Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Dreams

Not easy to find the balance, for if one does not have wild dreams of achievement, there is no spur even to get the dishes washed. One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being. —May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

People who record their dreams and goals are better able to achieve them. They are also happier and healthier. Record your visions, dreams, and goals for the New Year. Sometimes the best way to do this is to complete a sentence repeatedly until you run out of ideas. It may take five minutes (or more) to discover what you really want.

Try completing these sentences:
*In the New Year, I want to give up . . .
*In the New Year, I want to take on . . .
*In the New Year, I will write about . . .
*In the New Year, I will rock my life by . . .
*In the New Year, I will strengthen my body and spirit by . . .
*In the New Year, I will work to change my world by . . .

A word of warning—this kind of dreaming can change your life! Try it and see what happens.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Reading Day

In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas.  . . .  If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture. —Nicholas Carr, The Atlantic, 2008

In Nicholas Carr’s 2008 essay, Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains, Carr confessed, “Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory.” In the article, Carr noted that he had lost the ability to read for hours. After reading just a few pages of text, his mind would wander.

I’ve noticed the same problem when I read and write. And, like Carr, I attribute it to the amount of time I spend online, taking in information. I’ve tried to keep strict boundaries between my writing life and the Internet. I don’t go online until I’ve finished my daily writing. I won’t leave open my email or
Twitter and Facebook feeds while I work— even if I am doing a relatively boring task. I don’t use my smart phone to surf or text in the car, when I exercise, or when I am with family or friends.

That said, I spend hours online every day. Whenever I need a piece of information for an article, I do a Web search. I read a good amount of research and creative writing online. I frequently visit social networking sites. In the evening, watching television or reading a magazine, I’ll frequently go back online to get more information on something I’ve read. Thanks to smart tags, many of my magazines now interact with online sites. By the end of the day, I experience what I call cyber-induced monkey mind. Long after I’ve turned off the computer, my brain is flitting between ideas and my long list of tasks. This impacts my writing.

I don’t know about you, but my writing depends on quiet spaces to think up and spin out ideas. For that reason, I am taking a reading day twice a month. On those days, I pretend I am on vacation. I do not check email, update my Facebook status, or check in on Twitter. Instead, I sit in my favorite chair and read. In between pages, I jot down quotes I want to remember. In between chapters, I daydream and nap a bit. At the end of the day, I feel rested and less anxious about what I need to produce.

Writers, give yourself the gift of a reading day. Reading offline will deepen your writing. Time away from your work and the computer will refresh you. New ideas will take root inside of you. When you return to your writing desk, your attention span might even be a smidgen longer! Now that’s something to celebrate!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Purposeful Fallow Time

Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the ploughshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring. —Henri Frederic Amiel

I reached my National Novel Writing Month word count on Friday, November 26 and, on the same day, jumped into an editing project with a pressing deadline. I planned to use last Friday morning to finish the editing project, work on my Web site redesign, and write several of these tips.

It was not to be. I could not focus. I could not find a topic. I could not get interested in writing anything! Instead of lamenting my laziness, I decided I was simply tired. My brain needed rest. Instead of writing, I grabbed a book and a blanket and nestled into the couch.

Writers, we cannot produce work 24/7. We need to have both fallow and productive times in our writing lives. We understand what it means to produce work. As writers, we work hard to stay productive and get published. But what does it mean to engage in fallow time?

Farmers regularly let fields lie fallow. The old saying goes, “Farm the best. Conserve the rest.” Allowing a field to be fallow for a season or two prevents soil erosion, provides food for wild animals, and prepares the land for future plantings. Yet, when demand for food is high, farmers can be tempted to forgo the fallow field and farm all of their land.

As writers, we need fallow time, too. Sometimes when we think we are experiencing writer’s block, we are really tired. We need rest. We need time to step back from the relentless pressure of producing finished work. Time away from constant deadlines prevents us from producing work that is boring and predictable. It provides time to explore and nurture new ideas. The time away can also prepare us to launch a new project.

