A Blogging Experiment

I’ve found that over the last few months, I’ve been unable to find the time to write for my email letter or for my blog. Today, I finally had some time to ponder  some changes to my writing process. I still want to write and publish regularly, but the time commitment for the email letter, which I used to send weekly, has become too onerous.

I decided that I needed to make a change. Perhaps I need to take my own advice and simplify my processes. While I enjoyed writing and publishing the email letter, I find it easier to post to this blog. I also decided to strip down the formatting to the essentials. So while these posts may not look as pretty as the email letter, I’m still able to publish here regularly.

Tell me what you think over the next few months while I try to stick to a posting schedule.

Small, Daily Steps

We are looking not to grand strokes of change, but instead to the act of creatively husbanding all that is in the present: this job, this house, this relationship.

~ Julie Cameron, The Artist’s Way Every Day

Fear of Starting

Fear and anxiety about trying new ideas or learning a new skill can overwhelm me if I let it. When I feel overwhelmed, I don’t know where to start. I have found that the trick is to start with a small task. I use my systems to support my progress. A large project can seem impossible, but a small step can be doable. I measure progress one day at a time and I structure my days accordingly.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

Are you interested in the ideas that influence and inspire me? Check out Life Simplified by Catherine on FaceBook.

The life [simplified] letter: A Close Knit Group

The latest edition of the life [simplified] letter: A Close Knit Group published on January 27, 2015 is now available. Enjoy!

The life [simplified] letter is written for my email subscribers. The email letter is my weekly musings on lifestyle design focusing on simplicity and ease where I share my successes and my tribulations.

Every once in a while, I send little goodies that are only available through the email letter.

If you would like to get your own copy of the letter delivered right to your inbox, please subscribe. It’s free!

Cheers, Catherine   Location: Beautiful Saltspring Island, BC, Canada

If you would like to find out more about my influences and inspiration, follow me on FaceBook at Life Simplified by Catherine.

I Wrote a Novel in a Month, Well, Almost

In November, I started writing a novel by participating in National Novel Writing Month or better known as NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is a community of writers that support each other in writing a novel in a month with a goal of producing 50,000 words. It is exciting, anxiety-provoking and crazy being a part of a big movement like this one. There were 175,000 writers involved this year from all over the world.

I was introduced to NaNoWriMo by my good friend Erin Van Der Molen Pater. She also participated this year and we became writing buddies on NaNoWriMo’s website. We could follow each other’s progress and provide encouragement throughout the month. I really enjoyed emailing her and talking about the writing process. It really helps to have a sounding board in someone who is doing the same thing.

Writing a novel in a month is utter madness and it to say that I produced a full blown novel in a month is a bit misleading. The novel that is produced is not a finished, polished novel when you arrive at the word count goal. It is a first draft and probably a lousy first draft. In my case, I wasn’t actually finished the novel because at 50,000 words, my novel was about two thirds done. I figured my novel would end up somewhere in the 80,000 word range but that remains to be seen once the novel is edited.

So why try to write a novel in a month? I did the challenge for motivation. I have talked for years about writing a novel, but I never seemed to find the time. However, putting my goal on a website publicly put my pride on the line. The site itself has a number of fun motivators such as badges and a word tracking tool where I would enter my word counts each day. Watching the graph progress and seeing how I was doing against my daily word count goals was inspiring. I kept working hard because I wanted to maintain my pace and post wins on that graph. There was plenty of emails, prompts and encouragement from the site itself. Authors who had written novels using NaNoWriMo provided ideas for keeping up the momentum.

I wrote the novel in a program called Scrivener which is what I refer to as a “writer’s software.” It is not a word processing program although it has many features of one, but rather, it is designed for writers and works with their writing process. This software is so versatile it adapts to almost any writer’s style of writing.

At the end of each day that you write, you tally your word counts, which Scrivener will track for you and enter them onto the NaNoWriMo website. I would actually add my counts first thing in the morning since there were times I would finish writing in the afternoon, but come back in the evening to finish a scene or continue writing. I wanted to have an accurate count so I could understand what I was capable of writing in a day if I applied myself. Once I hit 50,000 words, which is the goal of the challenge, I could validate my word count by copying and pasting the entire novel contents into a word count validator on the NaNoWriMo website. It was a proud day when I validated my word count and my profile showed that I was a NaNoWriMo 2014 winner.

This community challenge has occurred every November for many years. I love that it provides a forum for authors wanting to work virtually along side others for the excitement of writing alone but together. The virtual support system was vital for me.

So I’m at the end of January 2015 and I have not finished that novel from November. I’m close, but not done. So I’m working on strategies for power writing the rest of the novel. I’ve set a goal to finish by mid-February so I can set it aside for a month and then start a program of re-writes. Surprisingly, I’m just as excited about the prospect of editing the novel as I am at finishing the first draft.

