16
Mar 17

I’m Going to the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs

The Writer's Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs

Today I’m heading to the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to do something that I never thought I’d do — attend a writer’s retreat.

Writer’s retreats are things I dream about. Sometimes I catch myself perusing Air BnB for the perfect little escape off the beaten path. I think of all the things I’d like to work on when I finally have some solitude, or just a quiet space where I’m not nagged by chores or papers that need grading. And ultimately I never do it because it’s always expensive, because I don’t have enough free time to do it, or because I just don’t think it’s in the cards right now.

Well, that has changed.

The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs reached out to the Women Bloggers for a group of writery bloggers to come to a free retreat in exchange for some bloggy and social media love. So, in addition to the writer’s retreat experience, we’re also getting tours of downtown Eureka Springs and a haunted hotel.

This is basically my dream scenario. Pretty much the only thing I write about is ghosts. And pretty much the only thing I love more than writing about ghosts is seeing ghosts!

I’m also very excited to have the opportunity to do this with some really awesome women. Mari Farthing, Heather Davis, and Rebecca Loper will all be attending.

I’ve got a bag packed full of projects to work on. I want to focus on a short story that’s been banging around my head for a couple of years. I’ve only managed to get about 1,500 words of it on paper, but I’m optimistic that this will be the weekend that good things happen for that story. I’m also bringing a half-baked novel outline to keep on deck for when I hit a point in the short story where I need to back away.

And naturally, I’ll have my journal with me. I posted about In Your Own Words Journaling on Instagram earlier this week, and I’m definitely bringing those journaling prompts with me. I may use them first thing in the morning, or as warm-ups for working on other projects. Or hell, if I find that I’m unable to write anything else (God forbid) then I’ll hit my journal hard.

If you’re interested in following along on my trip to the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, I’ll be posting quite a bit on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. I may say something over on Facebook, but most likely I won’t. (I mean, I may share an Instagram post or two directly to my page, but that’s it.)

And of course, you know me. When I go out of town, I have to make a hashtag about it. So, follow #MarisawritesDairyHollow and you can keep up with all my shenanigans.

 

Have you ever attended a writer’s retreat? Anything special I should do in Eureka Springs?

Thanks for sharing!
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09
Mar 17

Create Space to Breathe: 4 Tips to Help You Fight Overwhelm

When the things that need to be done start to pile up, I know I need to create space to breathe.

We’re smack dab in the middle of grading season. Or, more accurately, procrastinating grading season. (Every day I manage to tell my students they shouldn’t procrastinate with a straight face. I have no business doing that.)

Create Space to Breathe: 4 Tips

Normal adult activities like cleaning and grocery shopping have fallen by the wayside because I feel like I don’t have time to do it. And while I may not have time to do it all when I need to get 116 papers off my plate, I know I have time.

I firmly believe that busy is a choice. But I also know that there are times when you have more to do than others. And grading season is definitely that time for me.

In the past, I’ve wasted time feeling like I needed to be cooped up and cordoned off — away from the world and working diligently to get things done. But the problem with staying inside all day and looking at a computer screen is that it very much makes Marisa a dull girl. And if I’m being honest, it makes me hate my job and my students, which isn’t really productive at all.

So, this year I’m taking a more strategic approach and making an effort to create space to breathe. I feel like I have to this semester, especially since I’m teaching 5 classes this time around. I’m also at an age where I can’t be productive when I cut corners. So, fast food isn’t an option since it doesn’t really fuel my body anymore, so much as shut down the whole production while I lay down and attempt to digest. And there are no more all-nighters for me. In fact, I’m in bed at the same time every single night.

I know some of my coworkers can stay up late to get things done and still teach the next day. Or they can fuel up with nothing but coffee and donuts. But that ain’t me.

So here’s what I’m doing to create space to breathe during this busy time.

001: Going for walks.
Through a wellness initiative at my university, full-time faculty and staff received a free Fitbit. And while it’s not he first step tracker I’ve owned (I used to be a Garmin Vivo Fit user) it has definitely made me way more competitive when it comes to getting my steps in. Not only do I see my friends and all their steps within the Fitbit app, but I also see everyone on the university’s fitness portal. Because of this, I know how much more other people are doing, and I want to do more.

Now, there are only so many hours in a day, so it’s not like there is plenty of time for me to walk all over the place. Instead, I’m using my lunch breaks during the work day and walking around campus. Thanks to global warming, it’s been so unseasonably warm, and that has definitely made it a lot easier for me to traipse around campus during the day.

Not only is the walk good for me, but it enables me to take a moment away from the computer. I truly get to use that time to decompress from grading, lectures, and emails. It’s perhaps the most relaxing thing I do all day.

