How are you feeling? Jacinda's got my back!
I’ll be blunt: I’m a bit of a hyper-aware mess. It’s clear, if you’ve got a keen eye: I bite my nails when stressed, my face is a blotchy mess, and I can’t stick to one task for longer than twenty minutes, and that’s at a stretch! Plus, at the time of publishing I've just been diagnosed with Shingles, so I wasn't as 'on top of things' as I thought.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Just last week our Prime Minister took the unprecedented step of addressing the nation on TV. Sure, we see Jacinda Ardern quite a lot at the moment, giving press conferences almost daily, travelling from place to place to check on progress and what our country needs to be prepared for this Covid19 monster, but a direct address is rare. The last I remember happened after the March 15th Christchurch Mosque Attacks almost this time last year. She looked us straight down the camera and assured us she’s looking out for our wellbeing. Unlike some other political leaders across the world, I believe her. She’s not in this for her own gain, political or otherwise. She spends a lot of time away from her fiancé and her own bubba on the quest to slow this pandemic down and soften the blow on our small country, and we know: Jacinda’s got this.
(Side note, I feel like our Prime Minister is part of our extended family, hence the first name basis. Our previous heads have had nicknames in our house – John Key = Jonkey, Bill English = Binglish. Jacinda is Jacinda because she’s guided us through some of our toughest, most personally challenging and desperate times. She’s not afraid to put herself out there. She’s visible, she’s kind, she’s relatable, and at times, hilarious *queue the East Coast Wave!).
So if Jacinda’s got us as a whole, how can I make better use of the time I’m left with? Not by obsessively checking news headlines, that’s for sure. And what about all those people that are now jobless, in isolation, or otherwise at a loss for what to do?
First of all, back up, and take a good deep breath of some clean, clear air. Take another for good measure. Now, read on…
"Having something productive to work on takes my mind off 'real world' stresses and recharges my batteries." - Emily Larkins.
So how do we bust those worries for a bit?
Some of you out there will have been toying with writing, or the idea of writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re serious about a career at it, or just enjoy it, this applies to anyone. You might enjoy poetry, writing short stories, non-fiction, fiction, journaling, screen-writing, anything! You might have written before, or this might be a fresh start for you. It doesn’t matter. This post is about the intent, and that might relate to something other than writing too. My key point here is stepping away from mass panic buying and toward something, anything productive that settles your mind. Cue quote from Peter Drucker: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Take hold of your future and make it work for you!
What can you do to switch from Covid19 jitters to a productive mind set? (The highlighted sections in this post include links to some of my blog posts and resources that you might find helpful!):
Some extra tips: timetables, calendars, allocating blocks of time (click here to see tips I use) to certain tasks, monitoring progress, sharing with others – any or all of these things could be useful to you. I’ll suggest journaling as a healthy way to monitor how you’re feeling. I’ve got a Quick Tip blog post on Journaling that might help – it’s quick and easy and only takes around ten minutes a week to work through.
And remember to breathe!
So, it’s time to get your project on! It’ll keep you in a routine, keep your mind occupied on something meaningful, and potentially create some income. Now grab that paper, and let me know how you’re going in the comments. If you need a hand or advice, feel free to drop me a comment in the box or hunt me down on social media. Here are my links.
Until we catch up next time,
P.S. Get in touch through the comments section if you'd like more tipes or ideas, or if you have some to share with others. Together, we'll get through this!
I hate wasting time and I bet you do to!
URGH! How often do you click publish on your blog and realise you’ve forgotten to SEO, ALT text images or add in links? It’s such a frustration, a waster or time, a potentially costly occurrence and, as it turns out, completely avoidable. We, as (semi)-professionals, strive for an error-free product, and missed steps cost time, money, and dent our image. Not good for any of us! So, I’ve come up with a solution so simple and easy you’ll wonder why we haven’t all been doing this forever!
This year I’m trialling a new planning format, and I decided early on that some kind of easily accessible list would be essential. Being a trial, it’s not particularly pretty, but it is dead cheap – a left-over 1B5 exercise book that I’ve spent time ruling up to use for planning. Since having children I’ve lost the magic ability I used to have of keeping an entire diary in my head, so I’ve created Planner Foldouts that hold those essential lists that I CANNOT afford to forget. I’ve got one for my Journal Prompts because I tend to lose the loose pieces of paper I used to tuck between pages, and there got to be so many that I’d be leafing through and wasting time every time I went to look for one!
