Tag Archives: writing

Daily Blogging

I watched an online video interview of Seth Godin recently. The interviewer asked him why he blogs daily. His response surprised me. He said that he blogs daily so that he is forced to really be present in his day. He is always looking for an insight or an interesting idea that he can write about. The discipline of daily writing forces him to pay attention. It may also force him to be selective about how he spends his time. “I’d write every day even if no one read the blog.”

I now have one more reason to write consistently.

Cheers, Catherine

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.

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
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: 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

There Had Been an Accident

Writing Memoir

2014-05-30 Pink Roses @pender

Roses with Thorns

I belong to a writer’s group on Saltspring Island. We meet every two weeks to read each others work and provide feedback. We all write memoir stories. I started to publish those stories on Medium.com, a site that permits for longer submissions.

I just posted my latest effort. You can read it here.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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.

Today is My 3-Year Anniversary

Today is the 3 year anniversary of leaving my 9-5 job. It’s a significant milestone.

I remember when I first made the decision to leave. It was more than a year before I actually left and it was as if a light bulb had gone off. The “aha” moment was as sharp and clear as a well-composed digital photo. So, why am I still here in this job where my ideas are not valued, my work duties are slowly being eroded, and my work is being marginalized by people who do not have the training and expertise that I have? It may have been a case of being in one place too long or maybe I was just tired of the hypocrisy I witnessed everyday. If I sound bitter, I was, and I was exhausted. Something needed to change and I knew then that I would leave.

In preparing to leave, I had a vague concept of what I might do and I even wrote a business plan. That business plan was okay but was born at a time where I was still thinking like a manager and an indentured servant. My plan was to be a consultant which was another way to become an employee again, only now, I would have many bosses instead of one. I knew that I would make a living doing consulting, but in the process I was ignoring my true calling.

I worried about money and making ends meet. I worried about what my friends would think. I was particularly worried about my family especially my husband. Could he support me, spiritually and financially, in leaving a well-paying job to follow my passion? I even worried that I would be homeless in a few years. Doesn’t every entrepreneur have that homelessness worry at least once a month?

The one thing that kept me from chickening-out and staying in that job was this overwhelming desire for autonomy. I no longer wanted to write a script for someone else and have my words become swallowed in the corporate morass. I wanted to write my name at the bottom of all my work. I wanted to have the say on what I published. I no longer wanted to maintain programs and structures that were ridiculously bureaucratic. I wanted to dream, teach, entertain, tell stories and do interesting writing projects that allowed me to continuously learn my craft. I wanted to be crazy and explore ideas that seemed impossible. I wanted my work to be fun again.

So I have become an artist who uses words as my medium. Despite the doubts I have and the fear that I will someday starve, I still get up every morning excited to sit down at my computer and write.

Three years ago today, I left my 9-5 job and I became writer.

Cheers, Catherine  Location: Saltspring Island, BC
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 Journeyman Electrician and the Master Carpenter

When I decided that I wanted to be a writer on more than a casual basis, I decided that I needed to learn more about the craft of writing. I was also working out how I wanted to write a book on quitting my job. I had started out believing that this book would be a how-to manual on leaving a high paying job. I outlined the book on that premise and started filling in the chapters. The material was okay but not particularly interesting. I needed to pause and give some more thought to this writing process. About the same time I was reading a few memoirs and now with a writer’s eye I was reading the books differently. I was impressed with how writer of memoirs made an ordinary story about and experience in life interesting to others. I soon discovered that it’s a real art form to write well and requires hard work to execute.

As I was looking around the Internet for resources on writing memoirs, a search on the “best book on writing memoir” brought me some interesting possibilities. The search brought back a book called Writing about Your Life by William Zinsser. I then looked up William Zinsser. He has a website and several links to articles he published online. He also has links to his many books, about 18 in total. Zinsser, who is now in his 80’s, is a reporter, editor, teacher, author, world traveller, and family man. He was born and raised in New York City and continues to call New York City home.

So I sat down with my iPad and started to read the blog that Bill (I now feel familiar enough to him to call him Bill) wrote for the American Scholar, an online magazine. Zinsser on Friday ran for two years starting in 2010 and the magazine keeps the posts available on their website. As I read the posts, I realized that I was hooked. I decided that I’m a William Zinsser groupie. He is funny, smart, and accessible. He’s had an interesting life – at least the parts he writes about. The best thing about his writing though is that he considers himself a teacher first, and through instruction and example, he instills a confidence in you that you too can write nonfiction well. There is a catch of course, you have to be willing to work hard at the craft to stand out in a crowd.


My father is a retired journeyman electrician. I can vaguely remember when I was four or five years old that he would leave for weeks at a time to go away to school in Calgary, AB, to do his course work. Dad apprenticed under Uncle Lester, my mother’s uncle, and earned his papers working for him. Dad was supposed to be brought into the family farm enterprise but being a city boy, he had no real connection to the business. Maybe he had a kinship Uncle Lester, because while my great uncle was born and raised on a farm, farming was not in his blood either.

