Why Aren’t You Bullet Journaling?

On the face of it, Bullet Journal is a simple system. Done the way Ryder Carroll devised, a Bullet Journal is just a rapid-logging system that involves making a monthly log and a daily log. But once you wander away from Ryder’s website into the far reaches of YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram, you’ll see there are lots of ways to Bullet Journal. And sometimes you run into some obstacles.

Today I want to talk about a few of those obstacles to Bullet Journaling.

Intimidation

I don’t know about you, but when I look at some of the intricate and artistic spreads a lot of Bullet Journalists post on their Instagram or Pinterest accounts, I want to find something to hide my super-minimal Bullet Journal pages!

I’m not an artist. I like to doodle, but I’ve never had the discipline to really work at the craft of drawing. If I’m going to decorate my planner, I use stickers and washi tape…but there are times I just don’t have the time to do even that.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people in one of the Bullet Journal Facebook groups I belong to ask, “I’m not really artistic. Can I still Bullet Journal?” Or another version of that, “How do I get started Bullet Journaling?”

The answer, of course, is that you don’t have to be an artist to Bullet Journal and that you get started Bullet Journaling by writing a log in a notebook.

That’s it.

Your Bullet Journal is yours. It can be as fancy or as plain as you want. It can be artistic, functional, sloppy, scrapbooked, text-only, or a combination of all of those things.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the best thing about Bullet Journaling is how flexible and forgiving it is.

Don’t be intimidated by the elaborate spreads and gorgeous lettering you see on Instagram or Pinterest! You don’t have to post pictures of your BuJo if you don’t want to. You don’t have to let anyone see it.

Expense

Bullet Journaling can be expensive, no question. If you’re into fountain pens, fancy notebooks, Tombow dual brush pens, stickers, and the like, you can spend a small fortune on your Bullet Journal habit.

But I’ve also seen people Bullet Journal in a $1.50 composition notebook using a Big Stic pen.

This point kind of goes hand-in-hand with my point about intimidation. Your Bullet Journal is yours. If you can’t afford a Leuchtturm1917 notebook and a set of Tombows, you can still keep a Bullet Journal.

For me, the sole purpose of a Bullet Journal is to keep me productive and on-task–and to make sure I’m productive on the right things. What that means in practice is that anything which helps me stay productive is good, and anything that derails me is bad.

If I’m so hung up on purchasing just the right tools that I don’t actually sit down and work in my Bullet Journal, I’m missing the point.

I’m not saying fancy pens and notebooks and stickers are bad. I’m just saying that they’re only good until they become a hindrance to me actually working in my BuJo.

My first attempt was in a wire-bound notebook I had lying around because I’d never stuck with a planning system for a long time, and I wasn’t sure this sytem would even work for me.

Don’t let an empty wallet keep you from starting a Bullet Journal.

Fear of Doing it Wrong

Another question I used to see people ask on Facebook: “I’m afraid to start because I might do it wrong.”

My thought is that it’s really hard to do it wrong when the system is designed to be as flexible as you need it to be. Bullet Journal is a system of logs and collections, organized by the index at the front. If you need to draw a calendar each month because you’re a visual thinker, do that. If you don’t, that’s fine. If you need to have a weekly spread, do that! If not, that’s fine.

What it boils down to is this: Your Bullet Journal is yours. There’s no wrong way to do it.

If it keeps you on-task and organized, it’s right. Even if your way wouldn’t be right for someone else.

Don’t let a fear of doing it wrong keep you from starting what could be the best organizational system for you.

Chronic Illness

I know a lot of people with various chronic conditions. Some of them have had trouble with traditional planning systems in the past, and they were worried that Bullet Journal wouldn’t work for them either.

As someone who suffers from Chronic Depression, I get it. One of the reasons I didn’t do as well with systems like Franklin Covey or monthly/weekly planners is that if I stopped using it for a while because I was going through a difficult time and couldn’t manage much more than getting out of bed and dragging myself to work, I’d have a huge blank space in my calendar.

Those blank squares glared at me accusingly, telling me I couldn’t even keep up with a calendar, so how could I expect to actually do anything that matters?

I think one of the reasons Bullet Journal works so well for me is that it doesn’t have those accusing blank spaces. If I have a bad spell and don’t get out of bed all weekend, guess what? I just pick up again on Monday without skipping a beat!