Well, it’s time for that to stop!
Back in my previous life as a teacher, one of the things that became overwhelming was reinventing the wheel every time I went to teach a lesson that followed a very similar format, for example, printing/handwriting. Yes the letter changed, but the general formula for teaching the lesson didn’t. That’s where Routine Plans helped immensely, and this is where this Quick Tip comes in – ROUTINE LISTS. For the printing routine plan I created a general format lesson that outlined every repeated step in teaching all the letters (the steps that never changed, or changed very little). At the bottom I included the formation sheet and dated each letter as we went through. Tada, one Routine Plan instead of 26. Simple, effective, and not a step missed out, paper and time saved. So how can that lesson help save us time and energy in writing (or almost any other process)? Find out below!
“I despise wasting time searching for lists, AND reinventing the wheel every time I want to plan something. Routine Lists on Foldouts are such a quick, easy, and time-saving solution!” – Emily Larkins, author.
It’s a no-brainer, really: Foldout Routine Lists!
My last Quick Tip outlined exactly how to make your very own Planner Foldouts - simple inserts made to fit the inside cover of your planner that can be folded out for quick reference, and folded away when not in use. What makes them great is that they’re attached (so you can’t lose them), and they extend beyond the cover of your book to refer to as you go. Routine Lists are the extension of that – the essential lists and processes that you use often. My prototype planner with one large foldout holds: Journaling Prompts, Weekly Review Checklist (things I need to check I’ve done each week), Story Creation Steps (from idea gathering to clicking publish on my eBooks and making the Legal Deposit for my story (which we’re legally required to do in New Zealand)), and my Blog Post Checklists for before and after clicking publish. Some of these lists I refer to daily, others weekly or monthly, but the key is: I know exactly where they are when I need them.
To create yours:
Consider what you regularly check when completing a task – do you refer to a task list when creating a story? How about steps for editing? Do you use a specific process to write your blog? Here are some suggestions: frequently used hashtags, social media post schedule, daily/weekly/monthly tasks, Time Blocking chart, editing passes list, publishing process, blog post checklist, publishing checklist, reading list, Goals for the Year/Month/Week, inspirational quotes, conversion charts... In your home diary you may have a list of family birthdays, emergency contacts (doctor, plumber, electrician, etc.), appliance replacement part numbers, key dates (e.g. insurance payments, mortgage repayments, bills, children’s activities, etc.). The options are endless. Choose what works for you.
Write out the steps for your process and double check you’ve got all the steps and order correct.
Create a Planner Foldout for your journal/workbook/diary.
Transfer your list or routine to the foldout.
Hey presto! Done!
Now you’ll always have those essential lists on hand at a mere flick of pages. Check out my Foldouts Quick Tip to see how my clever wraparound Foldout makes this process even quicker and easier!
Happy planning everyone,
Do you have a question about it or would you like more on this topic? Do you have suggestions for other Routine Lists? Leave a comment to help others make the most of their Foldouts.
UNIVERSE, WHY DO YOU KEEP THROWING CHALLENGES AT ME???
The new routine at home. Routine? Haha!
The start of the school year has come with a whirlwind of trips to kick off the year. Between my two girls (five and seven), they’ve had school swimming lessons, a Beach Education day at St Kilda (a thirty minute trip away in town) and one at the local jetty. Though learning to swim is vitally important, and especially in the different water environments we have on the Otago Peninsula, it’s been trying for a number of reasons. 1. I’m utterly sick of washing togs to get dry for the next day, 2. I’m not that confident in the sea myself and parents were required to be in the water, 3. Sand on the carpet, enough said. I also accompanied Miss Seven to Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua. We went on the Port to Port ferry service and the kids LOVED the boat ride. It’s such a special place – I can see the island from my office window at home, and I’d bet ninety percent of Dunedin residents haven’t been there. Oh how this trip reminded of what I loved about teaching, but it reminded me of the challenges too! It’s a very busy job mentally, keeping track of twenty kids, prompting, providing, reminding, answering questions, not falling over (I failed on that one), constant noise, and making sure everyone stays safe. We had a great day though, and I was lucky to be able to take part.
