The Secret to Writing Success by Rochelle Melander

file000251965952“…I had formed the habit of working in my studio almost every single day. Rain or shine, eager or dragging my feet, I just plain forced myself to work.” —Anne Truitt (Daybook, p. 126)

When I was in second grade, I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. The novel taught me to think beyond what teachers, parents and ministers said was real. Because of A Wrinkle in Time, I embraced my imagination as a gift instead of the thing that made me odd and often got me in trouble with grown-ups.

I met L’Engle several times during her lifetime. At the first event, she said something that still helps me write every day:

“Success is thin unless we can be committed to drudgery.”

Wow. The woman responsible for the book that opened my mind also had to slog through the boring parts.

Being a writer is about showing up and writing, whether we feel like it or not. We scribble down the words before they disappear from our heads. Then we change them. Sometimes we get lucky, and while we’re wading through the muck, inspiration hits and sets our imagination on fire.

Both the artist Anne Truitt and the author Madeleine L’Engle found the secret to success: work hard. For them, making art was a habit. They created daily, no matter what.

My advice? Go and do likewise!

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Three Secrets to a Happy (Writing) Life by Rochelle Melander

W4473 WriteAThonNote From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m beginning to panic: only a couple of people have signed up to Write-A-Thon with me in July. I don’t want to do this alone! If you’re contemplating writing your book this summer, here are three quick reasons to join us:

WAT_therapy1. Writing is cheaper than therapy. I don’t care if you’re writing fiction or the story of your life: you’ll feel better afterwards. (Promise!)

2. You’ll write more than you thought possible! (Remember—you can set your own goal, so don’t freak out about having to write a gazillion words!)

3. You won’t be doing it alone! (Visit my Facebook page and say hi to the others who are writing in July!)

How does it work? Set your goal, follow the Write Now! Coach Facebook page for daily encouragement, and write!  If you need more support, check out the announcement at the blog and sign up for group calls or a one-on-one coaching session with me.

Today’s tip offers some lessons for writing and life from the great B. B. King.

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

 

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I never use that word, retire. —B.B. King

Last summer, we attended a B. B. King concert. As the night began, King shouted: “I’m B. B. King, and I’m 87 years old!” (He’s 88 now.) Then he launched into a song with his deep baritone voice. As I reflected on the concert later, I realized that King had some lessons to teach me about writing and life. Here are three of them:

By Tom Beetz [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tom Beetz [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Do not let your age define you. In our age-obsessed culture, we need to learn this lesson repeatedly. No matter what your age, no doubt someone has told you it’s wrong for what you want to do. When I was in my 20s, many more experienced people from my profession told me I was too young to have important ideas or write books. Just a few years later, in my early 30s, some of my colleagues told me I was too old. Wow, from young and useless to old and washed up in just five years! I love what the Indigo Girls say about this in their song, Go:

Did they tell you, you would come undone

When you try to touch the sun

Undermine the underground

You’re too old to care

You’re too young to count

Take away: Stop using age as an excuse. If you really want to do something, do it.

2. Get a great team. When B. B. King came to sing, he brought a band that rocked. Literally. Every member of his band could (and did) play solo. Together, backing up B. B., the sound was magnificent. None of us can do it alone. Writers need colleagues, critique group partners, editors and more. When I look at my writing career past and present, I am constantly grateful for the people who have supported and comforted me along the way.

Take away: Look around. Do you have writing colleagues to support you? If so, say thank you! If not, join a critique group or writing circle.

3. Have fun. At the end of the night, B. B. King said, “I have a curfew and I’ve already gone past it, but I’m having so much fun.” And he was. His whole body radiated joy. I don’t always feel that way when I’m writing. Sometimes writing feels like slogging through knee-deep mud. But I also have moments when I’m so engaged in the writing, I don’t want to stop. I feel like a kid at the playground who can’t understand why it’s time to go home. In those moments, writing feels so absolutely right that I cannot image doing anything else.

