500-Word Challenge: Six mini-lessons

never a failure always a lesson
a. When I finished the longer piece, I gave myself five minutes to do a light edit. Yes! Finished with 30 seconds to spare! 
b. During my 30-minute exerbike sessions, inspiration generally kicks in after ten minutes of pedaling and reading. At that point, I’m generally reaching for a pen and notebook and the ideas really do flow.
c. I spend too much time looking for/inserting an image to accompany my writing.
d. In spite of ‘c’, I do appreciate Pixabay and Unsplash.
e. YouTube has lots of good 90-120 minute videos of instrumental music.
f. My eclectic’s journal has consistently launched me into rapid word surges.

500-Word Challenge: Day 29–Letter to Ideal ‘Make Side Hustling Stick’ Customer

Readers: I just wanted to document my 29th of 31 days of the 500 Word Challenge. [685 words]

juggling

Greetings ideal customer

Welcome to:

Make Side Hustling Stick

Strategies to Learn–Really Learn!–the Best of ‘Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days’

We will explore the book Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days,  written by Chris Guillebeau.

Here are a checklist of what will best serve you during this course.

A willingness to revisit what fuels your enthusiasm to take this course. Maybe it’s as simple as your desire to create a side hustle, an extra income source that can be both fun and profitable. You’ll no doubt be learning from the master, who has also written The $100 Startup and Born For This and The Happiness of Pursuit and The Art of Non-Conformity.

Maybe you want to rise above the negative experiences from your previous years in school. You might want to convince yourself that you’re learning a lifelong learner and you want to put it to use for good.

And then there’s the desire to reinvent yourself–perhaps that has emerged lately.

You might want to be doing something for yourself–take on a project that challenges you and you alone.

You might also be thinking that the side hustle component of the course will help others. Bravo.

How about good ol’ self-improvement?

Or the need to address the question, ‘If not now, when?’. You know, that voice that whispers that your time on this earth is finite.

[By the way, just listing these possible reasons is a helpful reassessment exercise for me.]

Believe me, these are all valid reasons. Just latch on to the ones the keep you moving forward in this course.

Okay, more on your supply list.

— Imagination. The ability to visualize. No, not necessarily the ‘woo-woo’ level of visualization, but at least enough to see yourself taking forward steps, no matter how large or small. The key is forward.

— Still on the imagination thread, be open to talking to yourself on paper. after all, if you want to learn you need to talk it through.

— A pioneering spirit, a readiness to try out new ideas, new strategies.

— Enough of a trust in me and this course that you will benefit not just from covering the content of the book, but from the ‘make it stick’ strategies that you can rely on for later non-fiction and how-to books.

— A smartphone would be really helpful for its camera and its connectivity. Trust me on this.

— An ability to reframe the act of reading as you know it now. There will be times you will be writing [don’t worry, the only real audience during this course is you. I’ll put my red pens away, honest!]. Other times, I’ll invite/encourage you to sketch and make diagrams to help you flesh out your learning.

— A sketching tablet or digital version of a tablet.

— A decision to see yourself as ‘the boss’ of your book. That means, if you run into chapters that are not serving you, skip them. Give them enough of a glance to remember their basic message. Beyond that, move on. Not every chapter keeps every reader riveted and on-target. Realize that you are actually ‘hiring’ this book [and this course] to provide you with lasting benefits.

— The same goes for this course: If you encounter a module that doesn’t serve you, skip it, but even better, drop me a quick note telling me why that is the case. Let’s just assume that if you’re not being served, then that’s probably true of others.

— A readiness to thrash the book with dog ears and sticky notes and bright yellow highlights–whatever you think will be most valuable for you.

— An openness to sharing at least one success or suggestion during the course, though I’m hoping you’ll be more involved than that.

— So, I hope this list hasn’t scared you away. Of course, it might feel like a heavy investment, but it’s an investment in yourself, and I’m willing to bet that if you can even muster half of these list items, you will be making marked progress in both side hustling and in developing your own personalized learning strategies.