002: Eating my lunch outside.
I’ve got a bad habit of holing up in my office and eating lunch in front of my computer. I know this isn’t good, but it’s so hard to make myself go elsewhere. Plus, it’s not like I want to be the irrelevant old professor who rolls up in the cafeteria and tries to strike up a conversation with students in hopes that they let me sit with them.

I’m a 100% introvert, so I need time in my day when I’m not interacting with people. That’s usually why I eat my lunch in my office with the door closed. But the other day, I walked to my favorite spot on campus after I purchased a sandwich. I was delighted to find that no one was sitting on my bench, and very few people were passing by.

Naturally, I parked right there and enjoyed my pastrami on naan sandwich with an over-sweetened iced green tea. The best part? I could hear a choir rehearsing in Carpenter Hall.

003: One-on-one talks with good people.
I’m very fortunate in that I’m surrounded by a lot of deep thinkers. We can discuss a lot of things, and I never feel like I’m stuck in very surface-level conversations, which I HATE. It may seem counterintuitive, but when I’m stressed out, it’s nice to talk through some difficult concepts. If we stuck to just the small talk, I think that would stress me out more.

Over the course of this past week, I’ve talked about writing pedagogy, race relations and the biases we carry, whether or not a Ph.D. is actually worth it, and why we buy into the systems and institutions that we do. I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I live for these kinds of discussions. And by taking time to have them, I feel better through the day because I’ve interacted with a human on a meaningful level, and haven’t stared a screen all day.

004: Turning my brain off by 8 PM.
I’ve found that the best way to be productive and get through a really busy time is to clearly delineate how I will use my time. By that, I mean I need to set aside time for work and time for shutting down and relaxing.

I mentioned that I’m in bed by the same time every night, But I also have to start relaxing and winding down at the same time so that I can get to sleep more easily. At around 8 PM ever night, I put away all my school stuff. I may write or blog or journal, but mostly I’ve been too fried to do that. Instead, Chris and I cuddle up on the couch with Rosie, and we’ve been watching Twin Peaks (I totally hate this series — sorry nostalgia fans) or Desus and Mero (bar none the best late night show on the air).

Oh, and yeah. I’ve had a big ol’ glass of red wine each night.

 

So there you have it. That’s how I like to create space to breathe when I feel overwhelmed. What do you do when you’ve got a lot to do? How do you create space to breathe?

Thanks for sharing!
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27
Feb 17

Blog for Your Business: 5 Reasons You NEED This E-Course

Blog for your business: The Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp E-Course

The FTC requires me to disclose that this post about learning to blog for your business contains affiliate links.

Recently, I had the pleasure of taking the Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp e-course from Allison of Refunk My Junk. Not only is Allison the go-to person when it comes to learning how to blog for your business, but she’s also an awesome person. I was lucky enough to get to know her last fall when we shared a room at the Megaphone Summit blogging conference where she was speaking and I was absorbing all manner of knowledge. If you missed Megaphone Summit, don’t worry! Allison is now sharing her blogging expertise in her Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp e-course.

In addition to blogging, Allison also runs The Paint Bar in Edmond, Oklahoma. And because of her blog, she was able to quit her corporate day job and do what she loves full-time! That’s why I was super excited to take the Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp e-course, and I totally think you should too.

Now, you may think it’s not completely relevant to you. Maybe you don’t think you need to blog for your business, or have a business to blog for. Well, here’s the thing: Yes, you need to blog for your business — Allison is proof of that. And even if you’re just a blogger without a business, the tips and tricks she shares are perfect for anyone who wants to increase their site traffic or make their blog posts look more professional.

And with that, I give you 5 reasons you need to take the Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp e-course!

001: The advice is actionable.
I’ve taken a lot of e-courses in my day, and the one thing I hate about some of them is how abstract they can be. It’s one thing to tell someone to stay true to your brand, but what does that really mean and what does that look like? Allison explains exactly what that will look like, and her workbook that comes with the course is so helpful when it comes to blogging for your business. (Bonus points are awarded because she doesn’t say “brand” one bajillion times.) By going through the course and the workbook, not only do you get examples of great stories to tell in your posts, but Allison explains what that needs to look like in the post, as well as what you need to do for SEO and blog post images.

002: Allison is a straight talker who won’t jerk you around.
One of my personal pet peeves is buzzwords. I hate how often people just use them to explain something. This is problematic for many reasons, but mostly because marketers tend to create buzzwords that are functionally meaningless to the outside world. So, if you didn’t attend the latest marketing conference, you have no idea what someone is talking about, or you think they’re talking about something completely different because this is the first time you’ve ever heard the buzzword used in that context.

It’s frustrating.

But Allison keeps it simple and clear. And more to the point, she’s super real. Like, I personally don’t enjoy how fake a lot of e-courses can be. Allison is never fake. In the videos in this course you get the same genuine Allison that you get in real life, which is so refreshing.