Take away: Doing what you love won’t be fun every day, but it also won’t be a drag. If you’re not having fun, poke around at why. Maybe you need to be working on a different project? Maybe you need to lower your expectations or slow down? Once you figure out what’s not working, you can get to what is working again and enjoy it!

Rock on, writers! 

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Writing Outside the Box by Rochelle Melander

Out of the box and into the labyrinth!

Out of the box and into the labyrinth!

Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box. —Deepak Chopra

In a study published in Psychological Science, Angela Leung of Singapore Management University and her coauthors enacted the popular metaphor thinking “outside the box”. They created two comfortable work environments, one literally inside a box and one on the outside. Then they gave participants a test used to measure creativity. Those who worked outside the box performed better.

My first thought: well good thing I don’t work in a cubicle. My second: I kind of do. I have a great home office with loads of books, supplies, and light. But it’s still an office, with desks and walls. So I decided to work outside my box. I worked in several places: my home library, the porch, and a local coffee shop. All of them provided what I needed: a non-office space to think and write “outside the box.”

After my experiment, I remembered that many of my clients and colleagues like working outside the box, too. They found success working at parks, bookstores, and fast food joints.

The takeaway? Work somewhere other than your office. See if it helps you break out of your rut or—if you’re not in a rut—explore new levels of creativity.

Your turn. What other writing metaphors do you take literally? Do you think better on your feet—that is while walking or standing at a desk? Leave your comment below!

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Are You Ready to Write-A-Thon?

W4473 WriteAThon-1Join the summer Write Now! Coach Write-A-Thon and get that project started or finished or anything in between.

How does it work? Set your goal, follow the Write Now! Coach Facebook page for daily encouragement, and write!

What kind of a goal? Do I have to write 50,000 words?

Nope. This isn’t NaNoWriMo. You can choose to:

+Write a defined number of words each day (you decide how many)!

+Work toward a month-long word count goal.

+Write for a defined number of minutes each day or week.

+Write for a number of days each week.

What kind of a project? Do I have to write a novel? Nope. Write what you want: a memoir, a nonfiction book, a bunch of blog posts, a series of poems, a few picture book or … anything else that seems right.

What if I need more support than posts on a Facebook page? Join our weekly Write-A-Thon Mastermind group. We’ll meet every Monday in July at 12:00 PM CDT on the phone. The price is right at just $100 for all four calls. You can sign up at our Group Coaching page.

What if I need EVEN MORE SUPPORT? Sign up for a 45-minute get-your-act-together call with Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander. She’ll help you focus your project idea, set a daily writing goal, and find the time to write. How much? $100—but sign up soon. We have a limited number of spots available for this.

What if I’m already doing Camp NaNoWriMo? No problem! Think of the Write Now! Coach Write-A-Thon as the extra box of treats you bring along to camp just in case you get extra hungry.

So how do I sign up?

EVERYONE!: Head on over to Facebook and like the Write Now! Coach page. If you want, you can add a comment to the post about this Write-a-Thon to let me and others know you’re in!

Weekly Mastermind Calls: Head on over to the group  Write Now! Coaching page and sign up. You’ll receive an email with instructions for the weekly calls.

Individual Get-Your-Act-Together Call: When you purchase the group coaching, add an individual  Write Now! Coaching session for $100.  I’ll be in touch about scheduling our call.

What if I have more questions? Leave a comment below.

Anything else? Yes! Whether you plan to write or not, enter to win a copy ofWrite-a-Thon.

 

 

 

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Connect and Write More by Rochelle Melander

The only good teachers for you are those friends who love you, who think you are interesting, or very important, or wonderfully funny; whose attitude is: “Tell me more.” —Brenda Ueland

IMGP8720-2Last week, I met with a writing friend for coffee, and she asked: “So, when can I read your book?” I’d promised it to her a month earlier and then got busy with other things. I was so thankful that she remembered and asked. Now, I’ll make finishing the draft a priority so I can get it to her sooner.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that writers who connect with other writers tend to write and publish more. Here are three ways to make that happen:

1. Find a Mastermind Group. For years, I’ve met with small networking groups for accountability. When I wanted to quit writing, these connections have helped me to leap forward. During these meetings, we ask the same questions:

+What are you writing?