I would argue that for people with chronic depression or illnesses that require them to measure their energy in spoons, Bullet Journal is a much more forgiving and flexible system–exactly what we need!

Work Situation

I know there are people with complex work situations. Maybe you’re required to keep things confidential. Maybe you work two jobs. Maybe your work situation has so many moving parts that you can’t imagine how to make Bullet Journal work for you.

I think there are various solutions to these issues.

If you have to keep client information confidential, you could start a work Bullet Journal that never leaves your desk and gets locked up every evening when you go home.

If you work two jobs, you could color-code your tasks and collections and appointments. Personally, I work two part-time jobs, I write fiction, and I run an Etsy store. I definitely use the color-coding to keep things clear! I also have a separate project collection for each job. I take staff meeting notes in my Bullet Journal so I have those to refer to as well. I considered keeping my staff meetings in a notebook that I leave at work, but I always ended up transferring things from my staff meeting notes to my task and project lists, so I decided it just made sense to keep them in my Bullet Journal and, when I move into a new notebook, to migrate just what I need.

If that would be too much work for you, you could always keep a separate notebook at work and only transfer current stuff to your personal Bullet Journal.

Say it with me: Your Bullet Journal is yours. You can do whatever you need to in order to make it work for your unique situation.

Planner Peace

I use Google Calendar for my future planning. I have a calendex in my Bullet Journal because I like it, but if I need to know for sure when something is happening, I check my Google Calendar.

But for everything else, for dreams and goals and projects and plans and daily to-dos, I rely on my Bullet Journal. Someone on Instagram called her Bullet Journal her brain, and I don’t think that’s overstating it.

I’ve finally found planner peace with my Bullet Journal. I’m so glad I didn’t let any obstacles stand in my way!

Have you had obstacles crop up in your Bullet Journal journey? If so, what were they? How did you handle them?

Observing Lent With Bullet Journal

Lent is coming up soon–Valentine’s Day is also Ash Wednesday this year, so it’s just a week away! I love the observance of liturgical seasons, including Advent and Lent, and I want to make it more intentional this year.

I spent some time over the weekend thinking about how I want to observe Lent this year. I haven’t made any decisions yet, but thinking about it gave me some ideas for stickers to create.

Last year I gave up alcohol, which was a big deal because I was drinking a lot (more than I should have) last year. In the time since I have pretty much stopped buying alcohol for home. When I visit Indiana wineries with my mom, I tend to buy a couple of bottles, and I’ll probably still do that. I might have a beer with my burger when I eat out, and this Friday I’m taking a friend out for margaritas to celebrate her leaving a toxic work situation.

Aside from that, I’m just not drinking much, so giving up alcohol wouldn’t be that much of a sacrifice. And Lent is supposed to be about giving up something that you’ll actually miss. I can’t give up caffeine because I want my coworkers to stay alive. So maybe chocolate. We’ll see. I’m still thinking. Maybe I’ll give up spending money for 40 days!A photo of Lent stickers designed for the Redhead Paper Etsy store

Anyway.

I designed some stickers for the collections I want to create: “What am I giving up and why?” and “Lenten Scriptures and Readings” I made some stickers for the specific holy days of the season: Shrove Tuesday, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. I also have a few decorative stickers with symbols from Lent, like palm branches, lilies, and crosses.

I’ve thought about making a Lent tracker, but I haven’t been able to come up with a design I like. Maybe I still will, but for now, I’m going to list the stickers without a tracker–and if someone buys the Lent stickers and I’ve made a tracker I like in the meantime, I’ll send them the tracker too!

Do you have Lent traditions you enjoy? Share them in the comments!

Photo Post: February 2018

I wanted to share my February spread with everyone. I’ll be honest–I don’t switch things up very much with my spreads because I’ve found what works for me.

In my life, Bullet Journal is less about being artistic and creative (I have other outlets for that) and more about doing the bare minimum to keep me productive. Lots of people get super creative with their BuJos, and I love seeing their spreads and doodles and gorgeous lettering! But that’s not really where I want to spend my creativity.

So with the caveat that this new feature might get repetitive or boring, I’m going to try to share photos of my Bullet Journal spreads every month.

First my planning setup. I only get this elaborate when I’m doing my monthly spreads. Weekly spreads aren’t as involved, so I usually work at my desk instead of the kitchen table.

