≡ Menu

Goals Drive You Crazy? Try Projects Instead

goalsOne of the reason I enjoyed Isabel Parlett the SoundBiteShaman‘s day of planning so much was becasue of her take on goals. The long and the short of it is she’s found it much more effective for her to think in terms of the projects she wants to get done, rather than working with very specific goals.

I felt my whole body relax when she said that!

On this solstice day I’ve decided this next year I’ll work with projects instead.


I get the idea that objectives should be Specific, Measureable, Action oriented, Realistic, and Timely and the acronym that results, SMART, frankly makes me want to gag.

Some of my favorite writing friends advocate goal setting. I actually like Lori Widmer’s One Easy Method for Reaching Your Freelance Writing Goals. John Soares is quite eloquent with his 13 Top Techniques For Achieving Your GoalsObviously goal setting works for some writers, maybe even most.

I have two problems with goals

When I look deeply into my feelings about goals I find two objections:

It’s so easy for me to make myself wrong when I set a goal and don’t make it

[click to continue…]


No Writing Gurus Needed

no writing gurusI participated in an Annual Planning Day with writer and coach Isabel Parlett who is known on the web as the SoundBiteShaman. She was delightful and one of the things she said so clearly was we should all follow our own hearts. Which is, after all, one way to say there are no writing gurus.

It’s so tempting, particularly when starting out, or later when things get tough, to decide we don’t know enough and look for a guru or to some other writer who claims to have all the answers – or even most of them. We forget we’re the expert on our own lives and look outside ourselves, hoping for a magic key that will make our problems go away.

The truth is there are no writing gurus

Of course, the real definition of a guru is a spiritual teacher who gives some sort of (often) secret initiation. That term, however, has come to mean in popular parlance someone who has specialized knowledge about something – even freelance writing, knowledge that few, if any others seem to possess. These are the folks who wildly over-promise to turn you into a best selling or high ranking or 6-figure earning writer if only you do exactly what they say to do.

[click to continue…]


Amanda LinGlobal English Editing & The Expert Editoroffered the infographic below. I looked at it and realized I’m guilty! I’m not sure I even understand the comma splice.

Although I know the difference between its and it’s, and your and you’re, my typing fingers often lead me to make those grammar mistakes – as some of you probably know.

I’m not sure using the passive voice is actually a grammar error, but it sure can be a mistake and results in boring prose.

Take a look and see if we should send the grammar police after you or if you’re use of language is, if not great, at least darn good.

grammar mistakes

If you want to confess to some grammar mistakes or goofs, you can do so in comments.

Write well and often,



purple asteriskGet my ebook, 3 Keys to Making Your Writing Pay when you subscribe to the newsletter – both at no cost to you.


Freelance Writers Need to Sharpen Ideas

sharpen ideasOnce you find an idea to write about, chances are you’ll need to hone it. Even experienced writers need to sharpen ideas so they become marketable.

Truly, it’s rare for an idea to arrive fully formed, including the market that will buy it once the piece is written. It happens, but you can’t count on it.

Start with the idea

One of the 10 ideas I listed in Ideas Are Everywhere was: One large cat. As I recall that one came about because my 20 pound tabby, Toulouse, wandered into my office just when I needed another idea.

While there are maybe a million things I could say or write about that large cat, or any other, the idea really doesn’t have any context. I haven’t even put up a picture of him to help things along.  (Be patient… or see below.) [click to continue…]


ideas are everywhereI don’t know how many times someone who wants to write asks “but where would I get ideas I could write about?”

Here’s a truth about ideas: Ideas are everywhere.

Ideas are everywhere

Let me demonstrate by simply looking around my office and seeing what ideas I can spark right now:

  1. Vision board
  2. One large cat
  3. Litter box
  4. Magazine holders used for files
  5. Computer
  6. Ergonomic keyboard
  7. Desk I can stand at
  8. Desk I can sit at
  9. Kneeling chair
  10. Almost empty cup of coffee

Okay, that’s 10 and I haven’t moved away from my desk- and it probably took me 3 minutes.

