Jan 092017
 

 

Every year, I re-evaluate my life’s goals. I take into account, where I am, what I’ve done, and where I want to be in the future. I think about my health, my family, my career, and my friendships. This type of evaluation becomes more essential the older I get. If I know where I’ve been and I have goals, then I know where I’m going.

This year, there have been some losses and health scares in my family. These situations have made me realize that I must make better health choices to get my body and mind to its optimum state.

I also believe that being healthy goes beyond the physical and that I need to be as mentally healthy as possible. This is why I am learning how to take things as they come, surround myself with supportive and positive people, and think before I speak. I will also put out supportive and positive energy. I will be more appreciative of the happiness that surrounds me.

I love being able to witness the good that surrounds my family and friends. I love it when they not only what they want, but what they deserve. This year, my husband received his master’s degree, my son received an excellent report card, my sister went back to college, and my brother helped my parents move to North Carolina to be closer to him. They are all pretty happy, which makes me happy.

Watching my family succeed is motivating because if they can do it, then so can I. They make me feel invincible. I am determined to sharpen my writing, editing, marketing, and design skills. I will utilize these skills to be as successful as possible this year.

The older I get, the more I realize that time is one of the most important currencies in my life. I will not squander it away as I have done in the past. It is important to be selective about who I spend my time with and what I spend my time on. This year, I will spend more time with my family, on my work, and on myself.

I know how easy it is to lose your way. This is why it’s important to set goals with time limits and take action.

Here are some questions you may want to answer to help you with your own life evaluation:

  1. What did you want to accomplish last year?
  2. Did you accomplish what you set out to do? If not, re-evaluate if you would still like to do it this year and create a list.
  3. Think about what you wish to do this year. Where would you like to be? Create a specific to-do list with a plan of action complete with deadlines.
  4. Then take action. Like they say, there’s no time like the present.

This is your year and nothing will stop you. You can do it. Good luck with all of your goals!

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” -Thoreau

Happy New Year!

 

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May 062014
 

I’ve been working on redoing my closet office for the last month. I intended on creating an office that had ample space, light, color, and convenience and I’ve got most of it done.

Ample space: In order to create the space I wanted, I had to purge. I got rid of many file folders, moved three storage bins filled with holiday decorations to my storage space, and gave away several plastic and wooden bins which cleared up some space.

Lighting: I purchased a clamp lamp, which I found at Home Depot to light my space.

Color: I put up some new artwork and photographs to give my space pops of color.

I was going to purchase some new bins, but I had plenty and I didn’t want to clutter the space.

Convenience: My dining room does not have a single outlet. This is an issue since my closet office is located in my dining room and I will need to plug in my lamp, computer, and printer.  I am going to have one put in. After this is done, I shouldn’t have any issues while working in my closet office and it should be very convenient.

Check out my before and after photo’s so far:

Closet office before and after

The “green man” artwork was inspired by Keith Haring and made by my son at Easel Art Studio in Chicago.

As always, this is a work in progress. Stay tuned for more.

 

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Jul 162013
 

30. Moisturize. Enough said.

29. Recognize your part in everything and take responsibility for your action and inaction.

28. Exercise is a necessity. If you work your body, you will work your mind.

27. Fun is essential.

26. There are a lot of bullies in adulthood. Don’t let people treat and talk to you any old way and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Remember, if you don’t, who will?

25. Fresh foods are the key to healthy living.

Fruit Bowl

24. Go to the doctor and the dentist regularly.

stethoscope

23. Don’t say you’re sorry unless you mean it. It comes off as disingenuous and everybody knows that a phony apology is worse than no apology at all.

22. Having good friends is important.

21. ABL. Always be laughing.

20. Don’t talk to people any old way. They’ll always remember the way you made them feel – disrespected and insignificant.