Uncle Lester taught my dad to be a professional. In turn, Dad taught me what it meant to be a professional. Dad would often point out that the difference between the work he did and the work that weekend do-it-yourselfers did was distinguished by the quality of the work left behind. Yes, you could learn to wire a house out of a book, but the mastery of the craft comes from practice. It’s hard work: anticipating problems, planning ahead, running wires neatly, wires tied off properly, a panel wired to code. Even I could see the difference between a professional wiring job and the work of a hack.

Dad also taught me about the value of learning to use your tools well. His tools were wire cutters, screw drivers, wrenches and electrical tape among others. I learned to tell the difference between a Robertson and Phillips screw driver. I learned the minimum compliment of tools for a tool pouch. I also learned that you need to start with the basics. Learn how to screw in a screw with a screw driver. Learn to do it with either hand because a day’s worth of work screwing in screws will make your dominant hand tired in a hurry. You must do a really good job of the basics and then you can move onto the more complicated stuff that makes the profession interesting.

I never quite mastered using the tools of an electrician effectively and efficiently. I wasn’t going to be a journeyman electrician, I had other plans. Yet the lessons I learned I still carry with me. For me, that was learning how to effectively and efficiently use a computer, software, and other tools of my administrator’s trade. I learned the art of management and took an advanced degree to learn the principles. It took years of experience in applying those principles to make me a professional, confident and competent manager.

Now I am embarking on a new profession. I need to learn from an accomplished master, learn to use the tools of the trade, and master the basics before moving onto the more complicated aspects of writing, that is, before I turn pro.


After I was hooked on Bill’s writing by reading his entire two year archive of blog posts in one sitting on a Saturday afternoon, I knew that I needed to read one of his books. I wanted to read On Writing Well probably his best known book about writing nonfiction. Bill wrote the book in 1976 and has faithfully updated and revised the book about every five years since. I really wanted to read it on my iPad, but there was no electronic form of the book available. The latest edition was the 30th Anniversary Edition published in 2006. The next edition is due out but not until next year. I wasn’t prepared to wait that long to read the next edition, even if it was published in an electronic format.

So I went online to my one of my favourite bookstores and ordered the book. In order to meet a minimum amount for free shipping, I bought Writing About Your Life too. The total came to $26 just enough to meet the minimum requirement for free shipping. I’m unaccustomed these days to waiting to read a book, but I had wait the week it took for the books to arrive. It was worth the wait.

Bill’s approach to writing is to teach you about the process of writing. He wants to focus on teaching the craft. He assumes that you have a basic grasp of writing skills like grammar or spelling although he doesn’t entirely take that assumption for granted. He points out that the writer’s main tools are words and the tool kit is made up of grammar and spelling and usage. He wants to teach the basics of “writing well.” Strong, simple, active language. Interesting narrative. Advancement of the story.

He compares the process of learning to write to learning the basics of carpentry. Learn to “saw wood neatly and drive nails.” Start with the foundation of good grammar, spelling, syntax and other basics. Write in plain and simple English. There is plenty of time to get fancy “with bevelled edges and elegant finials.” There are basic principles of writing to learn first. His book outlines all the basics, clearly and in a conversational tone. There are plenty of examples of good writing and an odd piece of poor writing to illustrate the various points he makes. There are sections on different kinds of non-fiction writing such as travel writing and sports writing. Yet every chapter comes back to the basics. Learn the basics first.

Actually, Bill’s point is once you understand the rules, then you can break them.


So as I embark on learning the craft of writing and on becoming a professional writer, this is one book I’m going to continually reference. I already know this fact to be true. Bill has given me permission to write. He doesn’t even know me but I feel as though On Writing Well was written just for me. I suspect the more than one million writers who have bought and read the book feel the same way. It was lucky for me that his name ranked high in the search engine. I have a feeling I’m going to continue to re-read and relearn his lessons for a long time.

So thanks to Dad and Bill, I’m looking forward to moving out of the ranks of the weekend do-it-yourselfer to that of a professional.

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

The life [simplified] letter: Vocation, Not Vacation

The latest edition of the life [simplified] letter: Vocation, Not Vacation is now available. You can access it here. Enjoy!

The life [simplified] letter

Today, I’m launching a letter series to folks who subscribe. You can subscribe here. I plan to publish the letter more or less on a weekly basis. The letter comes straight to your email inbox. I muse on the changes in my lifestyle since I started down the road to 9-5er recovery. I’ll share with you the ups and downs. My goal is to entertain, inspire, and educate.

If you do subscribe (and a big thank you to you!) I’d love to hear back from you about questions or topics you would like me to write about. Send me an email at Catherine@cvmccann.com.

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


experimenting with google +

I spent some time on the weekend reviewing my website and my social media strategy. It seems like every few months you need to have a quick peak at things to make sure they are still fresh and relevant. Continue reading