Getting ready to plan February in my Bullet Journal - Redhead Paper

My February spread before I put anything on it:

February monthly spread in my Bullet Journal - Redhead Paper

Then the monthly spread filled in.

February monthly spread in my Bullet Journal - Redhead Paper

After the monthly log and tasks comes the habit tracker. In this picture, you can see what I tracked in January on the right and what I plan to track in February on the left. The numbers are the color of Tombow Dual Brush Pen I use to mark each habit.

Habit tracker in my Bullet Journal - Redhead Paper

The final spread in my monthly pages is the prayer prompts and prayer request list. I’m only showing this spread before I transfer ongoing prayer requests from January since I try to keep those private.

The Prayer Prompts calendar on the left is designed by Kelly O’Dell Stanley,  a writer and speaker I love. She describes herself as a graphic designer who writes (or maybe a writer who also does graphic design) and her book Praying Upside Down (affiliate link) is wonderful. She sends a free prayer prompt calendar every month to her email subscribers, and I print it at 65% to fit in my Bullet Journal.

The pen in this picture is my TWSBI Mini EF filled with Noodler’s Ottoman Rose, which is what I used to write the headers for these pages.

My monthly prayer spread in my Bullet Journal - Redhead Paper

And that’s it! After these pages, I start my daily logs. My weekly log for this week is back in January since the week was mostly in January. I just transferred the things I still needed to do to today’s daily log.

What does your spread look like this month?

Redhead Paper’s Etsy Story

I’ve talked before about why I bullet journal. The system works for me–it’s flexible, it allows me to use the parts I like from other planning systems (like GTD), and it makes me mindful of what I need to be doing and when. I’ve been using the bullet journal system for almost three years, since March 2014. I’ve never used a single planning system that long!

Of course, once I started keeping a Bullet Journal, I realized one of the strengths, for me, was the way I can use it as a sort of scrapbook as well as a planner. I love scrapbooks, but I have a huge backlog of things to put in scrapbooks. With my Bullet Journal, I just use a little adhesive or washi tape to stick things like photos and ticket stubs right into my planner.

And stickers. Oh, my gosh, stickers!

Stickers with mailboxes and letters designed for InCoWriMo

My #InCoWriMo / letter-writing stickers with some of the notecards I’m going to use this year.

Why I started an Etsy Shop

I started out buying some planner stickers from other people. I loved the stickers I got from Mila Print Shop (sadly not open at the moment) and Boho Berry Paperie. But after a while that gets expensive, and sometimes there were stickers I wanted that people just didn’t make.

I started investigating. There had to be an easy way for these Etsy sellers to make the stickers I loved so much. I did some Google searching and discovered the Cricut.

Ladies, I fell in love.

I realized I had all these ideas for stickers I needed, and there were probably other people out there who needed those same stickers. I talked to my mom, whom I’d introduced to bullet journaling early on, and then some of my friends who were getting into bullet journaling. They all had stickers they wanted.

I ran some numbers and decided it was a chance worth taking. I talked to my dad, who agreed to invest in the business by actually buying me a Cricut, and I started experimenting.

Three months after I got my Cricut and started feeling comfortable with it, Redhead Paper came to life.

What I have in my Etsy Shop

I have about fifty listings in Redhead Paper right now. One of the first things I made was a set of daily date stickers. I know, it’s kind of basic, but having a sticker that tells me it’s Wednesday, January 24, 2018, makes my life a little bit easier on a daily basis.

Turns out, lots of people need daily date stickers for their bullet journals! These stickers are consistently high-selling items, so I know there’s a need!

I also started experimenting with habit tracking. All the habit trackers I’d seen on Etsy in the past were oriented horizontally, which meant I had to turn my bullet journal sideways to read them. I designed my habit tracker to be vertically oriented. I’ve had a lot of great feedback from people about that.

Habit Tracker created by Redhead Paper on Etsy

Part of the Habit Tracker I designed – you still have to turn it sideways to fill it in, but for tracking purposes on a daily basis, you don’t!

I had designed mini month calendars and month tabs for my mom even before I had the Cricut (and cut them out for her by hand). So it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to create stick-on month tabs. My friend Amanda wanted mini calendars, too, so I added those.