Right, how many days of writing time did I use up there? Three so far…
Poor old Miss Five has already had two tummy bugs, (pretty standard for a new school kid), and Miss Seven, one. Five days of children at home. Luckily Miss Five loves school, and, like her sister, is hungry to read! She comes home so proud that she’s learned new letters and reads me stories. There’s something special about that first read, when they open the book and just start. Let’s hope she never stops!
That big step I was looking toward last news has happened! I put myself forward for a leadership role that in the past I vowed I’d never even consider. I always thought, ‘too big, too much responsibility!’ In short, never say never. The universe hears you and says ‘we’ll see about that!’ I’m like that though, reluctant until I’m challenged to truly think about something in depth. Once I’ve got an ounce of encouragement, talked it through with others, and considered what my role will be, my mind flips and I see my capabilities and what I can bring to the opportunity. It’s a position of responsibility, one I always considered an honour for the holder, and to be honest, out of my league. It turns out it wasn’t, I just had to believe in myself and own what I’m capable of, and in the end, I was given the role. So yes, I’m honoured, and I’ll bring my best to the position. Time to get my game face on!
How does one write amongst the chaos?
What a mishmash I’m in work-wise! I had those romantic dreams of three blissful writing days per week, but oh how the universe likes to play games! It’s been musical chairs shifting days to fit around family commitments and school events. Then there were the school trips and illnesses. It’s meant juggling the rather full schedule of writing commitments I’ve set myself – trying to get blogs written, flash fiction and short stories ready to publish and market, AND doing my best to find time for working on The Weight of Expectation (click to view my inspiration board on Pinterest). Just when I think I’m getting into a routine, something else crops up. Such is life! I’m on track so far though, and exciting things are happening in my mind for my novel. Now to get them onto paper…
I am feeling more like a professional writer, and that I can claim that title authentically. The projects and deadlines I’ve set myself have increased my productivity. They’ve also boosted my sense of achievement. I’m learning how to grab little moments for quick tasks, like a quick social media session whilst the kids eat their morning tea, or making notes alongside them doing homework. As a result, I’ve got more works out there, being seen by more and more people. The idea that readers are entering the world of my stories is a wondrous thing!
It’s time for a new motto.
I think my motto needs to be ‘I can do this,’ whether it be roles of responsibility, or handling the schedule I’ve set myself, even when I’m feeling like I can barely keep up. I just have to remember I can. Sure, it’d be lovely to have a settled routine and very little responsibility outside of my own house, but where’s the life in that? Where’s the learning and the opportunity to grow? So I’m not a nine to fiver, I don’t commute to work, or work with loads of people day in, day out. No, I’m a mum that gets to help on school trips and other school roles (I wanted to be able to do that for my children, and I am!), and I don’t have to take a sick day when they’re sick; I’m an author with the responsibility of setting and achieving my own goals (how great is that?), and I’ve got a bunch of stories out there in the world with many more to come.
So, whatever I am, and whatever you are, we can achieve what we set out to, so long as we believe in ourselves. If you really want something, you’ll make it happen. Even when it’s hard and the world seems to be working against us, in time that will change, and we’ll smash it. I surely intend to!
So, for all of you out there feeling under the pump, like you’re climbing Everest in stilettos, don’t panic, take a breath, the chaos will calm, and you’ll get there.
Keep on keeping on,
Do you have any quotes or words of encouragement for others? Drop them in the comments! If you need some, visit my Pinterest Board and check out the 'Self Care' section, or 'Words that motivate and inspire me.'
Flash Fiction Friday - next week's story Late.
Another Quick Tip next week too!
Check out my Prompts By Emily Pinterest board for brand new story starters every weekend.
Looking ahead to April - New short story to be released!
March release: THE DOOR THAT WOULDN'T SHUT
The basement door just won't stay shut.
To begin, it's a minor inconvenience, but as time goes on it seems something larger is in play.
With the narrator home alone as the first fierce storm of the season ramps up, the winds wreak havoc in the neighborhood, and the door succumbs to the will of the wind.
When it finally decides to close, the door changes the course of the narrator's life forever.
Building an author platform isn’t as scary as you might think…
Starting out back in 2018 I had no clue of what an Author Platform was. None. I had accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and was keen to get my book out into the world, but had a sticking point: it’s scary. To start, following complete strangers on the internet goes against the grain of inviting strangers into our lives, and as for direct messages, well you never know what’s going to pop up in there! To be frank, it scared me, but I had no idea how important a social media following is for an independently published author or for a newbie looking to get a foot in the traditionally published door! I needed direction, so, like for most things I have no idea about, I decided to do some research.