For many writers, fallow time just happens. We finish a big project or a series of small projects, and we stop writing for a time. Or, we hit the holiday season, and we do not have time to write. People and life demand our attention, and we give it. Soon, months have passed, and we have not written. But we also have not rested.

Our writing would be improved by introducing purposeful fallow time into our lives. We can practice fallow time for a day each week or a week each quarter. During our fallow time, we purposefully engage in activities that help us to recover from the relentless pressure of daily deadlines. We read, rest, and gather inspiration. We might walk or write in a journal. We may go to the movies in the middle of the day. We might even bake bread. At the end of the time away from work, we feel rejuvenated and ready to write again.

This month, I will be exploring some of the ways writers can use this purposeful fallow time. Tune in next week for more ideas about how fallow time can bring you inspiration!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What You Can Learn from NaNoWriMo Participants

National Novel Writing Month ended on Tuesday night. Those of us who were NaNoWriMo winners finished writing our 50,000-word novels in a month or less. But all of us who wrote are winners. Anyone who did their best to amass a crazy amount of words in a month is a winner to me. Congratulations.

Several years ago, I interviewed NaNoWriMo Winners by email. Every writer can learn something from the success of these writers. Here are my favorite tips:

1. Busy is not an excuse. In fact, many of the NaNoWriMo Winners keep  chaotic schedules. Winner Elizabeth McKinney from Winston-Salem wrote her novel while also writing professionally for her full-time job. Winner Nicole Gustasa from California said, “Not only did I finish National Novel Writing Month last year, but I did it while I was moving, finalizing my divorce and working a 60-hour a week job!” Never whine about being too busy to write. If you want to write, you’ll find time to write.

2. No MFA? No problem. Many of the wannabe writers I meet put off their  writing careers until they can get more education or experience. Don’t wait.  Educate yourself by reading and attending workshops. Get experience by writing.  Winner Susan Drolet said, “When I actually finished an entire novel, I realized  that you don't have to be a professional writer or have a degree in journalism to put words together to make a coherent story. I am so proud of my accomplishment!” 

3. Success creates success. All the NaNoWriMo winners I talked to were proud of their 50,000-word accomplishments—and they should be. NaNoWriMo success boosted the winners’ writing confidence and spilled over into other areas as well. Winner Kristine Augustyn said, Because I actually completed the novel I feel that I can do many more things. It has given me greater confidence and inspiration and in turn I have inspired others to try things. Kristine gained the confidence to start a new business, Badge of Intent. For me, the discipline of writing supported my daily discipline of walking. 

You don’t need to be a National Novel Writing Month winner to know what successful writers know. Take a look at your own writing successes. Perhaps you committed to and finished a journaling program. Maybe you got that first big article published. Or you kept your commitment to write every day. Good for you! Now ask yourself, “What practices led to that success?” Make a list. Do more of the same—and you will be more successful. It’s that simple.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


As any athlete knows, momentum is the most unstoppable force in sports. The only way to stop it is if you get in your own way, start making stupid mistakes, or stop believing in yourself. —Rocco Mediate

I’ve learned how to keep momentum in my exercise program. Trite as it sounds, Nike had it right when they said, “Just do it.” I’ve adopted tactics to make just doing it easier—working out with the same people every day, being accountable to friends, and building gym time into my daily schedule. How do you keep momentum in writing?

1. Schedule. After more than eighteen years of writing, I’ve learned that if I don’t build writing time into my schedule, it won’t happen. Every week I set aside specific days and times to write. I also schedule specific projects for each time slot—just like I’d schedule a client. When I wake up in the morning, I write because it’s on my daily agenda.

2. No blank pages. I’ve learned to end each writing session in the middle of something—so that I never have to start with a blank page. National Novel Writing Month participant Elizabeth McKinney, a PR professional from Winston-Salem, had this advice: In the pre-NaNo kickoff with Winston-Salem Writers, we learned to stop at an exciting point in the plot, to leave yourself something to automatically begin writing when you sat down the next day.