In addition to working at a museum and creating stickers, I’m also a fantasy author, and I wanted to have stickers that reflect my love for writing, help me track my writing progress, and more. So I designed those.

My dad also suggested I should get political–and to be honest, I’m pretty sure my #ShePersisted and “Not My President” stickers were what started getting my shop noticed. Those have been pretty popular, even to this day. (And now that it’s 2018, I’m going to have to make some stickers about the importance of 2018 midterms!)

I have stickers to help you decorate for holidays, plan for Christmas, and set goals. I’ve just recently started making hobby-themed sticker sheets. I have gardening, writing, letter-writing, art, and knitting already, and I’ll be adding more as the year goes on. (If you have a suggestion, let me know!)

And that leads me to my big question…

What should I ADD to my Etsy Shop?

I would love to know what kinds of stickers you need!

I have some things in the works–things like vacation planner sets, water tracking, and birthday planning–but I love taking Etsy commissions, and some of those have given me ideas for new listings.

If you have a need for a certain kind of sticker, comment here and let me know!

Goal-Setting in my Bullet Journal

I do a lot of goal-setting. In addition to running an Etsy shop, I have two part-time jobs and am also a published novelist. I have a lot of tasks and projects to keep track of, and there’s no way I can keep track of them all if I’m just relying on my own brain.

Brain dumps ftw

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with everything life is throwing at you? Stuff is coming at you from every direction and you can’t spin around fast enough to catch everything. I occasionally feel like life is a cosmic game of dodgeball!

When it gets overwhelming like that, I sit down, switch on the Focus mode of Brain.fm, and do a total brain dump. Just write down all the crap that floats through my head, all the things that are taking up space in my mental RAM, and quantify them.

I generally use a separate notebook to do my brain dumps because they can take up a lot of space! But as soon as I’ve finished, I start categorizing everything I wrote down (highlighters are good for this), and that’s where my Bullet Journal comes in.

Once I’ve quantified everything I need to do, I can start figuring out what the next concrete step is to take on every outstanding project.

Sometimes I go through the brain dump in the order I wrote things down and sometimes I skip around. Sometimes I realize that several items in the brain dump belong in a collection in my Bullet Journal. Sometimes an item just needs to go on my monthly or daily task list.

As soon as I’ve recorded a brain dump item somewhere in my Bullet Journal, I mark it out on the braindump list.

Not only does that help me see where I am in the planning process, but it also has an immediate psychological effect. I’ve written it down, I’ve put it where it needs to go, so I can release it from my immediate attention. (If you’re sensing echoes of GTD in this, you’re right!)

So What About Project Planning?

Projects with a lot of steps are different beasts from a simple to-do, that’s for sure. But they’re not really the gargantuan, out-of-control monsters they can feel like.

My rule of thumb is to write down every big step. Sometimes I realize the list I’ve been working with doesn’t have all the steps, so I add them in–even if I add them after completing the step.

I confess I don’t always write down every single tiny step because that would take a lot of paper! But if a project is starting to feel overwhelming, I sit down and do it, even if I have to set up a separate collection just for that project.

A picture of my Quarter 1 Action Steps - Track goal-setting and projects in Bullet JournalI currently have two major projects listed on my Quarter 1 Action Steps page in my Bullet Journal, and I have the components broken down on that page, as you see in the picture, though there are actually lots of little steps to each component.

For example, under “2018 Exhibit” the component “Title banner” actually involves several steps:

  1. Coming up with a title (in collaboration with other museum staff)
  2. Choosing banner images
  3. Choosing a font
  4. Choosing a color
  5. Choosing a vendor to print the banner (or consider printing in-house)
  6. Creating the graphic
  7. Proof-reading title banner
  8. Uploading the graphic to printer/printing graphic

I don’t have this goal broken down into all those steps because this is the sixth exhibit I’ve helped design, so a lot of those steps are internalized for me. On the other hand, I often end up breaking those components down on my Monthly Task List.

If you need to break down the components into every step on your project page, do it! The best thing about Bullet Journal is how you can customize it to work best with your style of work.

Tracking Goal Progress

I tend to use two different methods for tracking my goal and project progress–I’ll call them passive tracking and active tracking.