Let’s get going. I’m looking forward to the adventure.

 

Curation Monday–Links for Writers

Back to ‘curation’ mode…

pinterest icon

I’m not an avid user of Pinterest, but when I do sit down with it, well, it really is a gold mine of links and information.

Here are a few Pinterest-gleaned items that might interest you:

1. A Writer’s Manifesto
http://thewritewire.tumblr.com/post/96286625297

2. 101 Best Websites for Writers [I clicked the link which sent me to a page that offered a link to this valuable PDF.]
http://www.writersdigest.com/thank-you-for-subscribing-to-the-writers-digest-newsletter

3. 10 Great Podcasts for Writers
https://www.aerogrammestudio.com/2013/05/20/10-great-podcasts-for-writers/

4. The Super-Secret Way to Create Suspense in Your Story
https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/suspense-in-your-story/

 

Stepping in for Jeff Goins…Writing Prompts.

nose and glasses

Okay, since Mr. Goins has not delivered the writing challenge prompt for today, allow me to step in.

Here goes.

But first a word from our unnamed [but still gathering data on your browsing tendencies] sponsor…

Have you noticed that the only difference between ‘donut’ and ‘don’t’ is ‘u’?

And now back to our regularly-scheduled programming…

  • Write about the time when you wanted to take over a class you were attending. Yes, include the parts about laying siege to the administration building. And when you planned to change your grade in the class you were failing. And the grades of anyone else who was willing to pony up for your newfound side hustle.
  • Speaking of side hustles, write about a side hustle you would like to try. Yes, include the start-up costs, including the condo on Maui, the Lear Jet, and your sales conferences in Aruba.
  • Write about the dossier you collected on your neighbors. No, not the slimy, distasteful stuff [that’s for a whole different writing challenge], but the ‘what they do that you should be doing but will never get around to doing, like painting their house during this millennium, and thus you hate them for making you look like a slothful parasite. Yeah, that kind of dossier.
  • Write about the stuff you immediately look at when you enter a thrift store. [Some of you might need to first fess up that you even visit them.]
  • Describe your ideal writing setting. Include the aromas Fresh-brewed coffee? Sea mist from nearby crashing waves? Both of those simultaneously? [Yeah! Way to dream!], the needed ambient noise, your essential writing tools [blender and recliner included].
  • Tell about how you will celebrate the completion of the January writing challenge. Feel free to include climbing the steps of a local civic building, turning, jogging in place, and raising your arms in victory. [Just don’t tell Sly Stallone.]
  • Share some predictions of the aftermath of the January writing challenge. Maybe your description of the ideal writing setting will send you on a shopping spree. Perhaps your discussion of the side hustle will lead to a few phone calls with off-shore realtors. It could be as simple as a new set of pens. [For me, it’s one of those multi-packs of Flair pens, which guarantee a result from the inspired scrawl sessions in the pitch black of 3:00 AM. I don’t care if these brainstorms are in hot pink, I just want them recorded.]
  • Write a tribute to your writing life cheerleaders. Detail their qualities and those special moments when they lifted you up or drilled you with a solid dose of reality or treated you to a bacon breakfast burrito to launch you on your next project. [Yes, I know, ‘bacon breakfast burrito’ is getting pretty specific, but I want you to home in on their specialness.]
  • Make a list of ten products or services you wished existed for writers [or for folks with other avocations, life circumstances, or community service obligations]. Come on, stretch that thinking and have fun. Seriously, don’t you think all of us writers—in the midst of an inspirational surge— need an on-call personal assistant to cook the arroz con pollo, toothbrush that annoying tile grit in the shower, and give Barkley his afternoon romp? [For me, it would be an editor of my first-draft tirades and a typist of the acres of material from my notebooks. Oh! And someone with discretion and taste to sift through that stuff once it is typed up. I haven’t yet come up with a title for that poor shlub.]
  • Okay, so I’ve covered for Mr. Goins. If you haven’t already started your Jan. 27 challenge, there you go!