+What’s working?

+What do you need help with?

2. Join a Critique Group. Professional writers study great writing—and know what works and what doesn’t work. When we invite other writers to read and critique our writing, we expand our understanding of good writing. And, we learn about our blind spots. From complex comments on structure and voice to technical lessons on commas and run-on sentences, a good critique can strengthen our writing. [Pro Tip: Check the website of national writing groups to find a reliable critique group. I belong to a group through the Wisconsin chapter of The Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators (SCBWI).]

3. Challenge a colleague. Create a deadline pact with another writer. Promise that by a certain date you’ll each write 10,000 words, complete a project, or complete a portion of a manuscript. To make it sweeter (and more difficult to fail), make a bet. If one of you doesn’t finish in time, you’ll have to . . . treat the other to dinner or whatever.

Your turn: How has connecting with other writers helped you to write more?

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The Power of Saying No by Rochelle Melander

©Rochelle Melander

©Rochelle Melander

At the beginning of summer, the days feel open and full of possibility. I feel like I can do it all—and still write. Of course I can’t. When I try to do too much and say yes to obligations that don’t make my heart sing, I end up letting go of writing time. And then I feel resentful. I’m learning to say no instead.

Here’s what Anne Lamott says about saying no:

My therapist, Rita, has convinced me that every time I say yes when I mean no, I am abandoning myself, and I end up feeling used or resentful or frantic. But when I say no when I mean no, it’s so sane and healthy that it creates a little glade around me in which I can get the nourishment I need. Then I help and serve people from a place of real abundance and health, … —Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions, pp.48-9

Writers, here’s my challenge to you this summer. Decide what you want to write. Grab your calendar and block out your writing time. Say no to anything that threatens to interrupt your writing. And then enjoy the feeling of doing what you’re called to do: write!

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Walk Now! Write More by Rochelle Melander

Rochelle walks the labyrinth in West Bend, WI

Rochelle walks the labyrinth in West Bend, WI

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking. —Friedrich Nietzche

Now that spring has arrived in Wisconsin—finally!—I’m walking more. In addition to my daily exercise, I take tiny walking breaks. In Write-A-Thon, I wrote about a study that showed that women who walked had better brain connectivity.  But that’s not all! Recent research suggests that walking boosts creativity, improves concentration, and restores our ability to pay attention. Wow! Read on…

Walking boosts creativity. In late April, the American Psychological Association released a study on the creative benefits of walking (published in APA’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.) While at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, Marily Oppezzo, PhD, and colleague Daniel L. Schwartz, PhD, did a number of studies that found students who walked performed better on tests that measure creativity, especially free-flowing thoughts. They did less well on tests that required a single answer.

Walking improves concentration. A study by Andrea Faber Taylor and Frances Kuo measured how walking in three different environments—nature, urban, and residential—affected children with ADHD. The children who walked in nature did the best on tests of concentration (almost as well as their peers without ADHD). (Journal of Attention Disorders OnlineFirst).

Walking restores attention. A study by Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan at the University of Michigan found that walking in nature can restore our ability to pay attention, something that usually diminishes throughout the day. For urban dwellers, it takes more than walking around outside—since paying attention to street and sidewalk traffic uses up more attention. Instead, head to a park for your walk.

So how do you use walking to jumpstart your writing? Here’s advice from my Write-a-Thon book:

*If you’re already walking or exercising, write for 20-30 minutes right afterwards.

*Take a ten-minute walk before you write.

*Take a ten-minute walk every time you experience writer’s block.

*Take a ten-minute walk as a transition between writing projects.

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How to Tackle a Huge Writing Project by Rochelle Melander

13 May 2014

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

My daughter Elly and me.

My daughter Elly and me.