3. Curiosity. Writing has to be a grand adventure of some sort or it gets boring. But what if you’re writing the literary equivalent of milquetoast? Imagine you’re a newbie who doesn’t know the answer. Get curious about what happens next. If that doesn’t work, skip to tip #4.

4. Conflict. Without conflict, writing gets boring—for both writers and readers. Even DVD manuals have built-in conflict. They are designed to present problems and then teach the reader how to overcome them. NaNoWriMo participant Nicole Gustasa, Monterey, California, solved her novel’s need for conflict this way: Whenever I was stumped for what was going to happen next, I'd throw ninjas at my characters. I was writing a wacky screwball-comedy spy-and-nerd-on-the-run farce, so it worked well. Your mileage may vary, although personally I think serious literary fiction could benefit from a few ninjas (and vice-versa). I don’t know if I’ll add ninjas to my NaNoWriMo novel, but I like the spirit of this idea. Create momentum for your work by adding conflict, surprise, or just something different. If you get stuck, ask yourself how you might move forward if you added a new villain, a poem, or the opposing point of view.

5. Deadline. Sometimes we maintain momentum because we fear the wrath of our editors. For NaNoWriMo participants, the looming November 30th deadline helps to keep their butts in their chairs. Deadlines work. If you don’t have a real deadline—and a boss ready to fire you if you don’t finish the project—create one. If you need someone to hold you accountable, hire a coach or enlist the help of a friend.

We write because we have something to say—something we believe will change the world or a small part of it. When we don’t finish our work, our words cannot help anyone. Momentum is the key to finishing the writing you start. Once you have momentum, you become an unstoppable force for good in the world. Now that’s a reason to just do it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Get it Written

Don’t get it right. Just get it written. —James Thurber

I cannot think! I have too many words flowing in and out of my head. Since National Novel Writing Month began, I have faithfully written 1666 words a day. But don’t think the work has been easy for me. My inner editors are driving me nuts! The other day, one of the editors told me that my characters all sound alike. Another inner editor picked apart my book’s structure. A third told me that my protagonist sounded like a 30-year-old instead of a nine-year-old girl. I kept writing, but I was mighty tempted to stop and edit the book.

Here’s the trick: quiet your inner editors. Send the editors on a short vacation. Give the editors tickets to the movies. Invite  them to go to the kitchen and eat the rest of the Halloween candy. (Remember to speak kindly to your inner editors. Those of us who are editors can be quite sensitive.) Then, when the editorial voices are gone, write like crazy. Invite the editors back in March for National Novel Editing Month!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Walking Writer

Did you see the article, “Prolonged Sitting Boosts Bad Health”?
Yup, it’s true. People who sit a lot, even those of us 
with overactive imaginations, are at an increased 
risk for disease. So what’s a writer to do?

Get in your 10,000 steps a day. Most experts agree that 
walking an average of 10,000 steps (approximately 
five miles) each day can increase health and reduce 
weight. Walking also boosts brainpower. When you 
add more steps to your day, you will increase your 
ability to add words to the page. That’s good
news for those of us trying to write 50,000 words 
this month for National Novel Writing Month
Here are a few tips for reaching  your 10,000 steps:

1. Take one 30-minute walk a day. I’ve worn a 
pedometer off and on for more than five years. 
The only way I’ve found to regularly hit 10,000 
steps is to take a 30-minute walk.

2. Take a walking break each hour. Get up once 
an hour to walk to the water fountain, throw in 
a load of laundry, or make the beds. Make up 
tasks just to get out of your chair and stretch
your legs.

3. Do errands on foot. If you live in a pedestrian 
neighborhood, walk to the grocery store and 
mailbox. If you live or work in the country or a 
suburb, drive to a shopping area and walk 
between stores as much as possible. When you 
go to the mall or grocery store, always try to 
park far from the door.

Writers, as you madly scribble your 1700 words
a day, also try to amass 10,000 steps a day. In 
the end, you’ll be a healthier, happier, and 
more productive writer! Promise!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To Outline or Not?