As for me, I just finished mine. [I hate ‘smug’, don’t you?]

Today’s theme: Disappointment

 

thumbs down disappointment

I’m disappointed that I haven’t yet finished the 500-Word Challenge because I promised myself a nice little reward once I post on January 31. Previous tolerant [Sympathetic? Long-suffering? Now homicidal?] readers of some of my –happy place alert!–Pulitzer-winning posts will probably guess what the reward is–something techy.

Looking through the newspaper, I am disappointed that no one has offered me a gold toilet. Then again I’d probably use it as a planter box–planter bowl, actually.

I’m disappointed that I was not invited to play in the NBA All-Star Game.

Then again I would probably stop play and start haranguing about too many fouls allowed, too many timeouts, too much showboating, too much ‘look at me’, too many mad-dog staredowns, too much chest-pounding… well there you go, you get the picture. In front of all those adoring fans occasionally looking up from their phones, it would not be pretty.

I’m disappointed that Canada has not let me into its psychic airspace. Let me explain: Sometimes, things here in the US get a little hinky. I’m thinking those same annoying items will at least be relegated to page 2 in Canada. [A Canadian friend has shot down that scenario, but I’m keeping the dream alive.]

I picture myself camped out in any one of the many Victoria, B.C. shops where they take their coffee and baked goods seriously and those nice, nice people are too polite to suggest that my sleeping bag and tent are infringing on the comfort of other patrons.

See? That psychic teleportation thing is working already…

Anyway, I applied at the psychic border crossing and was refused. They said something about their being overrun with similar requests. I even asked if someone could psychically sponsor me and, with downcast eyes, a shake of the head, and an index finger on speed-dial, they apologized that they can’t even issue day-passes.

I’m disappointed that I don’t have a DVR that permanently vaporizes mention of murderous heads of state,  as well as listings of specific TV shows, celebrities, non-celebrities, and media hacks.

I’m disappointed that there isn’t a truly ‘smart’ TV that rubs out all bottom-of-screen crawls spewing repeatedly ‘breaking news’ and spring training baseball scores [all preseason game results, actually]. Yes, yes, I know, most TVs allow you to zoom and thus block out the crawls, but that ain’t the same. I want a TV that essentially gives me control of the networks. [Yep, drifting into Dr. Evil territory. My apologies to non-viewers of Austin Powers–Not a fanboy, but the character seemed to fit.]

While we’re on the topic of Austins…

I’m disappointed that I’m not as productive as Austin Kleon, though every time I open one of his books [My favorite is Show Your Work], I’m hit with a surge of inspiration.

I’m disappointed there isn’t more January sun where I live–to the point that I actually watch golf on TV just so I can see non-gray skies and that big bright thing that helps make the skies non-gray.

I’m disappointed that I cheated a bit on this post–I used Google Docs voice typing for the first 100 words.

Plea for understanding: My hands were full [i.e. balancing coffee and raisin toast from The Bread Board in Falls City, OR–yes, yes, shameless promotion. Only benefit? A few extra words toward challenge-completion…talk about shameless.

On the upside, I’ve reacged 500 words and have risen above my  disappointment to keep the auto-keyboarded words anyway.

Such courage and fortitude in the face of potential virulent backlash.

Keep livin’ the dream…

Posting without serious editing…

Not a pretty thing.

editing mistakes

Throughout this January 500-Word Challengee’re we’ve been encouraged to publish without minndful editing, which I think is just fine because, in my eyes, the goals are to rise above fear and resistance and, in the process, build our ‘blogging muscles’.

However, at 1:00 on Thursday morning, I knew when I scheduled the post, it would be a regrettable result.

So, thank you to the folks who did dare to read my first draft intro pages for my Eclectic’s Journal. [Here’s a sanity tip: Along the lines of ‘don’t look directly at the sun’, ditto with an unedited post from me.]

For those more attentive to their posts than I’ve been, Sue Anne Dunlevie offers these five steps to take before you publish.


