Category Archives: Time Management

Stability in a Whirlwind

I’m not one of those bloggers who writes articles in advance and has a stash ready to go at a moment’s notice, aided into the etherworld with the assistance of some tech-savvy social-media-managing app like Hootsuite. I’m one of those think-of-an-idea-then-write-it-when-I-make-time bloggers. Which is why—when generalized mayhem strikes as it did this lovely month of March (some good, some bad)—I found myself ill-prepared to post either of my two blogs-to-be this month.

Well, sort of, since—if luck/determination/the internet all cooperate with me—this post will hopefully go live on my website on March 31. Thereby letting me say at least one of my March blogs posted this month.

I’ve mentioned before how blogging doesn’t come easily to me, but that I enjoy it for the most part (best of all when I feel I have something fun and/or useful to share). But I like to take time to think over what I’m blogging about, make sure I feel it’s relevant to my readers.

So, why did I choose to add yet another serving to my already-full plate? Because that’s exactly what I’ve done.

In the form of starting a new part-time job in February. Man alive, I’m still shaking my head at myself, wondering whether adding such time-consuming madness to my life was smart to do.

So here I am, one(ish) month later, and going strong. For the most part. I’ll share a little bit about the decision without naming names because I’m still in the trial phase as far as I’m concerned.

Friends and readers, you know I like to learn new things. Pretty much all the time. So when I heard of the opportunity of a part-time job at a company I like, whose products I use often, and where I stood to learn a great deal about subjects of interest to me, I jumped. And by that I mean I applied, talked things over with my hub, aced the interview and was hired in a matter of a few days. Hello, whirlwind.

Whirlwind!

There are other layers of logic to my decision besides wanting to learn, though, not the least of which is dropping a few extra bucks in the bank. Having worked from home for the past four years, I also looked forward to a different job environment and new people. And I relished the idea of committing to a real schedule again, something that often proves difficult to maintain in the home-office world.

And that, dear readers, is proving the most challenging part of this. I enjoy the job, all that I’m learning, the people (most of them, let’s be honest), the environment. But the schedule … that leaves much to be desired. To say it’s random is an understatement. Erratic and changeable are better words by far.

Which leaves me with a potential problem. Those who follow my blogs and Facebook and Twitter posts know I’m struggling to complete the sequel to Emerald Obsession. I’m near the end of writing the first draft of Treasure Bound, but after that I have months of editing and other work.

Well, I’m someone who often reacts better to exterior deadlines than self-induced ones. My thought process behind starting a new part-time job included the belief a more structured daily routine would benefit my writing; it would super-charge my daily habits and keep my writing time regimented and productive.

Sadly, I’m not sure that’ll prove true. Though I’m game to keep working for a while longer. Five weeks isn’t enough time for me to feel I’ve gotten the entire job/schedule picture, so I’ll continue to test the waters. But I fear the inconsistent nature of the company’s scheduling, which I wasn’t clear on at the onset, won’t jive with what I need from a part-time job right now.

Either way, readers and friends, I’ll keep you posted on how things go. March had so many other things happening concurrent with starting the new job that maybe April will bring a settling down to life.

Either way, I’m a blessed person. My mom just left after a fun visit, today would’ve been Fodda’s 86th birthday; the sun shines bright in the morning sky, the hub smiles and things are right in my world. I hope they are in yours, too. Keep on, right? I’ll just keep on, keeping on. See you again soon.

Mellow rocks
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An Editing Trick for World Read Aloud Day

I’m still writing the first draft of TB, Emerald Obsession’s sequel, which is great and frustrating at the same time. I’d hoped to be finished with this first run-through by now, but no dice. When I set writing goals, I like to think they’re realistic, but somehow I can’t always make them happen on schedule. That said, when I look back to where the time has been spent otherwise (whole-house reno!!), I’m not too disappointed that this first round is taking longer than I’d hoped.

But as I near the writing end, I’m beginning to think about the edits I know I’ll need to incorporate in order to improve the flow and arc of the story. That’s kind of cool for me. Editing is a challenge that requires different creativity, different vision and different skills. I edit my manuscripts at least four or five times, looking for specific elements on each revision. For example, here’s a sheet of proofreader symbols. One of my review rounds focuses entirely on this level of editing:

Proofreading marks

Today is World Read Aloud Day, so I wanted to share my take on how this helps during early-stage editing. You may already know it’s smart to read your work out loud. Reading, either to yourself in an empty room or to some sort of audience (cat, hub, writing buddy, etc.), allows you to focus on how the language sounds, whether you’ve chosen the best words, whether the story flow is natural and realistic. And a biggie: whether the tone and voice are consistent.