For active tracking, I’ll actually design a tracker to fit that project. For instance, another project I’m working on for work involves going page-by-page through a book we’re publishing. It’s a huge task, so I drew a special tracker for it–just a set of boxes that are numbered with the chapters of each book. As I finish each chapter, I fill in the box and I’m able to see that I am actually making progress, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Passive tracking, on the other hand, is basically just me paying attention to what tasks I’m migrating from day to day, week to week, or month to month.

One of my favorite things about Bullet Journal is the migration process. Ryder Carroll points out that migration is “a cornerstone of Bullet Journaling.” I know a lot of people dislike the migration component, either because they think it’s redundant and/or pointless or because they don’t like taking the time to do it. For me, the redundancy and time-consuming nature of migration is exactly the point.

Text from the official Bullet Journal website explaining how to migrate a goal

Repetition and redundancy actually make me aware of what goal-oriented tasks I’m not getting done and force me to be mindful of those tasks. I have to consider:

  • Why am I putting off this task?
  • Do I need help from someone else?
  • Am I waiting for something?
  • Is there a step I actually need to do first?
  • How long do I need to complete this?
  • Will it really take me longer to do this task than it will to migrate it to yet another page?

A lot of times, after considering these questions, I either buckle down and do the task or strike it off my to-do list entirely.

Whew! This is a longer blog post than I set out to write! I hope it’s helpful for you to see how I do goal planning and task/project management in my Bullet Journal. If you have any tips, let me know!

And if you’re looking for a sticker set to help you record your goals for 2018, check out my Goal-Setting and New Year’s Stickers set on Etsy! Until March 31, 2018, you can get 18% off your $5 order by using coupon code NY2018.

New Year for a New You – Days 5 & 6

DAY 5

1. What are your main priorities in life (i.e., family, profession, marriage, personal wellbeing, etc.)? List them in order of importance.

  • God
  • Family, cats, & friends
  • Writing
  • Redhead Paper
  • Day jobs
  • Fitness

2. Use the graph to chart how you invest your time during a typical 24-hour period.

3. Does your time chart (where you’re spending your hours) reflect the priorities you listed in question 1, and in the correct order?

No. For one thing, I’m spending so much time at my day job I don’t have time to focus on my writing and Redhead Paper. I do pretty well at spending time with family, though I have a couple of friendships I really want to revive this year.

4. How might you rearrange your schedule for better results?

Make myself go to bed earlier so I can get up an hour earlier to work out. I know I feel better when I’m working out regularly. Working out in the morning isn’t my favorite thing (I hate mornings in general) but I know it would help me feel more energetic throughout the day and help me stay more focused and productive.

I would also like to eventually transition out of needing two day jobs so I can focus more on my writing and Redhead Paper.

DAY 6

1. Create a specific goal for each of the five pillars of life:

These goals are tied back directly to my objectives for the year, which I posted in Day 3. So I worked from those objectives and listed action steps I could take to achieve them.

FInancial: Create a debt snowball plan and stick to it. Eat out no more than twice a month. Post daily on Instagram to increase Redhead Paper’s visibility. Set up preorders for my book releases two months in advance.

Spiritual: Set aside time every evening to read one chapter of the New Testament a day.

Mental: Read one novel a week from the list of Books to Read in my Bullet Journal. Create a plan for the non-fiction books, including the number of pages I need to read every day when I’m working on them.

Physical: Hike once a week. Do a 30-day beginner yoga challenge in January/February. Have Shakeology for breakfast.

Relational: I want to spend more time encouraging my dad. I want to help my mom declutter her house, which I know is driving her crazy. And I would like to spend more face-time with my best friend, as well as deepening another friendship.

So this is how I want my 2018 to go. What about you? Are you working on goals for the new year? What are they?

New Year for a New You – Days 3 & 4

I’m continuing my answers to Lisa Jacobs’ A New Year for a New You blog series. Some of these are taken directly from my responses as I work through Your Best Year 2018, Lisa’s excellent business planning book. (She has a Life Planning version, but I’ve never used that one, so I can’t say what it’s like. I’m seriously considering buying it for my mom next year, though.)

Day Three

Financial

  • Pay down debts (personal and business).
  • Launch a novel with 100 preorders.
  • Have a $1000 Etsy month in Quarter 1 and $5000 in Etsy profits for the year.
  • Make $2000 from book sales this year.

Spiritual

Mental

  • Read at least 50 books.
  • Of those 50, make 25 of them #OwnVoices books.
  • Of those 50, make 10 of them nonfiction books.
  • Of those 50, let 1 be a complete read-through of the Harland book on sailing.