This past weekend, I ran my first 5K, Run Like a Mother. I didn’t burn up the route but I finished, beating my best training time. The cool part: I had fun. Really. I enjoyed running and cheering on so many amazing athletes!

And in honor of tackling a challenge, today’s tip talks about one way to finish massive writing project!

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

 

 

How to Tackle a Huge Writing Project by Rochelle Melander

Earlier this spring, we visited The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to view the Arts/Industry exhibition of pieces created by artists while on residency at the Kohler Co. Pottery, Iron and Brass Foundries, and Enamel Shop.

Babel by Jim Neel

Babel by Jim Neel

And wow—the art amazed me! I was astonished by Jim Neel’s Babel, an installation of 50 ceramic chimpanzee warriors, lined up and ready to fight. The artist spent just 11 weeks casting the monkeys and their weapons. He shared the kiln and other equipment with factory workers who were casting sinks and toilets.

As I walked into the room where Babel stood, I felt overwhelmed by the dozens of marching monkeys. I wondered: how does one conceive of something so large and then complete it in a short period of time?

On the wall, just above his army of monkeys, the museum posted this quote from Jim Neel:

I just put my head down and made sure I got those two monkeys finished every day and as many arms and legs as I could. –Jim Neel

Eleven weeks. Two monkeys a day. And as many arms and legs as I could.

That’s so much more concrete than my usual, “I’ve got to work on this book.”

Jim Neel successfully finished his project within his 11-week residency because he committed himself to slow and steady progress: two monkeys a day. It’s not very sexy, but it works.

Try it: Take a look at your current work in progress. What does two monkeys a day look like for you? Declare it and do it!

 

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Writers@Work: The Book Trailer by Marjorie Treu

Hey writers,

I’m delighted to welcome my friend and colleague Marjorie Treu to the blog to share her experiences with creating and sharing her book trailers. Her experience has a lot to teach all of us!

Happy writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach

 

file0001311160630Writers@Work: The Book Trailer by Marjorie Treu

I’m an indie author with a whopping one title under my belt…The 78 Biggest Mistakes New Managers Make – What You Need to Know to Avoid Career Suicide.  (Could that title be any longer?!)

The Background

I struggle to write; but I am published.

I struggle to sell the book; but I am determined to sell the last 200 copies.

I struggle to build my business; but I am celebrating 7 years with Team Fusion.

After losing a job in late 2006, it was time to strike out on my own because then I could control my own fate and not become victim to the whims of a large corporation.  There was no common sense in that decision.  What I was very confident in was my training and development ability, and having a large network of potential clients. Team Fusion started off with a bang and then the recession hit.

I started a blog (along with an e-zine) and wrote religiously for 2 years and slowly built an online community who valued the teamwork and leadership resources I provided.  The community was loyal but small.  That’s when I got the brainy idea of speaking at human resource conferences to build the business.  Why

+Human Resource professionals are my target market.

+I communicate more authentically in-person than in written format.

At the time, my mentor suggested it was time to have a small ticket item to sell as an introduction to the work I do and as a next step in the sales cycle.  I decided on a book since this format is easy to give away during a workshop presentation, people rarely throw away a book, and I had 2-years of content that I could repurpose. I wrote the book in a weekend. More accurately, I organized 2-years of blog posts and e-zine articles into a book, added some content, and wrote the introduction and back cover in a weekend.  Then, had 4,000 copies printed and shipped to the house. It was January 2011.

It’s 2014 and the last 200 copies are taking up valuable garage space. They need to be sold. Enter The Book Trailer. Before considering this option, copies sold through:

  • Association conferences (following my presentation and at their bookstore)
  • Directly to my e-zine subscription list
  • Radio interviews received from ads in www.RTIR.com
  • Client-only workshops
  • Bulk corporate orders

Today

Three years post publication, my client base is saturated, and I need new followers. The only way to gain a wider audience is through a more visual medium.  Research on ‘how to create a video book trailer’ began in earnest.  I know these absolutes about myself:

  1. I do not want to learn a new skill if I won’t use it regularly.
  2. I have no extra time to babysit a new project.
  3. I want every output for Team Fusion to be highly professional.
  4. I have no budget set aside to hire a video director.