I spent eight months outlining and researching the novel before I begin to write
a single word of prose. —Jeffrey Deaver

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in
the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. —Sharon O'Brien

Margaret McGaffey Fisk writes online that outlining helped drop her novel-writing time
from seven years to two months. On the other hand, mystery writer J. A. Janz doesn’t outline
her novels—she writes to find out what happens. So what’s best? Both have advantages.

Detailed outlining gives you a road map for writing. The detailed outline includes everything
you need to write the book—what happens, who it involves, when it happens, and where
the action takes place. The detailed outline might also include character studies and snippets
of dialogue.

Skeleton outlining gives you the broad strokes of plot or contents. You may not know everything
about what will happen to the characters but you do know where they start, how it ends up, and
the general movements they take to get from beginning to end. If you’re a nonfiction writer, you
might know the chapter topics—but not have a detailed outline for each chapter.

I call the third method, “flying by the seat of your pants.” In this process, you start with a few
interesting characters and a problem. Then you write your way into a story.

And here is my sage advice: no one can tell you which way is best. None are best for everyone.
But one is best for you. Do what works.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why You Need to NaNo!

The only way to learn to write is to write.
—Peggy Teeters

It’s that time of year again. National Novel Writing month (NaNoWriMo) begins November 1st. Are you ready to write like crazy?

You’re probably saying, “But I don’t write fiction!” Maybe you’re slogging your way through a bunch of grant proposals. Or you are writing a nonfiction book to promote your business. Perhaps you want to finish a short story. Use National Novel Writing Month as your framework to get more writing done.

In November 2009, 167,150 people signed up to complete a 175-page or 50,000-word novel in 30 days. 32,178 of us finished. (I crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line in only 28 days!) The NaNoWriMo website provides encouraging emails, a discussion board, and interviews with NaNoWriMo writers for participants.

Here’s my advice: sign up to participate in NaNoWriMo. The external deadline will help you write more. Create a November writing schedule that will help you write 175-pages of your project by the end of the month. Then write. Like mad.

That’s my plan for the month! I’ll let you know what happens.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Write Better: Rewrite

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.
 —James Michener

When I read a good book, I want to quit writing. Who can compete? I’ll tell you who: the writer who rewrites the manuscript until the writing is right. It’s all in the editing, friends. Here are five random tips to improve your writing:

1. Read your work out loud. You will catch your grammatical mistakes more easily. You will notice your bad writing habits. You will also hear your writing voice. Once you hear what does not work, modify it. Then read it out loud again.

2. Limit your use of adverbs. Some authors modify every action with an adverb: she walked slowly, he ate hastily, they talked very quietly. As Twain said, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you're inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it, and the writing will be just as it should be.”

3. Don’t change your verbs into nouns. For example, many writers use investigation instead of investigate or exploration instead of explore. When your characters make an investigation into the truth or begin an exploration, your readers fall asleep. But when your characters investigate and explore, readers pay attention.

4. Find the right word or phrase. Clichés bore me to tears. First drafts are invariably full of clichés. Look for these, eliminate them, and then find the best words and phrases to express your ideas. Mark Twain said it this way, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

5. Cut, cut, cut! When I write my first draft, I write more than I need to make my point. I repeat the same idea multiple times. I use extra words. I go off on tangents. When I rewrite, I eliminate the excess. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

If you read a good book, you know the writer worked at it. It’s the same thing with any well-written copy—on a Web site or in a book. Don’t give up when your first draft turns out little better than a fifth-grade essay. Put it away for a few days or weeks. Then rewrite it. You’ll be brilliant someday, too!

WANT TO USE THIS TIP IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander teaches professionals how to write faster, get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at and sign up to be a member of her Write Now! Mastermind class for professionals at

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Want to Write Better? Shorten Your Sentences

I've always written very tightly, and there's a good reason for that. There's no point in using words that you're not going to apply. You don't use words that are not going to be employed in the narrative or context. It should consist of short, sharply focused sentences, each of which is a whole scene in itself. By that, you put the reader right in there where the story is. —Theodore Sturgeon

Have you ever read a sentence overflowing with ideas and information and constructed with so many clauses that the sentence required lots of commas and semicolons and even a parenthetical remark or two (just to get it all in), so that by the end of the sentence you forgot where the sentence began and what the writer was trying to tell you in the first place? 