Reciting your story is a crucial part of editing and one I enjoy. I admit I read out loud frequently, sometimes unconsciously, which makes my hub laugh (I suspect this’ll happen a lot more now that we’ve moved into to our renovated office, yay!). I just tell him geniuses often talk to themselves, so he’s lucky he married up. ; ) ; ) Hahaha. Yeah, he laughs at me for that. And if you don’t want to go the “genius route,” you could read to your neighbor cats; here’s a photo of mine who randomly travel through our yard:

Neighbor cats sneaking in for a listen

So, while reading your own material is a great idea, how about next time you try this trick with your critique group or a writing partner: swap stories and read each other’s piece out loud. Not only will you focus and hear the words differently, you’ll hear how someone else interprets your words. Did the story flow naturally? Did the reader stumble over words or ideas? Did the plot progress realistically and believably? Hearing your words in someone else’s voice will give you a whole other level of insight about how readers might experience your story.

And you know me, I hope my stories sell, but first and foremost, I really want to tell my stories in a good, logical, fun, exciting way. This you-read-me, me-read-you technique can help build a great story. It’s super helpful to receive feedback from other readers, too, but I digress. Finding beta readers can be a topic for another blog. : )

As much as I love a good writing tip, I’m sure you guys know reading aloud has more benefits than simply helping you edit. I’m no expert, but do a search online and you’ll uncover many more pluses to reading for an audience, especially to kids. Think of the impact on imagination and vocabulary! Love that. <3

Tell me, readers, writers and friends, do you read your work aloud when you edit? Or just for fun? ; ) What other benefits do you find to reading out loud? Do you read to yourself or to others, like your critique group or writing partners? Me? Definitely a combo of both. Boy, my hub’s gonna get an earful!

I’d love to hear your answers. Let me know in the comments section below or by email at carolyn@carolyngreeley.com. Thanks for hanging out.

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3 Reasons to Find Your Writing Mentor

I discovered an interesting tidbit the other day as I scanned an online calendar of fun facts: January is National Mentoring Month. Okay, maybe you take that sort of online info with a grain of salt, as I do (Really, National Crown of Roast Pork Day? It’s March 7, according to some.), but now and then I run across a factoid that stays with me and spins the gears.

Such is the case with National Mentoring Month. This struck me because I’m an advocate of mentors (and not just recognizing their usefulness for a month). This past year, I’ve been talking about their importance with my husband, whose business is expanding. As it grows, I’ve encouraged him to reach out to friends and colleagues who’ve already traveled similar paths, so he might learn from their experiences.

Why take this path:

Foggy path

When you can travel a clear path with a trusted advisor and friend:

Path to follow

But to be honest, I hadn’t thought of a mentor for myself as an author before now. I don’t know why. It took that chance mention to make me look at my career and realize how critical a mentor could be for a writer. And many of the ways in which a mentor helps say, an entrepreneur, are the same ways one would help a writer.

So, as ever on my kick about continuing to learn and grow, I searched around for more information. 🙂

Here are three ways a writing mentor can help you:

1—Experience. One of the best things a mentor can do is share the wisdom of their experience. I love the expression “work smarter, not harder.” By finding someone who’s attained the goal you’re aiming for and having them mentor you, you’ll benefit from their knowledge and hopefully will avoid their mistakes. An established writer will counsel you on both creative and business aspects of writing and will guide you along your specific career path.

2—Connection. Another benefit of your mentor will be access to their broader network of contacts. Though writing is usually a solitary effort, if publication is one of your goals, then connecting with others—readers, publishers, agents, editors, other writers—is essential. As an author looking to grow and reach an audience, having a mentor to open doors and offer ways to connect with people will be invaluable.

3—Inspiration and Input. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but for me, it doesn’t happen on a consistent basis. With a mentor, though, you may be only a call, text or coffee chat away from the butt-kick motivation you need to flush out that sketchy scene that’s vexed you for a week. The right writing mentor will offer creative support and unbiased, constructively critical insights. And that’s huge for gaining confidence and thickening the skin to the rejection prevalent in the writing world.

So, readers, what do you think about writing mentors? I believe engaging with one is a great idea for anyone looking to grow their career or passion. Do you have one? Or would you consider mentoring someone less experienced? What would you hope or expect to gain from that association? Please let me know in the comments section. I’d appreciate your thoughts. Or feel free to email me at carolyn@carolyngreeley.com. Thanks!

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Swaying Palms

The Write Time … for a Summer Treat

Like most writers I know, I feel like I don’t have enough time to write. We juggle a ton of other responsibilities, so that even when we carve out time at our computer or with a notebook, things often interrupt and push writing to the back seat.

One of those things currently stealing my writing time is cooking dinner for me and the hub, something I’m adapting to since we married last year. Because I work from home, I have more flexibility in my schedule. And, though very challenging mentally at times, I have to concede my daily physical workload is not quite as exhausting as my hub’s is as a contractor. So, most days making dinner falls to me.

Those who know me know I wasn’t much of a cook when I got hitched. I’d lived in the West Village and worked in Hell’s Kitchen (love that name) for all of my 17 years in Manhattan, and world-class cooking and cuisines greeted me whenever I stepped outside.

To say I hardly cooked during those NYC years is massive hyperbole. I boiled water for pasta, ate cheese and crackers and pepperoni (thanks, Uncle John!!) and occasionally heated a can of soup or scrambled a couple eggs. Could’ve ended in tragedy, considering my love of food, but with a decent salary and so many readily available scrumptious options, I had no choice but to indulge my restaurant craving.

