Jim Woods

Helping You Live A Better Story

A Message For Young Parents In Pursuit Of A Dream

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Photo by Susan Sermoneta (Creative Commons)

Note: This is Lesson 2 from my the Inside Scoop on Self-Employment series. For Lesson 1 just click here.

Sit down and open up the computer. It’s time to pick up where you left off. You open the file and  finally get to start working.  A couple minutes later, the pitter-patter of little feet fill the hall way.

Or…

You sit down on the couch for the first time today. You sit in silence savoring the fact no one is climbing on you or wanting a sippy cup or snack from you… then you start to hear some crying over the monitor.

This is how it goes when you are a young parent building a dream.

Plan all you want, but when the kids need mommy or daddy, all bets are off.

Don’t get me wrong, being a parent is absolutely awesome, but it is unpredictable and draining too.

Some days (and depending on the season, even many days)  you will simply run out of hours available to work on your dream.

Many times the best you can do is work with your spouse and intentionally support each other.

Then you simply do what you can.

Your dream will quickly turn into a nightmare if you are both not on the same page and working together. But how can you do this?

Here are a few ideas for how you can fit dream building into an unpredictable parenting schedule:

  • Set aside some time every other Saturday morning to give your spouse some dream time.
  • Do a babysit swap with another couple.
  • Work on your dream when the kids are asleep and stop when they get up.
  • Instead of watching TV, work on your dream.
  • If mentally drained, focus on easier repetitive work and automate as much as possible.

Do what you can and realize this could be a particular season where your time is very limited.

Enjoy this time together and don’t neglect your family or you have already failed.

Many times it is best to intentionally move slowly so you can focus on what matters most to you.

You’re not a robot, so don’t pretend you are one. Don’t compare yourself to others who work more hours than you do. Good for them. This isn’t a race.

It is NOT a badge of honor to say, “I work 80 hours a week.”

You already know this, but the odds of divorce and the amount of disconnection you have with your family increases with each hour you work.

Do not allow yourself to become a workaholic. Your family–especially your kids–want your time and attention.

Give yourself some credit–very few have the courage to build a dream–let alone work on it with young kids.

You are doing much, much more than you realize. Don’t believe me? Think about some of the things you’ve accomplished over the past year.

Will you list a few of these things in the comments? I’m calling a brag table. Go ahead–it’s okay. Let’s celebrate our accomplishments together.

The Top 10 Ultimate Writing Tips You Gotta Use in 2014

I’ve been writing seriously for about three years and now that I’m a full-time writer, here are some things I wish I knew starting out:

1. Writing is almost never just about the writing. It is often more about presentation, marketing and networking. If your website looks absolutely terrible, that is a contributing factor to why you don’t have many readers.

2.Your writing can be terrible as long as it is interesting. Seriously, 95% of readers don’t care about Grammar Nazi things such as tense, oxford commas, typos, sentence fragments, run-ons, etc.

None of those matter as much as writers think. If the majority of the world were English majors, this would change.

As long as the message is clear—that is clear enough to let the writing be entertaining—that is what matters most.

3. Publish less and edit more. I’m not saying don’t write a lot—you should—but don’t hit the publish button as often. 1 great or even good blog post is better than 40 mediocre ones.

Don’t try to compete with other writers putting out more posts or words than you are. You’ll never win.

4. Headlines are ABSOLUTELY critical to your success. Without a great headline, it is very likely only your mom and a few bored Facebook friends that read your posts.

5. Most advice about how to do things is just a preference. Very few other rules apply today as things change so quickly.

6. Your writing is not about you. If you want to write for yourself, that is fine, but let’s be clear—that is called a journal or a diary. That is not something to share online. You must write for a particular audience or you will spend the majority of your time spinning your wheels. Write to help the audience. Even if you write fiction, you want to take the audience on an adventure and solve the problem of boredom.

7. If you want to be a writer, you have to be a marketer as well. It is UNAVOIDABLE. Marketing is NOT a dirty word. It is just how you spread a message or share a story. Don’t let the sleazy, pushy guy in an ugly sportcoat skew how you view marketing or sales.

Marketing is just storytelling. And if you write a good story, over time, some of them will spread.