I have. As a writing coach who often works with academics, I see sentences that make my 66-word creation above look stunted. You can easily improve your writing by shortening your sentences. (Not all of them—that would sound choppy.) Keep your longer sentences to 25 words or less. If you’re not sure about a sentence’s length, read it aloud. If the sentence leaves you gasping for air, shorten it. Your readers will thank you!

WANT TO USE THIS TIP IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander teaches professionals how to write more, get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at and sign up to be a member of her Write Now! Mastermind class for professionals at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Writing Buddy

I like this John Steinbeck quote: The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

I always encourage my clients to set aside time to write whether they believe that their work is the most important thing in the world or not. For me the best solution has been to behave as if my writing is the most important thing in the world. Belief follows behavior.

Not always. Some days, I write all day and still think, “Why am I wasting my time?” On other days, it is difficult to take time to work on a project that I doubt will ever make it into print.

Writers, when you doubt yourself and your work, hang out with a fellow writer. This one small action will inspire you. Writing is a solitary profession. It has to be. But getting up and facing the blank page every day is easier when you have friends who do the same and can share your pain!

Recently, the new field of network science has begun to examine how our social connections influence us. In 2007, Harvard professor Nicholas A. Christakis and UC-San Diego professor James H. Fowler published a study suggesting that obesity is contagious. They found that having a single obese friend increased by 57% one’s chances of being obese. Scientists are discovering that many emotions and behaviors spread through our social networks, including happiness and regular exercise. I wonder: would having a friend who was a productive writer increase by 57% one’s chances of becoming a productive writer? Why not try it and see what happens?

I’ve been making more time to hang out with writer friends. Here are some of the questions I ask other writers:

*What books have inspired you? What works in them? What would you do differently?

*What trends do you see in the field? How is writing different than it was ten years ago?

*What are you working on? What challenges are you facing? What excites you right now?

*How can we help each other be accountable? This question has led to sharing informal deadlines, weekly email reports, and writing days.

*How can we help each other move forward? From time to time, I will exchange manuscripts with friends for critique. I find it helpful to get feedback from another person writing in the same genre. And, it is an honor to be able to think critically about another person's manuscript.

This week as you are planning your writing time, schedule a walk or coffee date with another writer. No doubt you will leave your meeting inspired and ready to write. 

WANT TO USE THIS TIP IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander teaches professionals how to write more, get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at and sign up to be a member of her Write Now! Mastermind class for professionals at

Friday, September 24, 2010

Plan B

I'm in the process of creating a new and improved blog. In the meantime, I want to share with you my tip from last week's Write Now! Tips. If you are interested in receiving these in your in box, you can sign up at the Write Now! Coach page.

The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B. —James Yorke

I set aside last Monday and Tuesday to finish my Art Fellowship application. My daughter, husband, and son got sick. Because Tuesday was a primary election day, the phone rang every six minutes. Candidates and their supporters stopped by the house to see if we were voting for them. Of course, since the whole family was germy, I got to be the phone-checking, door-answering diva. By noon on Monday, I was ready to chuck the whole thing. Then I remembered plan B.

Plan B is what you do when ideal doesn’t happen. Plan B allows you to get real and write what you can, when you can, no matter what. Here’s how to make your own Plan B:

Loosen your grip on ideal and get real. Often writers tell me they can only write in the morning or at night or when the moon is full. Some tell me they need to set aside a whole day to get anything done. Others need just the right paper or light or chocolate. Here’s the thing—ideal rarely happens. Sometimes when we have the ideal circumstances, we can’t get the words right. Or we do not write as much as we wanted. Let it go. Ideal is for television and movies. Accept that ideal rarely happens and get real about what you can do. Whew. Now you’re ready for Plan B.