19. Sometimes it’s better said with a look. Remember the folks from The Office?

18. Take a moment for yourself during the day and go to bed on time to ensure that you’ll always be and feel your best.

17. Travel and make photo books.

16. Some people will disagree with the decisions you’ve made and are making in your life. This is okay.

15. Love yourself.

14. Sometimes you’ll go through a rough patch. Just remember – it’s temporary.

13. Splurge on good coffee. Trust me, you will not regret it.

coffee

12. Believe in yourself. Now take a chance.

11. It is okay to indulge sometimes.

10. Listen to what people are saying and not what you think they are saying.

9. Your spouse/partner/significant other is one of the only people you’ve chosen to have in your life. Remember that and treat them as such.

8. Your body tells you everything. Pay attention to it when it’s shouting at you.

7. There are many young, brilliant minds. Respect the youth.

6. If somebody hurts your feelings, be confident and tell them straight away. Under no circumstances should you let those feelings fester.

5. Your tongue can be just as cutting as a knife. Choose your words wisely.

4. Always be in control of your emotions.

3. Life plans are amazing.

2. Have a running list of nouns that make you happy and refer to it often.

1. When you love the people in your life, love them hard because they won’t be around forever and chances are you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Hearts

That’s what I’ve learned in the past five years. What about you? What did you learn in your 30’s or are learning?

 

*Note: all images were created by me – Janina R. Williams. Please contact me for permission before using.

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May 172012
 

Whoa, it’s been a while folks. Sorry, I’ve been you know, living life. But I’m back on the regular.

Recently, one of my friends came by my house and showed me his current picture book project, which is almost complete. It was rather impressive. He’s been working on this project for a while now, so it’s great to see him progressing. Whenever a friend of mine is doing what they love, it’s easy for me to be happy for them especially when they’ve been supportive of my goals. But this visit did something else to me too. It made me want to finish all of my works in progress. It made me want to take inventory of my life.

When was the last time you took inventory of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and where you see yourself going? You’ve never done that? Well, maybe you ought to try it. It’s a great focusing tool. I try to take inventory of my life about once a year around my birthday. This is always a good time to start anew, don’t you think?

So how do you do it? Here are some questions taken from the My Simpler Life blog to help you get started:

1. Where do I see myself in the next year?
2. What am I passionate about in my life right now?
3. Am I living by my values? Is there any place I am not in integrity?
4. Are my needs being met? Am I meeting the needs of those close to me?
5. What are my strengths? Am I using them?
6. Am I doing things to the best of my ability or is there a place I need to raise my standards?
7. How are my boundaries with others? Do I often feel taken advantage of?
8. Is my daily routine helping me or boring me? Is there anything I want to add or take away from my routine?
9. What is standing in my way of doing my dream? What can I do about it?
10. What am I tolerating in my life that is draining my energy?

Good luck with your life evaluations folks!

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Nov 172011
 

I’m attracted to books that help people explore who they are. I’m also attracted to books that help people figure out what they want to do in life. Why? Well, because for years I struggled with what I wanted to do in life. How do you compete with the big dogs when you don’t even know which industry you belong in? Therein lies the conundrum.

When I applied to the University of Illinois, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I was accepted. I went in general, major undeclared because I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what I was really good at. And there’s a huge difference between being good at something and then being really good.

The truth is I was afraid of choosing a career. I thought careers were forever and that once you chose one that was it – you had to follow through. There was no turning back. What if I failed? What if hated what I chose? I didn’t want to be one of those people stuck in a career they hated. I didn’t want to be one of those people waking up every day going to a job they despised. I was afraid of disappointing my parents, and worst of all, myself. I didn’t want to ruin my life. It was all rather terrifying.

One day, I realized that nobody could help me choose what I wanted to do in life. No counselor, teacher, parent, or friend. I had to make my own decisions. I had to make some choices. Trying not to make the wrong choice was like treading lightly on a ground filled with land minds; agonizing and stressful.

I chose to major in English/rhetoric with a minor in communications. I didn’t realize until my junior year that I wanted to be a creative writer as well as a journalist, but it was too late. I wasted too much time taking a bunch of classes I didn’t need.

