Tag Archives: Jess Witkins

What Are the Fun Goals on Your To Do List?


It’s a holiday week, so that means it’s time to break away from the rules, bend the structure, and wear that naughty underwear no one knows you’re wearing but you!  😉

I’ve been thinking about my to do list a lot lately.  With Fast Draft over I couldn’t wait to have some peace and quiet for a few days, but now I feel like I’m moving too slow.  I went from hyper drive surviving off of cheese and crackers and caffeine, and now I feel like my goals are moving slowly but summer is flying by!

You know how when summer begins, and you have all these great plans about trips to the beach, lazing away in a hammock, vacations to tropical places, cookouts full of junk food, and a margarita in each hand!

Well, this morning I took Julie Glover’s quiz, What Kind of Summer Person Are You?  And you know what, I was a Summer Scrooge!  Me???  I’m not a summer scrooge am I?

Ok, so I’m still working 50+ hours/week, coming home and putting in a movie that came out several years ago and falling asleep on the couch.  It’s hot out!  Wisconsin is in the middle of an unholy heat wave!  100+°s and humid!  And the mayflies and mosquitos are at their worst.  Every time I’m out for more than 10 minutes I have 8 new bites on my legs and the vision of a lone mosquito pickin’ his teeth with the remaining bones of his last victim!

But I still made that summer to do list!  And I want to fulfill it.  Here are some of the things I wanted to do this summer, and I’ve got just under 2 months to make it happen.

  1. Take a road trip vacation with Joe out west to Yellowstone National Park.  – This one is happening, we’ve booked our campsite!
  2. Make it to the beach at least 3x.
  3. Watch a live baseball game.
  4. Visit Niagara Cave in Harmony, MN
  5. Tour La Crosse’s Historic Points
  6. Complete the Library’s Adult Summer Reading Program
  7. Have a Party in our Backyard- And you’re all invited!!!
  8. Lay in the Hammock as much as possible!
  9. Eat lunch at the Guadalupe Shrine.
  10. Maybe Get Another Tattoo.

So what are the fun things on your to do list?  Don’t forget to take time for the fun parts of life just as much as the serious ones! 


#FastDraft: How to Do It Successfully and What You Learn Along the Way


Hi Life Listers!  You may have noticed I haven’t been pestering you all as much lately on your blogs or on twitter.  And Facebook, well, I’ve barely logged in.  Don’t fret!  I still like you!

You see, I’ve been busy writing.  After attending the DFW Writers Conference, I met and am in awe of romance writer, Candace Havens.  Candace is amazing at getting things done.  She’s a film critic, romance writer, workshop leader, wife, mom and incredibly funny woman!

Candace Havens (examiner.com)

One of the key workshops Candace leads is a writing class called Fast Draft.  In today’s day and age, it’s not enough for writers to just write one book a year.  Not if you expect to make money at it.  The fact is our readers now expect the next book right away, and if they have to wait too long, they (and your publishers) might forget about you.  I wrote more on this topic in Celebrating My Writing Slump and Guerrilla Tactics For Writers.

So Candace champions writing FAST!  Fast Draft is a commitment to write 20 pages a day for 2 weeks.  In that 2 weeks, you would have a completed first draft.  Sound frightening?  Here’s how Candace gets you going!

How to Successfully Begin Fast Draft:

  • Prepare! Make it work for you!  Write your blog posts for the weeks ahead, put some meals in the freezer or save a take out fund.  Gift yourself with the time to write for two weeks!
  • Permission – Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.  Do at least some plotting work to keep you moving.
  • Get Rid of Your Internal Editor!  You are not allowed to read what you’ve previously written the day before, just make yourself some notes and keep going!
  • Tell Your Friends and Family To Leave You Alone!  Promise a romantic weekend away, a trip to a Water Park with the kids, whatever it takes to get them to agree to give you 2 weeks to write.
  • Set aside a specific time to write and stick to it.  If you have to break it up into chunks throughout the day, do it!
  • Do your research after you’ve written the draft.  If your book is set in the Himalayas, then put some brackets down and write: {Insert geographical key points of the Himalayas here}.
  • Write When You’re Tired!  Be Positive!  Believe in the Magic of Writing!
  • Clear away the clutter in your writing space.  Make sure your writing space is a clean and open one.