Plan ahead. Interruptions happen. Part of getting real is getting ready. Look back on the kinds of interruptions and roadblocks you have experienced in your writing over the past year. What sort of Plan B would have helped you to solve them? Examples include: writing less, working on a shorter project, writing in a different location, researching instead of writing, or turning off the phone.

Get specific. Most writers I work with have a global idea of what they want to do during the week. For example, I went into last week with this on my to-do list: “finish fellowship application.” That’s too big, even without interruptions. Take your big goal and break it down into really small steps. For my plan B list, my small steps looked like this: write list of current interests in work, write sentence about how art exhibit influenced current work, add recent publications to CV. Each of these steps I could do in 15-minute slots. Many of them I could work on while cuddling a sick child.

Get creative. Do you remember the old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention?” Crazy, challenging situations stimulate our creativity. Use your interruptions as an opportunity to get creative and design a fun plan B. When author Madeleine L’Engle was in her 20s, she did more acting than writing. Her plan B was to write between scenes. Barbara Kingsolver wrote her first novel in a closet, in the middle of the night, while pregnant with her first child. Keith Donohue wrote his first novel as he commuted to and from work on the train. If these writers can write without all the time in the world, you can too!

I managed to complete my writer’s fellowship application in between delivering doses of pain reliever to my children. My days did not turn out the way I had planned. But my Plan B worked just as well. Now I’ll never go into a week without a Plan B (and C and D)!

WANT TO USE THIS TIP IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander teaches professionals how to write more, get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at and sign up to be a member of her Write Now! Mastermind class for professionals at

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Right Now! Coach Goes to Hospital Camp

We spent much of Sunday packing everything we could think of to make two weeks in the hospital seem less like, well, two weeks in the hospital and more like hospital camp. We have books, magazines, movies, multiple craft projects, at least two bead project kits to create for other children who come to the hospital, and activity bags to make for sibling visitors. (Elly is working on one of those at right.) Of course the most important items in our suitcases, according to fashion-comes-first Elly, are our clothes. Elly spent a lot of time making sure that both of us would be dressed appropriately. (That means no sweatpants for Mom!) 

But no matter how much thought and effort we've put into bettering our hospital stay, the hospital is still a hospital. Elly doesn't like the smell or the daily needle sticks. Neither of us is crazy about the all-night lights and noise. And I don't like having to walk down the hall to the parent shower. Despite the challenges, I am glad we are here. The goal is a good one: getting Elly to eat. (And she is doing well so far.) The staff has been incredibly helpful, especially Elly's team of psychologists. And as long as Elly keeps eating, she is free to explore the playroom, go to the school room, and watch movies. 

And that's just what we are doing today at hospital camp. After spending a few minutes in the playroom, Elly went to school with several other children. Later, I will pick her up for our afternoon movie and craft time. (We're putting together keychain kits to give to the Create A Project Program at the hospital.) Tonight she plans to blog—because no matter where you are, fashion comes first!

More soon from hospital camp.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Happiness Budget

A few weeks ago I read at the Ode Magazine Web site about towns in the Netherlands who are giving their residents a happiness budget. At first I was troubled by the idea of using money to buy happiness. But then I read the article again. The people who designed this experience were not inviting people to buy a bunch of stuff. Instead, the purpose of the money was to encourage people to invest in projects that bring them happiness.

I immediately thought about my birthday purchase—a new bike. I'd been wanting one for years. The last time I had a new bike, I was a college student. I felt exhilarated when I got on my new bike for the first time. What a sense of freedom! This purchase fits with the happiness budget idea. It provides me with both transportation and a tool for exercise (a major happiness booster). Plus, it's pretty! :-) 

Next Monday, I'll be taking my daughter to the hospital for a two-week stay. She'll be working with the feeding team at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. She's been having tube feedings since February of 2008. We're hoping that she will be able to leave the hospital and maintain her weight (and even grow!) without needing tube feedings. 

During our hospital stay, my daughter will have three meals each day with the feeding team. Aside from that, we will have little else to do. We've been talking about how we can use our own happiness budget to better the hospital stay and help other people. We're hoping to make something we can give away to children who need them. 