During research into publishing I came across the term ‘platform.’ Having not long built a house, all I could imagine was bare earth all smoothed out and ready to build on, and this image actually isn’t far from the truth. Your platform is the foundation of followers, fellow writers and creatives, friends, viewers…anyone who could be considered a potential reader. It pays not to be a hermit (that’s a bit tough! I hear you introverts cry), but it’s a fact of publication that having a followership really helps. I utterly get the reluctance to venture into the public world with your book baby, or to create a public image of yourself, I’ve been there! I’d not long come through a period of depression when I decided to go the whole hog with my writing. I was in a space of wanting to hide, I mean, why would anyone want to know about me? Why would they care about my stories? How would they even see my one tiny text in a gigantic world library of books? Well, at the start they didn’t, and that’s the point of starting early.
Deciding on how you want to portray yourself can take some time, and so does building the confidence to take that step into the public domain in your newly claimed role. I’ve done it all in little caterpillar steps (to date, two years), and as time has gone on I’ve built myself a platform. I started with family and Facebook friends. I researched platforms and social media (you can find the blogs etc. I used on my Pinterest board here… [insert link]), I created accounts, and I waited, and very little happened. What was I doing wrong? Read on to find out.
Where on earth do I start and why?
The biggest mistake I made in the beginning with social media, was assuming that people would come to me.
I still consider myself a newbie at platform building, and for me it’s been two years of mostly research, trial, and error. I’ll tell you that it takes time and a certain amount of guts (or just close your eyes and go for it, like me) to start making those connections. But the sooner you start, the better, and almost every author I’ve come across will tell you to start before you publish. That felt wrong to me, and so I waited. I didn’t have anything to share, did I? Actually, I did, and so do you. Had I joined the #writingcommunity on Twitter sooner, I could have tapped into a wealth of experience in planning and writing books. There are literally thousands of authors out there who are willing to share their expertise. I could have asked about publishing, advertising, how to beat writer’s block, or what the heck a platform was in the first place! So, I’ll tell you now, it’s never too early to begin, and baby steps are better than no steps.
The one secret I’ve got that can really help you isn’t such a secret really: if you want people to find you, you’ve got to get out there and amongst it by following others. You’ll find that many people you follow, particularly on Twitter and Instagram, will follow you back, and add you to their #writerslift (a way of sharing people to follow), and then you’ve got your foot in the door! Hooray!
But what social media apps should we as writers/creatives be using? How many? What should I post? There’s no easy answer there, sorry, it’s up to you. All I can do is share what I use, and urge you to have fun with it!
I use four main apps – Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’ve listed them in the order I find them most beneficial to me as a writer and I’ll tell you why below.
Pinterest – ultimately a search engine with effective methods for saving what you find. Once you’ve joined (I thoroughly recommend choosing the free business account), start pinning. Begin by pinning other people’s pins that you like. I started with ‘how to’ type stuff, searching, ‘how to write a novel.’ Once you’ve saved a bunch of other people’s pins, you can begin creating your own. The bonus of Pinterest is that you can create boards (like a file folder) with any title you like, and you can divide these boards into sections with their own headings (like divider inserts). I have created title images for each kind of board I have – business boards (for how to build your author empire), reading boards (with inspiration boards for each of my stories), and writing boards (educational tools for myself and other writers to use). I also have a few private boards that are visible to me only. One of these is for saving pins I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. If I like them after reading, I’ll shift them into one of my public boards. I also start new story inspiration boards as secret boards and only make them public when I’m ready. Pinterest helps with my learning, sharing, and marketing of my work, and the business account gives you access to analytics (I can find out how many impressions my pins have made, how many saves, and how many link clicks pins have generated, which of my boards are most popular, and so much more!).