If Snoopy can do it, so can you! (christinemareebell.files.wordpress.com)

Hopefully, many of you are reading this and thinking “Yes, I can do this!”  But if you’re still struggling to get going, here are the other helpful tips Candace recommends.

  • Vomit your words on the page.  It’s easier to fix a page with words on it than a blank one.
  • Get a Team!  You need people to report to daily and hold yourself accountable.  Never allow 0 pages!  Candace says the only excuses for writing 0 pages are DEATH and a COMA!
  • Whining is not allowed.
  • Keep a journal with you at all times. You never know when inspiration may hit.
  • Experiencing technical difficulties?  Use a pen and paper!
  • Know that everyone hits a stumbling block.  Keep yourself moving forward.  🙂
  • Stuck?  Try one of these:  Journal, write a scene for a character and keep going, write your end, move to another chapter, use writeordie.com, email your partners and ask them to brainstorm with you, move around and stretch, leave yourself notes with ideas, if you make your goal, give yourself a treat, if you think of a previous scene, just make a note in your journal.


It is possible!  And I can tell you this because I’m doing it!  I had the extreme pleasure of chatting with Candace while waiting in the LONG lunch line at the DFW Conference.  I told her she was the first person who really hit home in regards to having a similar schedule to me.  She has to drive to and from out of town movie venues, she writes her 20 pages a day, and she does have a family to take care of.  She puts in around 80 hours a week!

I work a 60 hour day job, keep up with my blog, and can now say I write for my book each day.  You know what, I don’t always get to 20 pages.  It’s rare that I do.  But I usually get to 10!  And that’s between 3 and 4,000 words!

Candace Havens may have saved my writing career.  You guys, I’m a terrible editor!  If you read my previous post about celebrating my writing slump, I shared how many false starts and re-starts and cut and paste starts I’ve tried!  I never made it much further than a few chapters because I thought it had to be perfect!  Now that I’m not re-reading my own work everyday, allowing my inner editor to tell me what a screw up I am, I am writing more and moving forward in my story!  That alone is worth everything to me.

Give it a try!  You never know what you might learn along the way!

Hungry for more? 

Kristen Lamb just posted 5 Ways to Get Out of the Comfort Zone and Become a Stronger Writer.

James Scott Bell blogged 7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel (And How to Avoid Them).

Or just hang out with the good (and tired) peeps participating in Fast Draft right now over at Twitter under the hashtag #FastDraft.

See you all there!  And don’t forget to share what Boot Camp or Baby Steps experiences changed your life and ambitions! 

Guerilla Tactics for Writers

Hello LLC Team,

I hope it’s not too early for this, but I’m ready and raring to go having just returned from Texas’ DFW Writers’ Conference!

(image courtesy jamesrollins.com)

The conference theme this year was all about the changing face of publishing.  If you’re interested in that topic, I shared a personal and informative post yesterday at my place, Celebrating My Writer’s Slump!

Today, I’d like to give you tactics.  See, conferences are an amazing, magical land full of writers and ideas that come so fast you have to stab them down with your pen into the paper or they’ll fly off to some other welcoming atmosphere which could be the laptop sitting next to you.  *horror movie scream*

But I’m here to help.  I’ve previously said in LLC posts that I’m more of a boot camp than baby step kind of girl.  I like to tackle challenges.  So when I started the conference day by taking New York Times Bestselling Author Lori Wilde’s Guerilla Tactics for Writers class, I was moonstruck!

(image courtesy: imdb.com)

No, not that one!  Stay with me!

NoLori Wilde (image courtesy booksonthehouse.com)

Lori Wilde has published over 40-some romance novels!  Starting out like all of us, Lori dreamed of becoming a writer since she was a little girl.  But her mother informed her if she was planning on being a writer, then she better sit down and write!

Since that time, Lori has taught many up and coming authors guerilla tactics for writing.  Her lessons are simple, but focused and smart.  For those of you pursuing other goals besides writing, I think you’ll still be able to apply many of the tips Lori teaches.

Guerrilla Tactics for Writers

  • Think of your fun as focused fun.  Everything you do is research for your books, maybe not the one you’re currently writing, but possibly the next.
  • Avoid editing your first draft!  Plan it, but don’t edit it.  Otherwise, you may never finish it.
  • Look like the bestselling author you want to be!  When we perceive ourselves in our dream role, we start to behave ourselves for the dream role, and soon enough we become our dream role!
  • Make yourself milestone markers. (Ok team, if you’re a part of LLC and you’re NOT already doing this…we will hunt you down and find you!) 
  • Reward yourself for making goals.  If just setting a goal isn’t enough to drive you to complete it, give yourself the goal with a reward to follow.  Maybe after you achieve your word count, you get to buy 2 new songs on I-Tunes to jam out to!