We're still in the planning stages, but we will both be blogging during the stay. So check back here for updates on how the happiness budget works for us!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Write2Transform: The Love Equation

When we commit ourselves to writing for some part of each day we are happier, more enlightened, alive, lighthearted and generous to everyone else. Even our health improves. 
—Brenda Ueland

As I caught up on email and journaling, my daughter wrote. "What are you working on?" I asked. My 8-year old answered, "I am measuring love." When Elly had finished working, she had a card for each person in the family. (You can see mine here.) "What does it mean?" I asked. Elly explained that the M was for Mom. One of the numbers stood for the love we have for each other while the other number indicated the time we spend together each day. She told me that the amount of time we spend together affects the love number. In essence, she said that the more time we spend together, the more love we have for each other. But she also assured me that the time we were apart from each other was not lost. The love number also increases when we think about each other. Elly then turned the card over and did a lot of complicated math—none of which I understood. But I think I get the gist of this love equation—put in the time and increase the love!

I certainly found the love equation to be true in my journaling project: put in the time and increase the results. After journaling for more than 40 days, I felt more connected to myself. I have a better sense of what I want from my life and each day. I know what I enjoy in life, and journaling helps me to appreciate the small blessings. Most importantly, when I forgot to journal, I missed it. On those days, I didn't feel quite as good or as connected to my life and my life's purpose. 

But what about the other benefits? In case you forgot, here's what the research says journaling is supposed to do, and how I think it helped me during the month:

*Improve memory and sleep (Yup! and Yup! I always thought that if I chewed over my life in a journal, I might lose sleep. Just the opposite happened. By writing it all down, I was able to let go of difficulties and ruminate less. Of course writing stuff down also meant I remembered things better.)
*Boost immune cell activity (Except for one nasty bug, I escaped the sniffles and such that wound their way through our house.)
*Speed healing after surgery (Thankfully, I didn't get to test that one.)
*Increase general feelings of well being (Yes!)
*Support you in achieving your goals (In the short term, yes. I found that jotting down daily goals made me much more likely to achieve them.)
*Increase longevity (I'll let you know in 80 years or so!)

I could write much, much more about each of these benefits. And, I will. I plan to do more write2transform projects and blog posts in the future. I'll be back to tell you more about how it went.

Until then, happy writing!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


In one of the comments on the Write2Vision post, someone wondered if the hardest part of visioning is putting the dreams into practice. It may be. You know the old quote:

A vision without a task is merely a dream;
A task without a vision is drudgery;
But a vision with a task is the hope of the world.

If we're going to bring to life a piece of our Best Possible Self vision, then we need to do some planning and goal setting. Despite the bad press good intentions get, writing down a goal moves it from imagination to intention. The written goal becomes part of our conscious lives, and we become more likely to achieve the goal. 

Recent research has discovered some interesting facts about writing and goal setting. First, people who emphasized approaching a desired future as they wrote narratives about life-changing decisions (versus writing about escaping an undesired past) reported a greater sense of well-being. Second, writers who use causal words tend to live longer than those who don’t. (Causal words and phrases include the words so, hence, in order that, in hopes of, and for the purpose of.) Finally, as I have mentioned before, people who note when, where, and how they will achieve their goal are more likely to do it.

Take a look at your write2vision journal entries. Ask yourself:
  • What specific goals are inside these visions? Make a list.
  • What goals are most dear to you? Or, what goals are you especially passionate about? Star these goals on your list.
  • How could you go about achieving these goals?
  • What one goal could you begin working on this week?
  • Write this goal in your journal and begin making a plan. Include lots of small steps!

Once I have a goal and a loose plan, I like using the write2dump exercise to plan my day. Each morning, I write one to three pages about what I hope to accomplish during the day. I often create a schedule to connect my writing goals to specific times of day. I also allow for times of rest and reward in the schedule. For example, I might plan to work on a current writing project for ninety minutes in the morning. I also plan what my reward will be. When I plan both the work and the reward, I am much more likely to accomplish my goal.

Now it's your turn. Write2Plan—then let me know how it goes!