I plan to feed chapters to my writing group in March to ask for a writer’s critique. Once I’ve incorporated the writer’s group feedback, I plan to seek out beta readers who can commit to reading the book and providing me a reader’s perspective. Once I’ve incorporated that feedback, I’ll start looking for an editor. Who knows maybe by next November I can say I have published a NaNoWriMo novel.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

Are you interested in the ideas that influence and inspire me? Check out Life Simplified by Catherine on FaceBook.

I’m writing short stories on Medium.com. I’d love to hear your feedback on them.

I write a weekly life [simplified] letter that is delivered straight to your inbox. You can sign up here.

The life [simplified] letter: Lives Lived as Inspiration

The latest edition of the life [simplified] letter: Lives Lived as Inspiration published on January 22, 2015 is now available. Enjoy!

The life [simplified] letter is written for my email subscribers. The email letter is my weekly musings on lifestyle design focusing on simplicity and ease where I share my successes and my tribulations.

Every once in a while, I send little goodies that are only available through the email letter.

If you would like to get your own copy of the letter delivered right to your inbox, please subscribe. It’s free!

Cheers, Catherine   Location: Beautiful Saltspring Island, BC, Canada

P.S. If you are interested in learning about my influences and inspiration, check out Life Simplified by Catherine on Facebook.

I’m also having fun on Twitter these days. I can be found at @cvmccann.

A Look Back at 2014

A year in Review

It has taken me a couple of weeks to look back over my journal for 2014 and think about the past year. My journalling process can be hit or miss sometimes so I don’t have a complete record. At times, I was just too busy doing stuff to worry about journalling about it.

Almost a year ago we moved into our new house on Saltspring Island. We didn’t look at too many houses before we made an offer on the one we now call home. This house was really the only one that met most of our criteria. We were optimistic about the year to come and felt fortunate to live in such a beautiful place.

During the year, there were many highs and lows. I can say for certain that I learned a few things about the island life and about myself. The following list is just a sampling of the things I learned or experienced last year.

  • Combining households with a parent is stressful and hard. I continue to use the best of my negotiating skills and reinforce my personal boundaries.
  • I can let go of my expectations and look instead for the opportunities.
  • I can weather a storm, metaphorically speaking, and come out the other side stronger, knowing that I’m resilient.
  • Moving is mentally and physically exhausting.
  • If I can’t sell a house, I’ll rent it. Better yet, I’ll get a lease arrangement with the RCMP.
  • I can write a novel, or at least three quarters of a novel, in a month.
  • The deck of my house is the best place to be in the summer months.
  • My dog, Yue Yan is a constant source of inspiration, motivation for walking, and for being reminded every single moment can be one of pure joy.
  • I miss my friends since I moved to the West Coast.
  • Making new friends meant being willing to take chances like answering an online posting.
  • I don’t want to be in Ganges on market days because there are too many people in town.
  • While I’m always trying to downsize my things, the people I live with are not interested or actually want more things.
  • I’m very tired of caring for and maintaining stuff. I don’t want any more plants, physical books, or knick-knacks. I only want to maintain what is essential.
  • When you want to leave an island, your schedule is now beholden to the ferry’s schedule.
  • Joining a writer’s group has helped to improve my writing craft.
  • I live on an island that is a destination spot and I have more people visit me here than I ever had visit me in Edmonton.
  • I can re-invent myself, but it is hard. I waffle and back track because having a professional identity is a big part of my self-definition.
  • Going back to Edmonton now as a tourist is fun.
  • I have friendly, kind and generous neighbours.
  • Fresh water is an increasingly vanishing commodity on this island.
  • After 20 years of marriage, I love my husband as much as, or maybe more than, the day I married him.
  • The residents of this island are welcoming but I don’t expect to be considered a native until I’ve lived here for a generation.
  • Joining a knitting club has connected me to a group of caring, smart women.
  • The island has many beautiful beaches, hiking trails and places to enjoy the amazing views of the ocean and neighbouring islands, but the locals keep some of the best places to themselves.

As 2015 moves forward, I’m filled with delight at the potential a new year brings. I want to write everyday, lose some weight so I can be healthier, and publish a novel. Everyday presents an opportunity to move one more step towards those goals. I am truly one of the fortunate ones.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

Are you interested in the ideas that influence and inspire me? Check out Life Simplified by Catherine on FaceBook.

Sign up for the life [simplified] letter, an email that arrives in your inbox every Thursday evening where I explore how to design a rich and rewarding lifestyle.

The life [simplified] letter: Inviting Creativity with Routine

The latest edition of the life [simplified] letter: Inviting Creativity with Routine published on January 15, 2015 is now available. Enjoy!

The life [simplified] letter is written for my email subscribers. The email letter is my weekly musings on lifestyle design focusing on simplicity and ease where I share my successes and my tribulations.

Every once in a while, I send little goodies that are only available through the email letter.

If you would like to get your own copy of the letter delivered right to your inbox, please subscribe. It’s free!