003: Everything is broken down into simple pieces so you can take it at your own pace.
As with all things, I learn some things fast and some things slow. The great thing about the Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp e-course is that all the pieces are broken down into super manageable chunks. So, if you need to go over a specific section again before moving on, you don’t have to pause at a weird time, or try to remember where you need to rewind to. The videos and text are broken down into small chunks so you can easily go through one thing multiple times before moving on to the next. This is key when you’re learning how to blog for your business because you can learn at your own pace.

004: Allison covers everything from your overall brand to individual blog posts.
So, what I ABSOLUTELY HATE about a lot of bloggers who sell e-courses is that they break everything apart so they can sell multiple $500 e-courses to the same person. And I get it. Everyone needs to make money, and everyone should be paid for their expertise. But when you come at me with a $500 Twitter course one week, and then want another $500 the next week for learning how to grow your Facebook audience, I want to light your hair on fire.

I love how the Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp e-course covers a little bit of everything. Sure, it may not be as in-depth as some other courses, but it gives you a solid foundation for all the topics she covers, so you can better figure out what will work for you when you blog for your business. This is really important because what works for one blog or business may not work for another. But by learning the basic concepts, you build that strong foundation that allows your blog to grow while you figure out what exactly you need to do on your own.

005: Allison is good person living the dream.
Real talk: If you’re a blogger, you no doubt get a ton of targeted Facebook ads for so and so who lives a million miles away and makes millions by preying on your creative insecurities by selling e-courses that make a ton of promises they can’t keep.

The Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp isn’t like that. All you have to do is go through Allison’s blog and you can see that she’s not only put these practices into play, but she’s built a significant amount of success using these techniques. And like I said earlier, she quit her day job to run her own business. Oh, and she’s been featured in HGTV Magazine, Buzzfeed, Good Housekeeping, as well as a lot of other places.

But the best part of buying the Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp e-course is that you know your money is going to a good person who knows what she’s talking about. I hate realizing after I’ve made a purchase that not only did I give my money to someone who has no idea what they’re doing, but that they’re jerks too.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to blog for your business, or if you’re interested in taking your blog to the next level, I can’t recommend the Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp enough.

I received the Blogging for Your Business Bootcamp e-course in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Thanks for sharing!
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21
Feb 17

Dear Universe: I Need Something Big

Dear Universe,

I know it’s been a hot minute since I asked for something via this ol’ blog, but I got another favor. I need something. Something big. And I don’t even know what it is.

Dear Universe: I Need Something Big

See, here’s the thing: I’m running on autopilot. Everything is going smoothly. I can’t see a speed bump or a pothole for miles. And that’s good, I think. Except, well. Last week I jokingly said to my office mate that every week is the worst week of my life. And joking about something is the first step to admitting that you have hella problems, right?

I’m not asking for a whole lot, dear Universe. I don’t wan’t to win the lottery or to find a bag of unmarked bills at the park when I’m walking my dog. (Let the record also show that I don’t not want those things. I’m just saying that it doesn’t have to be those things.) I don’t want anything fancy or expensive. I don’t want some life-changing news. I don’t want to make a big decision.

I kind of just want a sign. I don’t know what for though.

Sorry. I’m trying here, dear Universe. But that’s the thing about this time of year. It’s the third quarter of the school year, and the third thing out of four things is always the worst. Like when you run a mile on a track. It’s only four laps. The first lap you’re fine. Your fresh. Your lungs are full of air. The second lap is okay. You’re doing it. You still have some energy. The third lap sucks because you’ve already done this thing twice and OMG can I just be done now? And the fourth lap is great because you’re almost done.

I kind of just want a sign. I don't know what for though. Click To Tweet

That’s where I am right now — smack dab in the middle of OMG can I just be done now.

So here I am, feeling antsy and anxious. I don’t know why. It’s been a hot minute since something big has happened. I mean, I guess I did buy a car on Saturday, but that doesn’t feel like anything. And if you know me, dear Universe, you know that material possessions don’t mean a whole awful lot to me. I’m looking for something that’s the spiritual equivalent of a marching band tromping down Main Street and playing Seventy-Six Trombones.”

I want big things and little words scribbled in notebooks. I want stories that make me stay up until 5 AM because I absolutely have to read them. I want words pouring out of my head and onto the page like an avalanche. I want to not feel so empty. I want to have thoughts worth thinking again.

I guess what I’m saying here, dear Universe, is that I want a little inspiration. I want to want to do things again.

Help me out here, Universe. Remind me why I’m here.

Thanks for sharing!
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15
Feb 17

How to Build a Writing Habit

One of those things about being a writer is that you have to be in the habit of writing. Oh, sure, it’s all well and good to say, “I’m a writer.” And then just rush off before anyone can ask you about what you do. It’s even better if you just belittle people who try to question your status as writer. (I had a crush on a guy who did that in undergrad.) I think a problem I’ve run into lately is the whole saying I’m a writer, and then, you know…not writing.