If I knew then, what I know now…

I love English and rhetoric, but there will always be a special place in my heart for journalism, media and communications. I love reporting. I love seeking out the truth. Now that I’m older, I can honestly say that not immediately declaring a major was a mistake. I should’ve double majored in Journalism and English right from the start.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been evaluating my life and reading career-centric books. I believe they are extremely useful for a number of reasons. One, they force you to answer questions you have been avoiding. Two, they make you feel like it’s okay to say how you feel. Three, they encourage you to take risks. Four, they inspire you to take action and everybody knows if you want something in life, you’ve got to take action.

I wish somebody would’ve given me a book like this when I was a teenager. I think it would’ve really made me think about who I was and where I wanted to be.

The books below are excellent in helping people to discover who they are:

The All About Me books are amazing. They are interactive, so you just fill in the blanks. There are questions asking about who you are, what you think and what you would do in certain situations. If you want to learn more about yourself, fill out this book and pick it up again in five years. Your answers will blow your mind. No joke! For an extra challenge, fill out the All About Us book with your significant other.

344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment is a book I picked up a few weeks ago. I randomly stumbled across it and decided to order it and I’m glad I did. This is a book of questions geared towards designers, but applicable to anybody. There are questions in this book I’ve never asked myself and there are others I can’t seem to stop thinking about. This book is written in interactive flowcharts, so you write your answers directly in the book. It took me about three days to fill it out and during that time, I found myself being rather introspective. It’s extremely helpful if you’re interested in doing a life evaluation or are at a crossroads and are unsure about what to do next.

What I’m trying to say is, figure out who you are, what you want and then trust yourself enough to go for it. If you let your fear get the best of you, you’ll never know who you are or what you’re made of. Take a risk. Take a chance. Believe in yourself!

On that note, I’m off to work on my novel. Thanks for reading! Good luck on your life journey.

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Oct 112011
 

We’re having unseasonably warm weather in Chicago right now, which makes me think of this past summer and my time in Boston.

While in Boston my family and I took a day trip to Salem. Why Salem? Well, because of Nathaniel Hawthorne of course. It’s where The House of the Seven Gables is located and I just had to go. Turns out, it was pretty amazing!

Here’s what I remember from the tour:

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s father died when he was just five years old. After his death, Hawthorne’s mother struggled to make ends meet and turned to her family for help.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a shy child often keeping to himself, and as he grew, so did his desire for writing. He always had a writer’s spirit.

He stayed holed-up in his room in this house and wrote. His mother and two sisters kept his writing secret as they knew how important it was to him. His mother believed in him so much that she would bring dinner up to his room so that he could continue to write without interruption. Even though he had some support around him, he never thought any of the work he produced was any good. Sound familiar?

Hawthorne’s uncle pressured him to go to college and he did go, but he hid his desire to be a writer. Choosing to be a writer wasn’t necessarily received with open arms back then either.

But he continued on and wrote two very famous books in classic American literature – The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables among other things.

And that’s what I think it means to have a writer’s spirit. He always had the desire to write despite the odds against him. He could’ve quit at any time. Many people probably would’ve, but for whatever reason, he didn’t and I think that’s kind of remarkable. To me, he is a true writer’s writer.

If you’re ever in Salem and you’re interested in Hawthorne, I say visit The House of the Seven Gables and Hawthorne’s childhood home. You will not be disappointed.

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Sep 292011
 

Good supporters will lift you up; have your back, stand up for you, and root for you to succeed. They will be on the sidelines pushing you to race faster and harder until you win. They’ll encourage you to dig deeper and do better. They will be upset and disappointed if you fail. They’ll encourage you to dust yourself off, pick yourself, and fight until you reach the finish line. They’ll remind you of where you came from and who you are. They believe in you that much. Now that’s good support.

It’s wonderful to have supporters. It makes you feel alive and relevant, important even. Sometimes these supporters will be family members, friends, or strangers. Whoever they are in your life, don’t ever let them go. They will be with you for the long haul.

Do you have this kind of support? If not, ask yourself, do you give this kind of support to others? Now ask yourself how you do that.

Do you ask your supporters how they’re doing and are genuinely interested in the answer? Do you follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and whatever the hottest social networking site is at the moment? Do you ask them how their WIP is going? Do you read and comment on their blogs? Do you buy your supporters books, artwork, literary journals, and magazines? Do you believe they do good work? Do you spread the word about them on your blog? If you do, bravo! You are a great supporter. If not, well, you may have some work to do. I know I do.