Example ideas

Here are those 10 ideas repeated, but I’ve added how each might become an article, blog post, or even a chapter in a book [click to continue…]


108 Things I’m Grateful For

gratefulYears ago now, Rev. Guy Williams (see below) challenged a class I was in to count out 100 things we were grateful for every day. Although with some practice I was able to list many things I was grateful for, counting them out proved to be a real dilemma for me.

Sure, I could do it on a computer using Word or Excel or WordPress as I’ve done here, but I wanted to make this part of a morning meditation. It came to me that my mala or Buddhist rosary had 108 beads, so I began to use that. I was given a Sufi string of beads to count out the 99 names of God – I used that for awhile too.

It’s become a Thanksgiving day tradition for me to sit down at my computer and right out at least 100 things I’m grateful for. Today it turned out to be 107 – so I added one more to make up 108 items.

I could probably double this, or even triple it – there truly is much to be grateful in this crazy world we live in. I love this as a practice – it’s really hard to be upset or unhappy when I do this.

You’re welcome to adopt and adapt this for your own purposes if you’d like.

  1. Dudley, the tuxedo kitty that lives with me
  2. Toulouse the tabby cat that lives with me
  3. My computer keyboard – it’s ergonomic
  4. So is my kneeling chair
  5. My moniter
  6. My desk
  7. The connection to the internet
  8. My modem
  9. My router
  10. My vision board
  11. My land line
  12. My smart phone
  13. My best friend
  14. My other best friend
  15. My online writer friends
  16. Clean water
  17. Hot water
  18. Good coffee
  19. The forum
  20. Roshi Seisen Saunders
  21. Rev. Guy Williams
  22. Sangha members
  23. World Beat Center
  24. My mobile vet
  25. My chiropractor
  26. My daughter
  27. Her twin brother
  28. My youngest son
  29. My oldest granddaughter
  30. My oldest grandson
  31. My youngest granddaughter
  32. My youngest grandson
  33. Meditation
  34. Alcoholics Anonymous
  35. Narcotics Anonymous
  36. Nicotine Anonymous
  37. Debtors Anonymous
  38. Underearners Anonymous
  39. Bill W.
  40. Dr. Bob
  41. Electricity
  42. Natural gas
  43. Espresso
  44. My espresso machine
  45. Organic milk
  46. Trader Joe’s
  47. Coffee from Cafe Moto (yes, they do mail order and they roast with solar power and most of their coffee is fair traded.)
  48. Washing machines
  49. Dryers
  50. Thrift stores
  51. Libraries
  52. Books
  53. Publishers
  54. Self-publishing
  55. Atlantic Magazine
  56. Mother Jones magazine
  57. The New Yorker
  58. Bloomberg’s magazine
  59. Rolling Stone
  60. Daily Kos
  61. Alternet
  62. High Country News
  63. Thom Hardman
  64. Radio
  65. Pandora
  66. Trees
  67. Flowers
  68. Succulents
  69. Weeds
  70. Vegetables
  71. Popcorn! (Did you know you can pop popcorn in small brown paper bags in your microwave with no oil of any sort?)
  72. Facebook – sometimes
  73. Heaters
  74. Air Conditioners
  75. Humidifiers
  76. A home
  77. Hardwood floors
  78. A stove
  79. A shower
  80. Sinks
  81. Refrigerators
  82. Freezers
  83. Grocery stores
  84. Trucks that deliver so much
  85. Farmers, particularly organic farmers
  86. Grass fed beef
  87. Paleo eating
  88. Herbal teas
  89. Skipping Black Friday
  90. Online shopping
  91. Local non-chain stores
  92. Clients
  93. My real estate investment recruiting with my daughter (Ask me.)
  94. My car
  95. Gasoline
  96. Tires
  97. A good mobile mechanic
  98. The Pacific Ocean – all of it
  99. Mountains
  100. Rivers
  101. Fish
  102. People working to stop the environmental damage to our planet
  103. People working for environmental justice
  104. Cathy Miller’s list of thanks
  105. Kozan
  106. Mitra
  107. Cleo the cat
  108. Other people’s dogs

Write well and often,





to do lists for writersAs we near the end of the year, which is coming way too quickly in my opinion, I often get the itch to look for new and better ways to get organized. I was looking and thinking about to do lists just now.