Update on my 31-day, 500-Word Challenge.

 

Aiming for Justice–Part II

Reminder to readers: This is a continuation of the ‘assignment’ to write an ending. Here is Part I of the ending.

***

We both stopped and looked at each other.

“Really?” I asked.

“We at least need to check,” said Maeve.

We slid the rolled up banner away from the office door, which on a normal day, would be wide open. Today, closed. Mrs. Dooling and Mrs. Taylor probably needed a break from the thousands of parents and kids trooping in and out with cupcakes and party supplies and who knows what else.

“We’re down to about two minutes!” I said. We unrolled the banner and—sure enough—instead of the usual ‘Have a great summer!”, the words ‘bummer of’ were taped over ‘great.

“That is totally the work of the Jamisons,” said Maeve.

I raced into the teachers’ supply room and came out with the widest, fattest black marking pen I could find.

“This banner needs just a few more words and it’ll be complete,” I said.

Maeve stood watch as I finished my work.

I tucked the pen in my pocket. “You go back first and I’ll come in right after.”

Just as I entered Room 13, they were lining up for the awards assembly.

“Mr. Beane, glad you could join us in time,” said Mr. Franks.

“Mr. Shoemaker asked me to help him with something,” I said. Lying, not my favorite escape strategy, but at the time, my only way out.

Maeve caught my eye and gave me the thumbs up.

The rest of the class trooped out, with Mr. Franks in the lead. Nice guy, but he never learned. A teacher at the front misses way too much elbowing and hip-bumping by kids who probably need four recesses a day.

Luckily, Room 13 was the last class leaving so there were no straggling kids to mess things up. I trailed the rest of the class and saw Maeve stop to tie her shoe.

I caught up to her. “What do you think? Ten minutes?” I asked.

“Should be about right,” she said. “I kind of remember they start with fifth-grade awards.”

“Sounds good.”

We walked together into the cafeteria entrance and I took a hard right turn into a supply closet as Maeve joined the rest of the class.

I could only hope Mr. Franks wouldn’t notice I was missing.

Once the cafeteria doors closed for the beginning of the assembly, I slipped back toward the upper grade hall. I settled into a corner for the wait and within a half-minute, I popped up.

The primary hall, I thought. That’s the place. But I needed to avoid the office.

I headed down the ramp, hopped the metal railing, and slipped behind the bushes that lined the front of the school.

It wasn’t as if it was the first time I had used guerrilla tactics to move around the school and I knew the ins and outs of these bushes. I ducked lower at the thinner areas and relaxed and stretched upwards when branches were thicker.

Finally, I made it to the primary classrooms.

I looked around. All was quiet. I stepped forward to get a closer look at my target. And then I saw a playground ball tucked into the far corner.

If I was a decent aim, that ball might give me a headstart back to the cafeteria, I thought. And I was about to hit the ten-minute mark Maeve had set for me.

I gave another quick glance, listened for any other possible interruption, and sidestepped to the ball.

I picked it up, took in a breath, took aim, and heaved it right for my target.

Bullseye!

Reeeer—-reeeer—-reeeer!

The alarm rang through the building.

***

 

 

The Eclectic’s Journal [Intro]

Eclectics Journal Screenshot

Introductory Pages for Eclectic’s Journal

[Note: I’m ‘honoring’ Jeff Goins’ [the writing challenge’s point person] suggestion to not edit.]

Write It Down, Make It Happen is the inspiration behind my ‘Put It to Paper’ section. Henriette Klauser’s strategy of jotting down those long-term goals keeps them on the front burner. Depending on the mood and the day, those notes can serve as either admonishment, gentle reminder, or inspiration. She also believes that keeping these ambitions alive can flip the switch on the reticular activating system, which can best be explained here: https://medium.com/desk-of-van-schneider/if-you-want-it-you-might-get-it-the-reticular-activating-system-explained-761b6ac14e53

Write It Down, Make It Happen is where good honest hard work and determination intersect with a sincere optimism that keeping those goals ‘published in your head’ raises the odds of the universe responding favorably.