To see how my Pinterest account can help you on your journey to a writing career, click here:
Twitter – it’s all about the interaction. I was terrified of joining twitter in the beginning and saved it until last (silly me!). The potential audience is massive, and I didn’t know what I could possibly have to say that anyone would want to interact with. It’s daunting in the beginning, but if all you do to start is follow a few people (hint, use the hashtag #writingcommunity or #amwriting), you’ll be able to look at what others are posting, and who knows, you might have an answer to someone’s question, or you might ask one of your own. You’ll start getting followers quickly, and you can follow them back (but you don’t have to if you don’t like the look of their bio/account). The key to building your platform on Twitter is to follow people, and participate. Use the above hashtags, and jump on #followfriday and #writerslift tweets so people can follow you. Interact, ask questions, or try setting up a poll. Don’t be freaked out by people with enormous follower numbers – pretty soon you’ll be up there amongst them and wonder what you were afraid of! They’re just normal people too, though they seem like Twitter gods to begin with! Twitter is my newest app, but my fastest growing, and most interactive, and I wish I’d gone for it sooner!
Instagram – is an image sharing platform. There are literally millions of images shared here each day. I use it to share visuals of my work, but also to share snapshots of my life. I started on a private account, but converted to a free business account when I turned my focus to writing. With a business account you get free analytics, and down the track you’ll find these really useful. My viewers get to see a bit of my personality, what I get up to, what I like, and how I live. I don’t have a visually stunning account like some of the pros out there, but I’m learning and evolving all the time. The key to getting noticed on Instagram is to use the right hashtags, for instance #authorlife, or #amwriting.
My Instagram following has been slow but steady to build. My top tips are a catchy bio that has a bit of your personality in it, and images that give a sense of you and your interests. I try to give equally of myself and my work. It’s never advisable to ‘sell, sell, sell.’ People will get annoyed/bored and unfollow you. Another great feature of Instagram is that (once you’ve linked your accounts) you can share straight from your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter with a couple of clicks.
Facebook – it’s where most people start because we’ve been using it for so long to interact with family and friends. The trick, when you go public, is to create a business page. I’ll be honest right now and tell you that Facebook, whilst I thought it was golden in the beginning, has been my hardest platform to grow, and compared to the platforms I mentioned earlier, it’s a bit of a let-down. Sure you can get some great page views through advertising, but it for me, it hasn’t led so much to anything useful. And be careful with advertising. I put a bit of cash into advertising early on. It got my page plenty of single views, and sold a few copies, but ultimately I haven’t made that cash back yet (not from Facebook interaction anyway). You might have more luck than me, or better yet, do your research to make it work for you.
Beyond my ‘big four’ above, I also have connections in other places:
a website, which is my gathering page for everything – all roads lead to it, and I redirect to other places from there. I’ll blog more on websites in the future.
I have a Goodreads author page but am still working out how to make it work for me.
Potentially the most useful of my author pages as an independently published author is my Amazon Author Page. This is where your face and bio pop up with your works in one place, so it’s important.
There are plenty of ‘how to’ blogs out there with step by step instructions to setting up accounts on any of the afore-mentioned apps. All instructions to accounts I have can be found here – to be clear, these are bloggers I’ve used and collected into one easy place, not my own. You can use them too by clicking here:
I’ll give you my three top tips for Social Media here now (more to follow in my Quick Tips coming soon):
DON’T sign up for everything out there – you’ll spread yourself too thin and won’t have time left for writing! Start small and add things in as you go. Stick to two or three and work your way up from there, otherwise you’ll be spending all your time on social media instead of creating!
DO write a bio on each platform. I, and many others, won’t follow you without a clue as to who you are. It’s way too easy to scroll over you. Even ‘writer,’ or ‘#writingcommunity,’ is better than nothing! The idea is to lead us to your account so we can follow you.
DO treat direct messages with caution, in both opening them, and sending them. Seriously, you’ll be surprised what some people think is acceptable to fling at you without invitation (including unmentionable images of body parts, spammy advertising, and ‘if you’d like to increase your follower numbers…’). Likewise, nobody likes the incessant message box spammer that pings you daily with ‘buy my book.’ Just don’t do it. I know it can be tempting when you’ve got a new book and you’re just beginning to build your following, but JUST DON’T. Save it for your public feed unless someone messages to ask you for more information. I don’t even have an automated ‘thanks for the follow,’ because it annoys me to receive them. I’d rather drop a gif or quick thanks on someone’s main feed. My general way of dealing with my direct message inbox is to ignore it, so please don’t be offended if I don’t answer you there. I find it more trouble than it’s worth.
Has this blog helped you? Do you feel more confident in putting yourself out there for having read this post? Do you have questions about platform building on social media? Let me know in the comments section!
Hi, I'm Emily,