In the meantime, be supportive to others, build them up, and teach them what you know because the truth is you get what you give. Things in life tend to have a boomerang effect.

Doesn’t matter who you are, everybody needs and wants support. There is room for everybody to be successful.

I owe my supporters a huge thank you, so THANK YOU! You know who you are and you are all golden.

My new motto is to be as supportive as I can to others.

When was the last time you thanked somebody for their support?

I want to give  special thanks to Tegan Pratt for supplying these awesome images for my blog. As always, these images do not belong to me, so please do not use them without her permission. To view more of her work, please visit: http://trpratt.com.

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Mar 102011
 

A month is all it took to get 103 followers. That’s it – one month. I now know the secret to getting blog readers. All it takes is, wait for it, wait for it, PARTICIPATION. I believe that joining online events, commenting on other people’s blogs and re-posting your blog links on Twitter and Facebook increases your readership. And as much as I like to pretend that I don’t care who is reading, the truth is that I do. I want readers and I want people to comment.  So, I want thank all of my followers to date. Thank you, thank you!

This week I’ve been thinking about self-belief and how so many people are scared to take the next step. Well, I say don’t let fear halt your life.

I have fallen victim to the fear monster as recently as last year when I started doubting myself and my writing. I was in a funk and I needed to get out of it quick if I was ever going to create again. And then one day I had an epiphany. I know who I am and I know what I need to do. Two weeks before the New Year, I took action and made a list. Here’s what was on it:

Join writing societies or associations
Meet more writers
Attend writing conferences
Find a mentor
Get my short stories published
Go to more Chicago literary events
Publish my collaborative children’s book
Finish my middle grade novel

I’m happy to say that I’ve already completed some of these goals including joining the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Through the SCBWI Illinois Chapter, I was able to attend a writing conference/workshop in mid January. It was all about creating your own marketing plan. There was a lot of pertinent information, but one of the most important things I learned was how to generate potential sales for your children’s book. I wanted to share some of these with you. Please note that I have not tried these, but I believe they are useful for any writer.

Here are some ways to generate sales for your book:

  • Network at events, through writing groups and conferences and through social networking sites like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Create relationships/connections through your personal website or blog and get blurbs written about your book.
  • Ask blog owners and other authors if they are interested in interviewing you about your book and offer to do the same for them.
  • Call bookstores and schedule readings and book signings.
  • Be there for the book sellers as much as possible.
  • Join professional or trade associations.
  • Go to American Library Association (ALA) Conferences.
  • Guerilla market through t-shirts, postcards, bookmarks, etc.
  • Use word of mouth to promote your book.
  • Talk about your book to librarians and teachers and see if they’d be open to you scheduling a reading.
  • Schedule 30-40 school visits per year.
  • Create a swag bag for school librarians and teachers. Include a copy of your signed book and postcards of your fellow author friends that are also doing the library/school visit rounds. Think about karma and the idea of what comes around, goes around.
  • Find connections. Can you co-market your book with another product?
  • Try to get your book on Tag.
  • Put your book on amazon and have it formatted for the Nook and Kindle. Your publisher may already do this.
  • Use keywords on your web site and blog to help promote your work.
  • Send info to local chapters (Mondo Times).
  • Follow up with people constantly.
  • Write a press release about your book and submit it.
  • Contact children’s indoor playrooms and schedule a book reading/signing.
  • Think about promoting through: http://www.authorbuzz.com/kids/
  • Promote your book on home schooling and mommy web sites by purchasing ad space.

What are some other ways you can think of to generate sales for your books?

I’m also attending another conference/workshop this month and I can’t wait.

As far finding a mentor goes, earlier this year, I contacted an old professor of mine, Mark Costello. He is somebody I respect and one of the best teachers at the University of Illinois. He is a great writer and gives excellent writing advice. Most importantly, he believes in the craft.

Through our letter writing exchange, (who does that anymore?!) he reminded me that you can’t let anybody dampen your writing spirit, you need to self-teach and you need to go forward. It reignited the fire in me and for that I will forever be grateful.