I found myself rooting for those who shared their stories and I think it will raise readers’  hopes that they too might glean some serendipitous assistance.

***

As for Become an Idea Machine–the inspiration behind my ‘Idea Sandbox’ section–there is something magical about the number ten, as in, ‘list ten ideas especially in terms of ‘making the brain sweat’. to use the words of James Altucher, the first writer I read who coined the term ‘idea machine’ [though Claudia Azula Altucher actually wrote the book].

For me, once I reach numbers 7 – 10 in my daily idea challenge, I generally am wading into the waters of the absurd. The benefits? Absurdity checks the editor at the door, gives resistance a kick in the behind, and reminds me that this list is just for me so there is no reason to feel foolish. And when I drift that far afield can often lead to unexpected breakthroughs.

I have also benefited from using other media or thinking tools, such as my prewriting strategies, to help me along when I’m dragging or to boost my productivity to well past the prescribed ten ideas or to generate more idea prompts for later exploration.

The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently by Sunni Brown convinced me to add a ‘doodling’ component to page 2 of every Eclectic’s Journal entry.So many of us have talked ourselves out of even trying to draw something, that if it’s not recognizable and unsullied by missteps with ink or graphite, then it’s not worth doing at all. But with doodling, if nothing else, this component encourages a little artful freeform lettering as I emphasize a concept that is top of mind, such as ‘SIDE HUSTLE’, or ‘FINISH’, or ‘REINVENT’. Repetition of the doodling has also built my confidence in sketching and developing some basic techniques like cross-hatching. And it’s just plain fun. And it’s a nice release of pent-up energy. And, as with the rest of the Eclectic’s Journal, it is just for me. No pressure, try new things, see what develops. And it provides a connection between other Eclectic’s Journal components, which really is what the EJ is all about–connecting the dots between the personal and the creative.

Gratitude: I first learned of the power of thankfulness from Andrew Weil. He shared research that engendering optimism and other positive emotions lowers the level of cortisol, the stress hormone.

My gratitude exercise also breaks me out of ‘me-me-me’ blindness. Honest, I need all three ‘me’s’ to make my point. When I remind myself of some of the good that has happened to me that day, it tells me that there is at least a portion of the world/universe that is on my side. It forms for me–even briefly–my own little bubble of security and it opens my eyes to even more daily positives that I can hang my hat on [and I can feel secure enough to look past ending the previous sentence with a preposition. Luckily, I know the editor and he’s going to let me slide on it…just this once.]


More from the January 500-Word Challenge

Aiming for Justice

Today’s challenge: Write an ending.

This is the first half of the ending.

***

“But what are you gonna do about it?”

I hated when she asked me questions like that. They made too much sense. And they put me on the spot. And I had to take action.

“You’re not helping, Maeve.”

“I am and you know it. So, time for revenge?”

I looked off. “Not exactly revenge,” I said.

“Well?”

“I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

We were down to our last ten minutes. The school year would be over and both of those shrubs would march off to summer vacation convinced they had beaten us. I couldn’t—no, WE couldn’t live with that.

Other kids were crowding around us, for whatever reason.

“Let’s get to the oak tree,” I said. “I can’t even breathe here.”

We stopped and started and bolted through a dodgeball game and bobbed and weaved through kids on the monkey bars.

Once at the oak tree, Maeve and I were able to sit and think.

“Okay, we know they’re leaving early. And we know their parents are coming to get them. And we know they’re expecting to receive the ‘Best Behavior’ awards,” I said.

“And we know they’ll be crushed if they don’t get those awards,” said Maeve.

“So, we at least have something to work with.”

From our vantage point, we watched the twins roam the playground with their usual band of followers.

We were both quiet for about a minute.

then we looked at each other.

“I think I have an idea,” we both said at the same time.

***

Our ideas didn’t match.

Luckily.

Because we would need both to make up our grand plan.