I use Todoist as my main to do list. It’s a web based tool and since most of the time I’m working I’m actually sitting in my home office at my desktop computer it works like a charm for me.

You can also use their apps for your mobile devices. I haven’t done it yet, but I can also integrate Todoist with either or both Gmail and Google calendar. If you upgrade to Premium – which currently is less than $30 a year, you can do even more.

Todoist is also perfect for collaborations. It also allows sorting of items into categories you create and you can tag these with different colors..

The value of a to do list

I love to do list in part because I can cross off or mark a check box and see that I’m actually getting things accomplished.

Of course, when I really use a to do list, I’m also making sure I’m reasonably well organized. I plan the day, and even the week, in advance. This helps me be sure I’m getting done what I need to get done.
The trick is finding a system that works for you. A paper calendar is fine as long as you use it. [click to continue…]


The Slight Edge for Freelance Writers

slight edge for freelance writersI’ve been reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. It’s one of those books that annoys the heck out of me… because it’s working.

The idea, paraphrased, is that we always get more of what we do. If we procrastinate, that leads to more procrastination.

If, on the other hand, we, for example, write 10 minutes every day, we’ll actually do more writing.

The idea isn’t to try and make massive change all at once. Instead, change works most effectively if we do it in small, even tiny increments – consistently.

Here’s how it’s working for me

The book is helping me make some changes. For example, as the day wears on I’m often tempted to take naps. Naps for me are mostly a chance to read and doze, and in my view there is absolutely nothing wrong with naps. The problem happens for me when I extend a 20 or 30 minute ‘nap’ into a couple of hours. That’s a lot of non working time, which may be okay, or not. Now, when I start thinking nap I’m asking myself ‘what will move me toward what I say I want?’ Usually the answer is to do more on my to do list.

[click to continue…]


The Real Secret of Finding Freelance Writing Jobs

finding freelance writing jobsWhen it comes down to it, there really is only one secret or technique to finding freelance writing jobs – you keep applying.

It really is that simple.

Assuming your write pretty well and you’ve got some credits, and you’ve got a professional website, keep looking and applying and sooner or later you’ll land a new gig.

Let’s look at these one at a time.

You write pretty well

You don’t have to be the next Pulitzer Prize Winner to land a freelance writing gig. In fact, it may be better that you don’t write in a literary style, or academic style.

There are far more writing jobs out there that want a simple and direct approach than want a style that sounds stilted or strange to the average ear. It also helps, if you’re aiming for the American or English markets, if you’re a native speaker – although you that isn’t an absolute requirement. You want to be able to write more or less like other people, only a bit better. And most of the folks who visit this website and others aimed at helping freelance writers find writing jobs can write well enough. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

well funded writing clientsWriting clients seem to fall into two categories when it comes to pay:

  • Those who argue over every penny.
  • Well funded writing clients who recognize they’ll get what they pay for and want quality.

Obviously we all want more of the well funded writing clients who pay well without a struggle. The trick is to learn to ferret out who is who when it comes to paying writers well. The key is to listen carefully.

Writing clients who argue over every penny

There are some writing clients who are reluctant to pay no matter how much money they have. Although I can’t prove it, I suspect they treat all vendors the same way. Typical identifiers include:

  • They start or ask early about your rates, often expressing they can’t afford much.
  • Counter whatever rate you name with less – often arguing that they understand the standard pay is…
  • Come back to you an hour or a day later explaining why they can’t possibly pay your rates.
  • Mention someone they know who will write for less

These folks are quite different than those who simply state they can’t afford your rates. Those you can sometimes have a successful negotiation with. [click to continue…]