Relational

  • Encourage Dad.
  • Help Mom declutter and decompress.
  • Deepen friendships with two particular people.
  • Play with the kitties more often
  • Write 1 notecard a week to one of my friends.

Physical

  • Drop 30 pounds.
  • Build muscle.
  • Hike once a week.
  • Do yoga on a weekly basis.

1. What do I really want? (vision)

The ability to schedule automatic bill payments out of my checking account.

I know, this seems a little mundane and boring for a 2018 vision. But I have the feeling there are a lot of Gen-X and Millennial folks who will understand!

2. What is important about it? (values)

Being able to schedule all my bill payments means that I’m not living paycheck-to-paycheck anymore. It means that I’ve made some responsible choices in how I spend my money. It also means my side hustles are doing well enough that I have some extra cushion in my monthly income.

In addition, it’s important because I can focus on what’s truly important instead of feeling like I’m running from fire to fire, trying to put out the flames.

3. How will I get it? (methods)

For one thing, I’m going to continue adding to the products I offer for sale at Redhead Paper on Etsy. For another, I have two novels scheduled to publish in 2018. I also want to concentrate on selling more short fiction in the coming year.

4. What is preventing me from having it? (obstacles)

I have trouble scheduling my writing and Etsy creation times around my 2 day jobs. I sometimes resent the fact that I have a lot less downtime than a lot of people I know. Especially since, for Christmas, I got a 60-day pass to World of Warcraft! I’m going to have to schedule my time much more strictly for the next few months if I really want to meet my business goals.

5. How will I know I am successful? (measurements)

This is a easy one! I’ll know I’m successful when I can schedule all my bill payments on the first day of the month.

To achieve this I need to establish a set payday from Cathartes Press/Redhead Paper to Stephanie, and I need to stick with that date and amount. I have to make sure I leave enough in my business checking account to pay all the bills as well as making payroll.

I started writing myself paychecks in 2017, but I’ve been playing sort of fast and loose with the amount and the day of the month that I write the check. That’s no way to run a business, so I need to correct that in 2018.

Day Four

What would you do in 2018 if you knew you could not fail?

I think I answered this wrong. I said publish The Loyalty Factor, but the thing is–it’s still not ready to be published, and I know it. So if I knew it would be perfect and I couldn’t fail, sure. But I’m not sure that’s where this question was going.

If I knew I could not fail, I would cut back on my work hours to give myself more time to write and create Redhead Paper designs.

What are some things you could be doing that you’ve been too afraid to try? How can you stretch your comfort zone?

I think for me it’s less about being too afraid to try something. I tend to be impulsive by nature, so my comfort zone is leaping before I look. I think if I were going to stretch my comfort zone, it would be to act with patience and consideration and to take daily steps towards achievement instead of jumping in full speed ahead.

What have you been struggling with for entirely too long?

Getting into a routine of consistent work. I’ve always had the habit of throwing myself entirely into a single project and going whole-hog on that project to the exclusion of others. In addition, I tend to work hard and fast instead of slow and steady. I’d like to meet a weekly quota in my writing production and in my Redhead Paper design.

What could you outsource, delegate, automate, and/or stop doing in 2018?

I’ve been unable to think of anything for this question. I already have help filling Etsy orders and with house-cleaning. I suppose I might be able to outsource cover creation for Circle City Magic books. I already hire the art for my epic fantasy, but for the urban fantasy books I did the cover creation myself, and that’s time-consuming–not to mention there are people out there who can do a much better job than I do.

In what ways and which areas will you “upgrade” your life?

I’m going to repaint my office and set it up with a standing workspace.

New Year for a New You – Days 1 & 2

Every year Lisa Jacobs does a blog series at the end of the year, helping her people reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. I’m answering some of the questions here on my blog.

So here goes:

Day One

1. What was time very well spent this year?
Writing time was always well spent. Also time developing new products for my Etsy shop. I never regret the time I spend on those two tasks.

Research time was also well spent. Sailing on the Friends Good Will to learn how to steer a tall ship was a great experience. Learning about early modern warfare tactics and how gunpowder changed warfare had a profound impact on the plot of The Weather War.