Cheers, Catherine   Location: Beautiful Saltspring Island, BC, Canada

Paul Jarvis’ Digital Sabbaticals and Rats: A Commentary

A Social Sabbatical, Article by Paul Jarvis, posted January 4, 2015.

Paul Jarvis is a writer and creative who lives in Victoria, B.C. and he’s also an in-demand website designer. I’ve followed his newsletter for a few months now. I can’t remember how I found his work, but I’m glad I did. I enjoy reading his weekly dose of wit and ideas focused mainly on creativity. I also like that he is a local guy.

In December, Mr. Jarvis had put his readers on notice that he would be taking a break from the newsletter until January. At the time I thought, “Good for you, Paul. Everyone should take a break once in a while.” As the month of December quickly flew by, I had forgotten that he was on a digital sabbatical. Just before this January 4 letter arrived I wondered what happened to him. I missed his weekly letter with its encouragement for those of us that make art for a living.

In his article, Mr. Jarvis describes what happened during his experiment to leave social for two months including his newsletter for the month of December. While he is still contemplating his experience, it seemed he has found some important benefits to his break.

Three comments in the newsletter stood out for me:

Free Time to Think

What I liked about my experiment to take a long break from social was that it opened up space.”

Paul is correct in that in this day and age, there is so much chatter and intrusion into our lives. My pet peeve is pop-up ads on websites which to me is the epitome of intrusion into reading space. Then we go onto social media sites and invite instrusion into our head space. It is clichéd to say but it is a case of “garbage in, garbage out.” Although if Mr. Jarvis finds that rats invade his head space when it becomes quiet, who am I to argue that perhaps he needs the distraction.

Outside of Our Control

It’s all outside of my control because I’m passively letting whatever stimulus floats into my tiny screen affect me.”

The late Stephen Covey points out that we always have a choice: we can pause between the stimulus (what we see on our screens) and our response (how it affects us) and in that pause, select our response. For me, it is a constant battle to remember to pause before reacting to what I read on social media particularly when we live in a world that makes it sooo easy for us to quickly react. I imagine that Mr. Jarvis found it a relief to not feel compelled to respond to every post that affected him.

There is also a choice to be made when we let ourselves get sidetracked by making comparisons to others. Again, I have to remind myself to avoid comparisons. Others may be doing similar work to me and I love seeing the success of others, but I am still doing my own thing and I’m just getting starting. Everything has its season and there is more than enough audience, and love, to go around.

The Water Cooler

“When you work for yourself, social media is almost like a water cooler.”

I’d be a lonely hermit if it wasn’t for email and FaceBook. While I limit myself to email once a day and FaceBook once a week, I would feel isolated without that contact with friends and family. The best contact though is face to face. You remember how that works, going for a coffee or a walk with a real human. I remind myself to make contact with others outside my home at least once a week. We are, after all, social creatures.

I’ve read many other authors who do regular digital sabbaticals either on weekends or actually take a whole month off like Mr. Jarvis did; Tammy Strobel for one and Leo Babauta for another. Tim Ferriss may have even popularized the concept in his book The 4-Hour Workweek
(Associate Link) when he wrote about low information diets and cultivating a selective ignorance. Mr. Ferriss’ suggestion may be one of the best ideas I’ve found for building creative space and energy.

I am starting to be more active on social media as I work on developing an audience for my work. Looking ahead at what might potentially become a large maintenance project, I worry about the work involved in keeping up a connection with the community or providing enough stimulating information to keep the community active. I have to balance that commitment to community to the commitment I have to my writing. I can certainly foresee where a regular digital sabbatical will become attractive.

On the other hand, I worry about losing momentum in the same way I started to miss Mr. Jarvis’ letter. As with all decisions, there is a risk to benefit ratio to consider. At this point, I am still building so it may take a while to get to where I’ll consider a digital sabbatical as a choice I want to make.

Mr. Jarvis concludes that “… the space to focus is a truly wonderful thing for a creative mind.” I could not agree more. Creativity comes from the opportunity for the mind to pull different pieces of ideas together to create something new if not necessarily unique. So how else can we let the mind work, if we don’t give it room to breathe.

If you are an artist, no matter the medium, I would highly recommend you sign up for Paul Jarvis’ weekly newsletter before he decides to go on another social sabbatical.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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Thanks for reading! If you found this information useful, informative or even entertaining, please share. I really appreciate it!

Are you interested in the ideas that influence and inspire me? Check out Life Simplified by Catherine on FaceBook.

The life [simplified] letter: Like a Water Well

The latest edition of the life [simplified] letter: Like a Water Well published on January 8, 2015 is now available. Enjoy!

The life [simplified] letter is written for my email subscribers. The email letter is my weekly musings on lifestyle design focusing on simplicity and ease where I share my successes and my tribulations.

Every once in a while, I send little goodies that are only available through the email letter.

If you would like to get your own copy of the letter delivered right to your inbox, please subscribe. It’s free!

Cheers, Catherine   Location: Beautiful Saltspring Island, BC, Canada