Fate stepped in while at a client meeting.  I met a young marketing graduate who had just submitted a video entry for the Super Bowl Doritos promotion (he came in third) and hired him on-the-spot. Cost: $750 (selling 37 books is break even.)

The book trailer took 30-days from concept to upload on YouTube and followed this process:

  1. Concept design – 3 options and I chose a multi-video approach
  2. Treatment and script
  3. 2 script revisions
  4. Site selection, logistics, hiring actors
  5. Shooting footage
  6. Editing and Music
  7. PR and Marketing

The $750 investment may seem on the high end; however, Eagle Stream Media handled everything except the PR and Marketing of the book trailer. It was pretty exciting to spend a couple of hours at the shoot, and talk with the director and actors.  Bonus: a couple of them bought the book!

The Book Trailer Campaign

This is the part where I became a Do-It-Yourselfer since my marketing message is not one I trust a third party to nuance well.  Here were the steps:

  • March 26th — video #1 uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo
  • March 27 — both videos uploaded to my site: www.TeamFusion.net
  • April 1st — video #1 uploaded to LinkedIn / with automatic Twitter link
  • April 2nd — video #2 uploaded to same sites
  • April 3rd — video #2 uploaded to LinkedIn / with automatic Twitter link
  • April 3rd — video #1 sent to All Client Distribution List (with special Customer Loyalty discount)
  • April 9th — video #2 sent to All Client Distribution List (with Bulk Discount offer)
  • April 16 – 23rd —random posting within LinkedIn HR groups I’ve participated in for over a year
  • Second campaign to launch May 7th

Helpful Hints and Resources 

Watch

+YouTube videos on creating book trailers (there are dozens) for self-education.

+Site for kids and teen book trailers: www.BookTrailersForReaders.com  Scroll to bottom of home page / Special Features / How to Make a Book Trailer

+Read Tim Ferris’ blog post on How to Create a Viral Book Trailer (http://bit.ly/Rca6gO)

Hire

+Use recent tech-savvy grads well-versed in social media for cost savings.

+www.WaveCloud.com offers book video trailers starting at $499

+Amazon’s Create Space offers book trailer packages: $1,200 – 2,200

Create

+Keep videos under 60-seconds. Shorter is better.

+Send a short customer survey if you’re unsure your client watches video.

The Result

The Bad News: No direct sales resulted from video #1 but it did generate some interest in folks wanting to see the second video.

The Good News:  The book trailer expenses paid for themselves on April 17th with a third order through the Team Fusion website. The best advice I can give is to map out your campaign carefully and stick to a schedule for best results.  It’s all profit from this point forward and that extra garage space is no longer a pipe dream!

 

07d97bfAbout the author. Marjorie Treu is President of Team Fusion, a training and coaching practice dedicated to partnering with HR professionals to help build deep talent management bench strength.  She brings 20 years of adult education experience into the corporate arena with focus on Leadership and Management Development, Talent Management, Sales Training, and Employee Relations.  After serving as President for the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of ASTD, Marjorie has helped small business owners and Fortune 500 companies alike with consulting, training, coaching, and experiential team building events.

Marjorie’s passion for the next generation of leaders was the driving force behind writing her book, The 78 Biggest Mistakes New Managers Make – What You Need to Know to Avoid Career Suicide. She firmly believes that following the practical tips outlined will prevent leaders from losing years of advancement opportunities.  More importantly, they build teams that produce bottom-line results quickly.

For more information: www.TeamFusion.net

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5 Ways to Use a Journal to Boost Writing Productivity by Rochelle Melander

IMG_1765Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.  –Jane Yolen

Since January, I’ve been exploring art journaling—thanks to an Oprah’s Lifeclass given by Brené Brown. It’s been great fun to journal in a new way—painting, collaging, and drawing. This work has brought new life to every area of my creativity.