Education money was well spent. I paid for a three-day Short Story Intensive workshop by Mary Robinette Kowal, and for the first time I feel confident in the short stories I write. I’ve never had a handle on writing short the way I do now. I also paid for her No-Prep NaNo workshop, which again refined my writing craft.

2. What was money very well spent this year?
Buying a new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet as my work machine. I love that machine, and it makes it easy for me to take my business anywhere I need to.

In August I ran an international Bookbub deal on my Storms in Amethir Omnibus 1, and that was definitely money well spent. That paid off not only the two or three days after the Bookbub ran, but also has translated into a lot of long-tail sales.

3. What are your favorite memories of 2017?
Sailing the Friends Good Will. Watching the heron aerie at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Hiking at Prophetstown. The moment I realized Redhead Paper was going to be a hit. The Weather War release. Equus release. Getting an email from an editor I’ve worked with in the past and being asked to contribute to an anthology for her.

4. What did you accomplish or complete this year?
I launched Redhead Paper, making and selling stickers for Bullet Journals and paper planners. I published The Weather War. I wrote several short stories. My story “To Ride a Steel Horse” was published in Equus. I had another story accepted for publication. I participated in Giftmas 2017 and helped raise money for a food bank.

5. Did you make any progress on long-term goals?
I got one book closer to finishing the Storms in Amethir series. I just have one book to go. I wish I could say I got another book published in the Circle City Magic series, but that hasn’t happened yet.

6. What felt successful about the year, as a whole?
I went all in and started my own business, as well as becoming a hybrid author, with both self-published and traditionally published works. This seems to be the year my writing career is finally beginning to take off–four years in!

7. Did you overcome any obstacles or mental blocks this year?
I can’t think of any right now…

8. What did you learn about yourself after all that happened in 2017?
I need to schedule downtime for myself. I need it after finishing a book, and I always feel guilty about taking it, but I need to just plan around that need, instead of feeling guilty as I take it. The month after I finish writing a book, I need to recharge, and I need to anticipate that and schedule it.

9. Who nurtured or supported you most this year?
Several close friends were incredibly supportive. I couldn’t have made RHP happen without the help of a few key people. “My” editor was also amazingly supportive.

10. Who did you enjoy nurturing and supporting?
People in my writing group. My best friend as she launched her own creative endeavor. A friend who’s had a tough year.

Day Two

1. What was time wasted this year?
Any time I spent being envious of other people’s success. I also think the time I spent making a big deal of The Weather War launch might have been time wasted. I did a huge giveaway and ran promotions. While I’m happy with sales of the book, I’ve been disappointed in the lack of reviews–only three so far, when it launched in September.

I also feel that time spent reading Facebook feeds and engaging in political debate was time wasted. This year I need to investigate something like the F.B. Purity extension so I can continue seeing personal posts from people without seeing so much of the toxic political stuff.

2. What was money wasted this year?
I found a mistake in one of my Etsy products and had to correct it and ship new product to everyone who had purchased it in a sort of voluntary recall situation. I could have saved myself a lot of time, money, and expense, if I’d remembered to take the time to have another pair of eyes proofread it, instead of relying on my own judgment.

3. What was the biggest challenge you faced this year?
Trying to write a novel that lived up to my expectations of it.

4. If anything, what would you change about how you handled that challenge?
I think I would have soldiered through sooner, instead of tinkering with the plot as much as I did. Then again, I feel that tinkering made it work much better than it might have otherwise. It’s hard to say.

5. Are you ending the year with any unfinished business?
Yes. I intended to publish Circle City Psychic this year, and that didn’t happen. In fact, I’m still only about halfway finished with the novel. I’m disappointed in myself for that, but on the other hand, it gives me goals to work on for 2018.

6. Are there any outstanding goals you’d like to let go of?
My Patreon, maybe? I’m not sure. I’ve never gotten it off the ground the way I would like to. On the other hand, I had big plans for it for this year, and they got pushed back because I didn’t finish Circle City Psychic. I’ve rescheduled them for 2018, so perhaps I’m not ready to let go of this yet.

7. What was your worst setback in 2017?
I got behind on my personal finances in 2017 and really need to stop treading water and start swimming for shore.

8. Which bad habits or unhealthy patterns did you engage in that you’d like to give up once and for all?
While I know there’s science behind alcohol unlocking creativity, I indulged too much in it. I need to stop drinking at home, except on special occasions–and no, starting the next chapter in the book I’m writing is NOT a special occasion!

