like order makes Stacey’s heart sing. I commented that in my day-gig, we call that one form of self-regulation. That’s a term from ‘sensory integration’, defined as a “calm-alert state that is optimal for learning.” Order makes my heart sing; it helps me self-regulate. Did I mention orderly spaces tend to look good in a calming and soothing sort of way? A friend who is into organizing gave me a term that makes complete sense to me: visual peace.

I totally get that lining things up a certain way in a cabinet creates order and ease of finding things, as well as making it easier to put things away. In my kitchen, most things have a place, but very few items have to be exactly in one spot for the big picture to work. A few things work best lined up a particular way. (My bowls and my pots have to be nested or they won’t fit). My kitchen was remodeled about 5 years ago. Almost everything is still in pretty much the same place I assigned it b/c it works. And unless someone else (Ahem!) doesn’t put things in the designated spot, I never have a problem finding things.

Nabby n Kitty under the counter 10-2014 My girls, just hanging under the kitchen counter. 

So, the question was, how far will you go to impose your need for order on others—outside your house?

Y’all know I work in a school setting. At the school where I work most days, I’m lucky enough to have two large metal closets in the back of auditorium to keep games, papers, etc. (In other schools I have to drag the Barney bag and be grateful to use the lunchroom, a table in the library or a small office space.)

Anyhow, every year these closets wind up a tad messy by the end of the school year. B/c of issues the year before, I never got to put them back in order when the summer program ended (in 2013). That meant the closets started out pretty messy for 2013-14 and only got worse. By the end of the 2014 summer program, those closets were a disaster, especially after SIX people spent three weeks pulling stuff out and stuffing it back. (Two of those folks don’t put foot in my school during the school year, so they had no sense of how things fit together in there.)

One work friend and I spent over FIVE hours cleaning those war zones at the end of this year’s summer program. I decided (threatened, promised—whatever–at the possible cost of my job-buds still liking me) that I’d take pictures of the finished product, blow them up, laminate and hang them in the closets, shelf by shelf. (For once I followed through.)

school closet top shelf (See the chaos under the top shelf? That’s just a hint of what the other NINE shelves had become. Just sayin’.)

One of my co-workers teased me for being so uptight about my desire for order. It was all in good fun, and she’s been very respectful with putting stuff away as per the photos. And there IS a practical reason for order: Putting stuff away at the end of the day goes a whole lot faster when there is “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

school closet (2) Say what you want, but at least there is some kind of reference for insuring all this stuff fits at the end of the day. I have to load up a cart at least twice weekly b/c I don’t have a real ‘home’ at school.  

BTW, we’re six weeks into the school year, and the closets are still looking good.

So…I now pose this question to you:

What will YOU do to insure order either in or outside your home?

Enjoy your day, folks,


Do I Really Need That?? (Part 2)

  Hubby spent hours watering these so that I can enjoy this!

Yesterday I initiated a discussion on downsizing. As tends to be the case with me, here is how it applies to my favorite creative outlet:

So how does downsizing connect to writing? When I first started writing and attended my first critique groups, one of the first things I learned was that each and every word in a manuscript needs to serve a purpose. Downsizing equals editing and effective editing leads to strong, bring-that-manuscript-to-a-new-level status. Example: it’s not enough to describe or mention the incredible sun set. Its blood-red glow needs to reflect someone’s mood or indicate an upcoming event. By the same token, the heroine’s hoop earrings are crafted from her and her deceased husband’s wedding bands so that she can wear both at all times. Not only do I get a picture of the character, I get insight into who she is and backstory. (And once I tie this into a dialogue between my lead characters, my text has done that much more multi-tasking.)

Am I making sense? Like most of the necessities the man in that tiny cabin makes use of (or my farmhouse table at the cottage that serves as my counter) words need to do double duty. If they don’t, chances are you may not need them. 

What about the dreaded letting go of a scene or—eek!—an entire character’s POV? That can feel like cutting off a limb! I mean, here I am with this fabulous story—they’re all incredible to the creator, aren’t they?— so how can I edit that???? And horror of horrors, shelve an entire story? (No way I’d ever delete that much work. It can sit in virtual space where it won’t bother anyone.) Yet, when I get over myself and make the requested or necessary changes I can see the story shine through the clutter I removed. (Sigh. I’m truly working on practicing what I preach given a recent rejection due—in part—to “too many characters in a manuscript’s opening” that could “potentially overwhelm the reader.” Guess I need to get back in there and hack away. There’s that perseverance part, right Stacey?)