As I reflected on my journaling over the years, I realized that journaling can boost writing productivity in multiple ways. I present five of those tools below. But remember: these tools overlap and most can be used in combination with each other.

A note: I like to write on paper.  I shop for unique paper and good pens even when I don’t need them. But I also own and use several journaling apps on my iPad—and realize that many of you prefer to use those tools. Do what works for you.

1. Morning pages or Evening pages. Make your first or last action of the day a written one. Jot down one to three sloppy pages of anything that comes to your mind: words, images, memories, events, experiences: whatever. As a consummate morning writer, I’ve been surprised by my recent desire to write at night. So I’ve started bringing my journal to bed with me and before I read, I write.

2. Dreams or Gratitude. For people who like more structure in their morning or evening pages, I suggest using morning pages to write down their dreams or their evening pages to record their blessings from the day. A dream journal can help writers access their subconscious and provide deep images for writing. A gratitude journal can help the writer pay attention to the day.

Pro Tip: A gratitude journal can get pretty rote—at least mine does, and I end the day writing the same three things I’ve written for the last gazillion days! Instead, give yourself a scavenger hunt in the morning—and note it in the evening. Challenge yourself to look for three signs of spring, three examples of young love, three acts of kindness, or even three different kinds of birds. You’ll be surprised at how that small act of intention will help you see more.

3. The Plan. If you’re a regular reader of these pages, you know that I encourage writers to plan! There’s good research to back me up—people who know the when, where, and what of their tasks tend to accomplish them. So if you’ve planned to write a blog post on composting tomorrow from 3-4 PM at your favorite indie coffee shop—and you write that down in your journal—you’re much more likely to do it than say the person who thinks, I’ll do some sort of a blog post sometime tomorrow. Use your journal to plan: the next day, the next year, your new book, whatever.

Pro Tip: The plan doesn’t have to be a technical “how I’m going to do it document.” If you’re a creative, chances are, that won’t work for you. Try mind mapping, making a list, or drawing a map.

4. The Collection. I recently read an article—oh my, I wish I could remember where—about a woman who decided to get organized and used a journal to do it. She wrote down everything in a single journal: phone messages, to-do lists, meeting notes, ideas, and more. I liked the idea. As someone who has journals for just about every single thing I do—the project journal, the blog journal, the daily journal, the dream journal, etc.—this sounded so, well, doable. I’ve started carrying my regular journal with me. I tend to use it for everything: taking notes at author events and business conversations, recording random ideas and bits of dialogue, working through pitches and more.

Pro tip: Tape or paste in information, inspiration, or photos. If you’re using an electronic journal, you can simply take a picture and add it to your file.

©Rochelle Melander; Journal for Novel

©Rochelle Melander; Journal for Novel

5. Journal of a Book. For the past ten years, I’ve kept a journal for every single one of my books. I got the idea from Elizabeth George, who spoke about it when she was in Milwaukee at a book signing many years ago. She got the idea from John Steinbeck and wrote about it in her book on writing, Write Away: “I’ve begun every day by writing in a journal, sometimes about the writing I’m doing, sometimes about what’s on my mind at that moment. So for each novel I now write, I create a new journal entry, but before I do that, I read a day in the last Journal of a Novel for the previous novel. This allows me to see that, whatever I might be experiencing at the moment, I have experienced it and survived it before.” (p. 199)

Pro Tip: Your journal of a novel or nonfiction book can also be your story bible or idea file, where you keep all the bits of information you need to tell the story.

file0001629116220Bonus Tool: Art Journaling. But I’m a writer! You say. You are. But even writers like to play with color, texture, shape, and more. Any of the journal types above can done as an art journal. For me, art journaling takes one of two forms:

+A place to explore an idea or experience through art. These are messy and fun experiments with language.

+A tool for playing with the art medium, without any idea of what I’m trying to communicate.

Don’t worry about how it looks. Explore and have fun.

 

Your turn: If you’ve used a journal to boost your productivity, leave your suggestions here!

 

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