9. What or whom held you back this year? Did anything make you shrink into yourself or feel defensive about your dreams?
See #10

10. How did you hold yourself back this year? Which beliefs | ideas | excuses stopped you from pushing forward?
I allowed myself to be held back by my resentment against needing a day job. I need to embrace that day job as something that’s (mostly) paying the bills right now so I can pursue the things I’m truly passionate about. I need to stop believing that I deserve to be paid to create. (Yes, this is something I also need to keep believing. I realize this is crazy. But still.)

I need to embrace the fact that having a busier schedule actually enables me to structure my time better, so I should be grateful for the day jobs.

 

So there are my unfiltered answers to the first two days of the challenge! Let’s see where Day Three takes us tomorrow!

My Word for 2018–Ignite!

My mom recently asked me to design her a sticker using her word for 2018, and that got me thinking about what my word for 2018 should be. I haven’t actually done a word for the year before, though I know other people have found it to be a great method of focusing on what was important.

So I went to One Word 365, a website where you can get inspiration for words, connect with other people who have that word, and more. It generated a list of words for me, and the moment I saw ignite I knew it was my word!

Merriam-Webster defines ignite like this:

transitive verb: to subject to fire or intense heat; especially : to render luminous by heat; a : to set afire; also kindle; b : to cause (a fuel) to burn; a : to heat up : excite; b : to set in motion : spark

intransitive verb: to catch fire; to begin to glow

I love the “to render luminous by heat” — isn’t that a great image? When we’re feeling the heat, we’re under pressure, right? We’re stressed. Wouldn’t it be great to be the kind of person who is rendered luminous when under stress?

And “to set in motion”? I have so many things I’d like to set in motion in 2018. I want to start blogging here regularly in 2018. I want to spend more time being intentional about my business. I want to set in motion a plan to pay off my credit cards and start saving for the life I really want.

What about setting things afire? Not literally, of course. But I’d love to set my imagination afire. Set my creativity afire in my Etsy shop and my novels. Set other people’s productivity afire with the stickers I make and the blogs I post. Set people’s hopes afire that they can have the organized life they’ve always wanted.

So this year, I’m going to IGNITE.

Do you have a word for 2018? What is it?

Download: #TheDarkIsReading Bookmarks

One of my favorite book series is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence. About an eleven-year-old British boy who learns he has magical powers (but written some 30 years before Harry Potter), the title book is atmospheric and full of vivid imagery and characters that have become real people to me over the years.

A hardcover copy of The Dark Is Rising Sequence,. The book has bent corners and several bookmarks in it.

My well-loved copy of the SFBC omnibus of The Dark Is Rising Sequence

I first read the series in middle school, which was a rough time for me. Seventh grade, man. Seventh grade was awful. But I had Will Stanton and his friends to keep me company, and that meant a lot.

So this year there’s a huge Twitter book club all reading The Dark Is Rising (which is technically the second book in the sequence) over the period of time covered by the book. It starts on Midwinter’s Day (or the First Day of Winter here in the US), which is Will’s eleventh birthday. I try to reread the book every year, but some years, I confess, I get caught up in holiday busy-ness and don’t finish.

This year, along with #TheDarkIsReading book club, I’m going to make sure I complete the rereading. There are all kinds of people participating–authors, artists, musicians–and a lot of people are contributing their own creations.

To learn more about the book club, check out #TheDarkisReading: A Midwinter Reading Group. Some other great blog posts about The Dark Is Rising and #TheDarkisReading are The Eeriest Novel I KnowThis Night Will Be Bad and Tomorrow Will Be Beyond Imagining, and this great project: The Dark Is Rising Soundtrack. I can’t wait to hear all of the soundtrack as the book unfolds!

I found a beautiful winter image pack while I was looking for graphics to use for my Christmas cards this year (I make my own). They didn’t end up working for my Christmas cards (though they’d be perfect for someone who celebrates Solstice instead) but they did have some gorgeous imagery that relates to The Dark Is Rising.

So I made bookmarks! If you download the PDF and print it double-sided, the images match up and will give you four bookmarks with a quote from the book and some lovely raven images. The Winter Ravens artwork is by Mikibith.net.

Download #TheDarkIsReading Bookmarks