So that’s where I am today, cleaning up my act physically, mentally and on virtual paper. For now, I gave up on the filing that’s been sitting on my desk since June. I do, however, have hope. (Dancing with the Stars is has at least six weeks to go–at least one or two of those evenings can be multi-tasked to getting all those papers in their place, right?

Care to share how you keep everything in check? All ideas welcome here!

A wonderful week to all,



Do I Really Need That?? (Part 1)

Good day friends,

Thanks so much to all of you for your loyalty and support. So sorry I’ve been MIA. This post should have run as a guest blog over a week ago (at another author’s site) but the world wide web seems to have eaten it twice on its journey through cyberspace. On a more personal note, the school year got off to a rough start and things continue to jump out of place on a daily basis. I’ve barely started bringing work home and still find myself bogged down with the day-to-day (and not enough of it relative to my writing, blogging, etc). 

     (A morning glory I grew from seed–never knew the detail was so incredible!)

Anyway, these are the thoughts I wanted to share about ten days ago:

Downsizing. In today’s less-than-stable economy, the word can inspire anxiety or even fear. I look around at a house, basement or garage full of stuff and apply the term differently.

 Not too long ago I read an article about a man who downsized from a large home to a tiny cabin-like structure he designed and, I believe, built. (He now makes a business out of designing and crafting these minimal-square-foot living spaces.) He knows exactly what he needs to live within that tiny space and has opted to do without a lot more.

 My little cottage in the woods, built somewhere between 1872 and 1905, gives me a sense of what it is to live that way. When we first bought it—as is—it was crammed to the rafters with stuff. Three layers of rugs on every floor kept the place damp and musty-smelling. A dry-rotted player piano took up a whole wall. Five coffee pots and no one drank coffee! More cups and glasses than an average-sized family could ever use at one time, even if the previous owners did live there six months out of the year. Outdated encyclopedias, a gazillion 1980’s paperback romance novels (at least they were readers, lol). My little enclosed sleeping porch where I now write, a storage closet that had to be emptied one item at a time before I could even set foot in it: rusty exercise bike, volleyball, a cot with over eight layers of blankets on it that no could access because of all the clutter around it.  Closets and dressers stuffed with towels, sheets, blankets, clothing, shoes—name it: it was there. In a word, we filled a twenty-ton dumpster in the course of a few days (and I still emptied stuff, got to the last closet last year).

 Since we purchased that cottage five years ago, we’ve pretty much weeded out most things we don’t need. When I tell you I bought almost nothing for it, you can trust I mean what I say. (I do, however, keep a second coffee pot on my little porch for those rare occasions when I don’t feel like going down to the kitchen. And I still like the hand-held kerosene lanterns lined up in my closet—keeps that late 19th century feel to the place.)

   More and more though, the lesson of downsizing comes home to me in various ways. My home is relatively small. This two-bedroom colonial houses four of us and three cats.  None of us are hoarders but we’re not necessarily ‘tossers’ either. (For a while one of my sons wanted to keep his old toothbrushes!) I can’t begin to tell you how much clothing and other domestic items we got rid of after the small house fire we had two years ago and still that clean contemporary country look evades my humble home.  (There’s a blog for that: https://joannaaislinn.wordpress.com/page/6/)

Remember (or ever hear of) comedian George Carlin? One of his routines talked about how clearing out stuff is akin to creating a vacuum for more stuff to find its way in. I used to love garage and yard sales and still stop by them on occasion, but I’ve got a new rule (besides ‘don’t let my husband loose with expendable cash anywhere,’ lol.): no cash gets handed over unless I know exactly where that item will go in my home. (I may mentally toss or donate another item before I buy and try hard to stick to that once I’m home. Being someone who doesn’t tire of a color or a beloved object doesn’t help but I’ve improved.)

And once that stuff is gone? When I walk back into that downsized, now open space, I feel as though I can breathe better (could be all the dust that went with it ). Definitely something to be said about Feng Shui! BTW, many organizations will come to your house and carry away your donations—a search on the net can yield the names of those who do in your area—a few clicks and you’re scheduled. (I often use Vietnam Veterans of America—vva.org. Very easy.)

I’ll stop here for now and look forward to your thoughts on the subject. Tomorrow I’ll apply these ideas to writing.

Until then, have a great day,