I realized that although it would be nice to have a mentor, I can be my own and so can you. You just need to believe in yourself and your work. You need to keep reading, writing and submitting and you can’t stop. If you get the opportunity to mentor another writer and you have the time, I say do it. It’s always good to pay it forward.

You can check out Mark Costello’s work here:

The Murphy Stories

Middle Murphy

In other news, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, writing and submitting. I have a series of short stories that I am editing and two are out and about looking for homes. I have also found a trustworthy and incredible editor for my work, which will help me to complete the rest of my short stories in a timely manner.

Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far:

Join writing societies or associations
Meet more writers
Attend writing conferences
Find a mentor
Get my short stories published
Go to more Chicago literary events
Finish and submit my collaborative children’s book
Finish my middle grade novel

That leaves me with half of the things to complete by the end of this year. Will I do it? I can’t say, but I’ll try.

I wanted to leave all of my readers with a few words – make a plan, take action and keep on truckin’ no matter what. Like Mae West said, “you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

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Sep 102010
 

Another door will open. Believe that.

There is nothing better than getting the go ahead on a piece you’ve queried out to several publications. It feels like you’re doing something right, that somebody, the universe even, is giving you the go ahead to pursue your writing career. In other words, it feels great.

Most recently, I submitted a query about Chicago Avenue between Damen and Ashland Avenue in Chicago and it got picked up by a well-read Chicago online Chicago magazine called Gapers Block. I was excited to write about a place that I both love and admire.

When I submitted the piece, I was afraid they weren’t going to like it. There were butterflies in my stomach and my hands were sweaty. But this is how I get whenever I submit something to an editor so I just sent it out. A few hours later, my editor contacted me and told me that she liked it. Joy! Two weeks later, it was in the Arts and Culture section. Score!

It was also posted on Windy Citizen, a Chicago-centric site that I am falling in love with. It is dedicated to all things Chicago – news, blogs and entertainment. I received positive feedback about the piece and it was even posted on the Huffington Post Chicago. It’s crazy how the small pieces you write end up on other web sites. This leads me to believe that people still read.

I needed that boost. I felt like GB gave me the opportunity I was looking for – a platform. I was grateful and I still am. You can read my piece here: A Hood in Limbo.

A few days later, I checked my e-mail and there was a request from a DJ asking if I would be interested in being interviewed for his radio show all about Chicago. I said yes and if you ever get the opportunity to be on a radio show you should say yes too. Why? Why not? Opportunities will always present themselves, but will you be aware enough to notice? Luckily, this time I was. You can check out the radio show here: Outside the Loop Radio.

Keep on truckin’ my writing pals.

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Nov 302009
 

A few years ago I got sick of getting form rejection letters from all of the literary journals and magazines. So I decided to make my own postcard, which had boxes for the editors to check when they were going to send me a rejection. It’s more of a tool for me, but I find it absolutely essential for editors as well. 

All they need to do is to check off what I might need to work on structurally. I have also added in a place for other comments. Well, when I told people about my postcard a lot of them were super negative about it. They said that editors wouldn’t take the time to fill it out; that they’d probably just pitch it.

What they didn’t know was that my postcard was easier to send than a form rejection. All they needed to do was check off what their thoughts were and put it in the post. 

Today as I was checking the mail I came across one of my postcards! It was a rejection. That wasn’t the greatest feeling, but I was still excited. For one, I was rejected because of the type of fiction I submitted not because they didn’t like my story. And for two, they used my postcard! 

Before you start thinking, well why didn’t she read the lit mag before submitting to them? Well I did. I actually thought it might be a pretty good fit seeing as though my story was set in Chicago and it was a Chicago lit mag, but I was wrong.

Ill take another look at that journal and probably pick up another for good measure. They also signed the postcard, “Thanks for thinking of us!”  I am so excited. Every time I feel like I’m not going to make it as a writer I get some kind of inkling from the universe pushing me ahead.  

I dont say this enough, but I love writing. I’m not going to give up and you shouldn’t give up on your dreams either.

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