What we needed now was some alone time, as in while the rest of the school was in one place, we needed to be somewhere else.

With the upcoming awards assembly, we were halfway there.

The trick was to never actually join everybody else in that steam room they call the cafeteria.

The lunch bell rang and in we trooped toward Room 13.

“So, do we have our timing down?” I asked.

“I think so,” said Maeve. “I think there are about ten minutes till we all head over.”

“Okay,” I said. “I ask to hit the bathroom first. Two minutes later, you do the same. We meet at the end of the primary hallway.”

“Why there?” asked Maeve.

“Because everything and everybody is innocent down there. There’s no reason why Mr. Lundquist would be patrolling down there.”

It was starting to come together. Maeve and I would have about five minutes to track down whatever evil, annoying plan Emma and Ella Jamison had come up with.

Like clockwork, we met by Room 4 and started our search.

“You start at one end of the upper grade hall and I’ll start at the other. If we’re walking together, for sure we’ll get nabbed.”

“You mean,” said Maeve with a smile, “that if we’re within five feet of each other, people expect trouble?”

“On the last day of school, any two fifth-graders within five feet of each other might as well be wearing a sign saying, “Up to no good.”

“Okay, then, here we go.”

We headed out and within minutes we met in the middle of the upper grade hall.

“Anything?” I asked.

Maeve shook her head. “Not a thing.”

I sighed. “There has to be something they’ve done. Otherwise, why would they even bother to leave early on the last day of school?”

On our way back to Room 13, we approached the office. Rolled up against the wall was the banner Mr. Lundquist always hung out across the front as everyone left for vacation.

List Your Fears

fear and sweatshirt hood tight

Today’s 500-word topic: List your fears.

So I fear that I’m not going to finish this January 500 word challenge.

I fear that I won’t finish the projects I’ve started and that Jon Acuff will send out his procrastination police to drag me in front of a vicious, closed minded tribunal that will throw me into a dank, dark motel room on the outskirts of Bumwiddle, Wisconsin in the middle of winter and force me to finish all my started projects.

I fear that the entire state of Wisconsin will turn against me because I happened to choose their fine, cheese-laden state as the locale of my fictional town, as if to suggest that it represents the hickest, most outlying place in the universe, which isn’t at all true.

I fear that they won’t believe that I actually used a random number generator to determine the number of the state I would choose.

I fear that I will never get to eat cheese again because of my unfortunate choice of that fine state.

I fear that I’m running off the road, in a writerly sense.

I fear that I will never get around to watch Tim Ferriss’s TED talk on fear setting.

I fear that, because I’m not Scandinavian, I will never get around to Swedish death cleaning.

I fear that I’ll never make it to the rescue shelter and give another dog a chance at a life of no training, regular meals and walks and car trips, comfortable naps on the bed, and lots of love.

I fear that I won’t talk myself into buying that MacBook that I ceaselessly pine for in 84.6% of my posted writing.

I fear that anyone who reads this will lock in on the cheap, tawdry word-count-cheating tactic of repeating the words, “I fear that…”

In my attempt to nail that exact quote from the dad character about Swedish death cleaning and decluttering in general, I fear that last week’s episode of The Middle will never come up on another screen in Chrome. I fear that I’ll be watching these buffering dots 

 

on ABC’s website for the rest of my life.

I feared that I would never climb out of the suffocating Internet rabbit hole/search for the above-mentioned quote.

I used a handful of kettle corn to snap me out of it.

So I fear that I will rely too heavily on kettle corn to solve [or salve] any future bouts with the Internet’s multitude of distractions.

I fear that you will all find out that I am listening to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass while writing this. [Something magical about instrumental music and cranking out meaningless prose.]

I fear that I now have less than ten words to, as slave driver Jeff Goins, the evil mastermind behind this 15,500 word challenge, suggests: “do something with this fear.”

I fear that my math might be off.

I fear that Professor Goins may not accept ‘fear spewing’ as a productive first step in my attempt to “do something with this fear.”