8-10. But most importantly, write these three things forever on your brain to  find success with your writing:

Entertain. Inform. Don’t be a jerk.

That’s it. I’m not saying this is easy though. Even this post is competing with MILLIONS if not billions of other options fighting for your attention.

Want more? Subscribe to my free newsletter here and I’ll give you more of the inside scoop. I may even throw in some awesome freebies too. I want to treat you right–not like a random number as many do.

Got anything you would add to this list? I’d love to hear it in the comments!

The Inside Scoop on Being Self Employed: Lesson 1

self-employed

FYI–Being Self-employed looks NOTHING like this picture.

Over the past three years, I’ve spent the majority of my time in preparing to be self employed. I’ve been fortunate to have learned from many amazing writers, coaches, photographers, speakers and podcasters. But as great as learning from others is, first hand experience is by far the best teacher.

 “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” CS Lewis

One of the first lessons I learned–very quickly might I add–is that I am not as creative on some days as I am on others.

Sure, this sounds like a no-brainer, but when you are self employed, you are your own boss.

Despite writing a book on focus, energy, and time–applying these concepts in real life is a SERIOUS challenge.

Mental energy is often very hard to gauge. You MUST be self aware to assess how much you have.

As a self-employed individual (though I do often say my wife is really running the show behind the scenes) it is really hard to have high mental energy levels when you are doing so much.

My natural reflex is sometimes to get really irritated. I’d go from zero to jerk in about .0001 seconds.

And this is really messed up.

To help with this problem, I decided to get myself some accountability. If you are like me, you’re probably thinking–oh man, that sounds like having someone hover over you telling you what you are doing wrong.

No that’s not it.

I just asked a friend something really simple–I said, “Hey, how about we share our word counts for the day with each other to provide accountability?”

And my friend said, “Sure!”

This is not rocket science here–despite what the voices in your head (AKA fear) try to tell you. Do not overthink this and think you need the “perfect person” to share your word count (or any other goal) with.

Guess what? Now I’m writing more. Not just because I want to write more words than my friend but knowing I have support in this area really helps.

We just send each other updates on Facebook messages and even set up a spreadsheet on Google docs so we can both edit it and keep track of how we are doing.  It’s really easy and very encouraging!

If you are a writer who wants to get serious about the craft this is really huge.

Or whatever it is you want to work on, you can always use “time spend working”.

If you want to grow, have someone hold you accountable.

Make the ask.

Don’t wait until you are struggling on your own.

Get some accountability now!

 

Do you have someone who holds you accountable? How is that working for you? How do you do it? Please share in the comments!

 

The Coolest Website You Probably Don’t Know About (And It’s Not Ello.)

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About a month or so ago, I found a really cool website called medium.com

The tagline for the website is “everyone’s stories and ideas”.

The basic premise is this site is a place to share stories with no real strings attached.

Navigation is super simple, just click the M to the far left for most options, and click to the right for a new story (or post).

Later you’ll also click the right side to publish your story.

I love the fact you can write about ANYTHING on it. Blogs can feel confining sometimes, you know? You’ve got to stay on topic or you lose readers. Well with this site, you can write about absolutely anything. You can write about space cowboys riding unicorns in one story and in another you can write about why the iPhone 6 is not big enough.

The site is also very photo friendly and includes easy import options for pictures (you just click the photo to the left on navigation this option is available when publishing).

A few tips to help you get rolling:

  • Set up a profile and make it so others can find you on Twitter and your own website.
  • Medium syncs with Twitter and Facebook, so there are your followers.
  • Don’t forget the importance of a great headline–especially on Medium. Quite a bit of content on this site. A great headline will help yours stand out.
  • The comment system is unique and lets you comment on a specific line of text. This is kind of neat because it allows you to focus on a specific sentence.
  • This is an awesome website to share older content or even brand spanking new content.
  • I love how the site tells you how long it will take to read each story.

I’ve been writing over at Medium quite a bit and it’s been a blast so far.

Go ahead, share a story with the world.

See you over there!

Readers, I’d Love To Hear From You!

I’d really love your input for how I can improve this site. Your input is very important to me. The survey is easy to fill out and the results are completely anonymous. And it will only a couple minutes of your time. Thanks!

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