How to Build a Writing Habit

And, I get it. Like, for a while, all my friends on the Facebooks were posting links to hella inspirational blogs that reaffirmed that yes, we are writers. We should call ourselves writers. Even if we’re not published! You’re a mother-humpin’ writer. It was good. I appreciated it. Because, here’s the thing: For a really long time, I didn’t feel I could say that. I had a master’s degree in writing, but didn’t feel that I could call myself a writer.

Fast forward to the present.

I have worked as a writer for the majority of my professional life. I’ve ghostwritten. I’ve blogged. I’ve freelanced. I’ve tech written. (What’s the past tense of having at one point been a tech writer?) Currently, I literally teach writing. I have no issue with donning that fantastic writerly mantle.

But here’s where things get a bit squiffy.

I haven’t been writing a whole awful lot lately.

Gasp. Sacrilege!

I know.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I struggle hard with the burnout. And you know, taking on too much stuff. And trying to balance life and work and side hustles and a relationship and just basically being a person. (I’ve really been bad at the being a person thing because I let so many friendships and everyday human tasks fall by the wayside.)

So, in 2016, I worked on getting my life right, in a manner of speaking. I started to slow down. I lessened my day job work load. I cut waaaaaaaay back on the writing I did for others. I started reading more. I didn’t force myself to do anything I didn’t want to do. I really leaned into self-care in a pathological way.

But here we are in February in this, the year of our lord 2017. And I do not have a daily writing habit. I really, really want one though. Which, naturally, means it’s time to work on it.

How to Build a Writing Habit

So, in the interest of letting the 10 11 people who regularly read my blog (a big welcome to my dad who just found out I had a blog!), I thought I would detail how I’m building a writing habit.

001: Journaling.
So, if you didn’t know, I start every single day by journaling. On the weekdays, this means I start writing around 5:40 AM, and get it out of the way before I start working out. On weekends, it’s a little nicer because I get to journal with my coffee as I snuggle with the dog on the couch. Journaling is great because I get to throw my brain down on the page. I’m sure years from now I’ll look at the pages I’ve journaled and wonder what the hell was wrong with me. They don’t say anything special. Mostly it’s to do lists, things I wish would change, or things that happened or will be happening. But the key is that I get the weird parts of my brain out of my head first thing so that later, I’m better able to write. And my anxiety has really gone down since I’ve started this whole process, probably because I can write down a worry, and then completely forget it.

How to Build a Writing Habit Click To Tweet

002: Reading more.
I’ve been tracking my reading in my bullet journal, and it’s crazy how motivated it’s been making me to read. I haven’t fully broken up with Netflix or anything, but I’m making more time for reading because the more I read, the more I want to write. This is key for me. There’s nothing like a clever plot or a beautifully worded sentence that makes you want to write. Interestingly enough, there’s nothing like a garbage story to make you want to write, especially when you feel you could do what the author was trying to do better.

003: Literally scheduling it.
Every single day, I put a line in my bullet journal that says “write-1 hr.” Every. Single. Day. I could probably make a tracker and just track which days I write on, but honestly, I don’t pay attention to trackers. I need the list of things to do because there is nothing more satisfying than marking something off the to do list. So, by putting it on the list every day, I get the little mental reward of checking it off.

004: Making use of down time.
So, if I find myself in between classes or in my office hours and a single student hasn’t shown up, I may just open up a Word doc and write my little heart out. Lately, I haven’t been writing anything in particular, though I have some projects I’m in the middle of. I’m really just working on building the habit. So, if that means I just get about 3,000 words into various unrelated scenes, then so be it. Eventually, I’d like to focus on two manuscript projects that need to get done, but it’s like I said earlier. I’m out of the habit of making myself do things I don’t want to do. Until I get there, I’m content to just piddle around in a Word doc creating a big ol’ pile of nothing.

005: Creating a writing habit trigger.
I used to have a big ol’ electric kettle on my work desk, but not anymore. I brought that bad boy home so I could quickly and easily make some Moroccan mint tea in the afternoons when I get back from work. I start the kettle and change from my work clothes to a pair of yoga pants that are festooned with dog hair. I let the dog out, and put a weird pineapple-patterned headband on my head to keep my bangs out of my eyes as I write. By the time that’s all done, the water is nice and hot, and I brew my tea. Then, once the tea is done, it’s time for me to go into my office and make words come out of my brain and into the computer. For me, the tea is the trigger. Once the tea is done, it’s writing time.

It should be noted here that the tea is also a habit trigger for the dog. Once my tea is done, she’s knows it’s time to sleep in the reading chair in my office.

How did you build your writing habit? Click To Tweet

These are the things I’m doing to build a writing habit. So far, so good.  What about you writer’s out there? How did you build your writing habit?

Thanks for sharing!
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