Fortunately for me, for a relatively small city St. Augustine boasts a disproportionately large quantity of fabulous eateries. But that’s a topic for another blog. : )

As much as I’ve enjoyed the culinary additions (yay, a Thai restaurant finally opened downtown), one cannot live on restaurant food alone, said someone somewhere, surely. And since neither my hub nor I are rolling in dough (hello, can we say “whole-house reno,” anyone? Another writing-time-suck, BTW.), I’ve taken up cursing—I mean, cooking—to keep us eating tasty, healthy food on a reasonable budget.

Well, now. Shopping and cooking for more than one person is quite the experience.

But I’m getting used to juggling both. And to my hub’s ears’ and stomach’s delight, I’m improving. I won’t bog you down with my best tips and tricks for shopping fast, healthily and affordably. There are so many other more worthy sites you can check out for better tips than I could give. Here are two to try:
http://www.eatthis.com/best-supermarket-shopping-tips-ever
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/grocery-shopping-tips/

So what I’ll do here is share a few fun summer dishes that I tweak to fit what I find in my kitchen, along with links to a couple great recipes. Check out these fun yums:

–Old Bay Shrimp:

Spicy Shrimp over Rice

http://oldbay.com/Recipes/Shrimp/Appetizers/OLD-BAY-Steamed-Shrimp-with-Cocktail-Sauce.aspx

Ridiculously easy and incredibly flavorful, especially if, like me, you love OB. Bonus: shrimp are healthy; something about that low-mercury, good omega-fat thing. : ) For kicks, I make my own cocktail sauce using ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice and Tabasco. I don’t have a recipe; I just mix everything until I like how it tastes.

–Cold Pasta Salad:

Pasta Salad
Easy Pasta Salad

Yeah, there are a bazillion varieties out there. Try them all. ; ) Pasta salad is a great, easy way to have a healthy, cheap-ish summer dinner (or lunch) without going crazy in a hot kitchen. One of my versions includes: mini shells (try the whole wheat or fiber pastas), store-bought cooked chicken (like those Perdue shortcuts, if they’re on sale; otherwise, use whatever leftover protein-y substance you have in-house, like a can of chickpeas), grape tomatoes, cucumbers, a few onions (the hub loves onions), olives, cheese (feta’s great, so’s pepperjack), peppers and zesty Italian dressing. Dice up the bits, add to the pasta and mix it all with the dressing. Easy part: cook a large quantity of pasta for dinner some night, then reserve some unsauced to use the next day in the PS. : )

–My hub’s Czech Cucumber Salad:
So good, if you like vinegar, as we do. And super-easy: peel, then grate (with the big holes) 3-4 large cukes into a bowl. Add white vinegar, salt, pepper and a dash of sugar to taste. Stir. Almost like having cold cuke soup, but not pureed.

–Easy Smoothies:
I make these with an immersion blender; it’s so fast, easy and healthy, because you start with frozen fruit instead of ice. Toss in your fruit—I use froz mixed berries, plus whatever fresh I feel like: banana’s great, watermelon, peach. Then add milk and some fruit juice or lemonade to reach your desired consistency. I sometimes add Greek yogurt (great protein), applesauce, etc, too, for extra health or flavor. Or try some avocado!! Zip the whole thing for about 30 seconds, then pop in a straw and sip. Sometimes when we’re needing a “special smoothie,” I’ll add a splash (or two) of vodka. Healthy and mentally refreshing. ; ) Once in a blue, we get wacky and refreeze the smoothie into pops:

Pops
Smoothie Pops

So there are a few of my go-to, summer faves. I do actually cook many more things, including chicken, fish, pork and beef. Plus actual real veggies and carb-y things.
AllHomemade

But this post would draaag if I listed them all. Plus, I’m—happily—finally getting the hang of (somewhat) cooking on the fly. I find a recipe that sounds good (check out allrecipes.com), but I never seem to have all the ingredients, so I throw in whatever’s hiding in the cabinets. So far, no one’s gotten sick.  : )  But that does make it hard to share recipes! Whoops.

Do you enjoy cooking? What do you prepare during the dog days of summer? Please share some of your favorite dishes, either to cook or to eat, in the comment section. I LOVE food! Almost as much as I love writing. Happy eating and happy writing. : )

Oh, and as a bonus, follow this link to a delicious Gambas al Ajillo recipe. Courtesy of Lauren Aloise, the recipe is similar to one used to prepare the Gambas San Martin dish Lexy and Claire salivate over at Las Ramblas Tapas Restaurant in Emerald Obession:
http://spanishsabores.com/2014/04/10/gambas-al-ajillo-recipe-spanish-garlic-shrimp/
If you’re ever in NYC’s West Village, stop by for the real deal at Las Ramblas on West 4th Street: www.lasramblas.nyc. It’s one of my favorite tapas joints. <3

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