What do you think of Lori’s tactics?  Can you apply them to your own writing process?  What about to life in general?  I hope so because we have a challenge coming up for you soon!

The next milestone party is on June 29th, just a little over a month away!  And we want to hear from you!  So if you haven’t started already, get your life list going!  We’ll all be checking in that day and we want to support you!  Expect prizes and encouragement on your journey, plus you know, cyber treats and hanging out with all your friends!

Speaking of friends!!! Look I met at the DFW Conference!

First two of the LLC writers to meet! Me and David N. Walker. He’s every bit as charming as you’d imagine a Texas gentleman. So nice to have met you, David!

Until next time, friends.  Tell me how your life list is going!

Twentysomethings: The Defining Decade?

So I was driving home from work the other night listening to my guilty pleasure, Wisconsin Public Radio, and the topic for the evening really stunned me.  The radio host, Joy Cardin, was speaking with Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist who specializes in adult development especially twentysomethings.

Dr. Meg Jay (photo courtesy drmegjay.com)

Dr. Jay is the author of The Defining Decade:  Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now.  Dr. Jay works as an assistant clinical professor at the University of Virginia and keeps a private practice as well.  Interacting with so many college students and recent graduates, she noticed the hits and misses my generation was making time and time again.

When asked why she wrote the book, Dr. Jay said she’s trying to make an impact on the 50 million twentysomethings who are looking for guidance in their lives while still being treated like an adult.

So why are the twenties so defining? 

  • 80% of life’s most defining moments take place before the age of 35.
  • 70% of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of a career.
  • More than half of us are married or living with our longterm partners.
  • Our fertility rates peak in our twenties.
  • And our brains do their last growth spurt in our twenties.

If you had the same reaction I did, you’re probably thinking, “Sweet God, it’s all over!  I may as well dig myself a hole and drop my unwritten manuscript, my birth control pills, my skinny jeans, and my passport in it and then cover it with my aging, unaccomplished, infertile, decrepit self!” 


Fear not!  Dr. Jay says Never Give Up. 

But she does emphasize that my generation is in the midst of some crucial crossroads and the decisions we make now CAN AND DO impact the rest of our lives.

(image courtesy drmegjay.com)

She talks about “identity capital” which she defines as the collateral you build up so when you go in for an interview the person looks at your resume and says “Oh that’s interesting, tell me more about that!” We know we’re in an economic crisis right now.  The job market is not ideal.  The Veteran Generation is staying employed longer in need of more stability, and yet year after year more college graduates are flooding the market.  We’ve got all four generations competing and cohabiting the workforce.  Ages 20 – 70+.

Many of us twenty year olds opted for an alternative route.  I’m sure all of you know someone who decided to take time off, travel the world, date around, etc.  Dr. Jay’s concern with some of these routes is that for those individuals they’re having a harder time trying to get back on track whether it’s the job field or family planning.  Employers start to look at your resume and think “hmm, you really haven’t done too much” and the person that stands out is the twentysomething who jumped right in and planned their career path just like an adult, setting goals or achieving higher degrees, whatever it might be.

And in regards to family planning, she does want twentysomethings to be aware of fertility information.  Women’s fertility peaks at 28.  What she tends to hear from the twentysomethings she counsels, is so many of them spend time in cohabitation with a partner or spouse for 4-5 years before they realize that maybe that relationship should have only lasted a year.

Now, I for one, will totally say that family planning is a personal choice!  And Dr. Jay agreed.  What she wants is for us to have the facts about fertility so we are thoughtful in planning who our partners are as well as when we want to start having children because the health risks are increased the later into the 30’s you are.

You were saying something about hope?

Yes!  Our generation is also at it’s peak for adaptation.  If there is something you are unhappy about in your life, or you’re wanting to make some changes, then do it!  We have the capability to transform and to rise to the occasion.  Our habits can change as well as our personalities.

When I graduated from college, I started to have anxiety attacks.  I panicked about “what I wanted to do with the rest of my life!”  I fell in suit and took the first full time job that came my way.  I worked all the time, and barely got together with my friends.  You know what, I got really sad and really bored real fast!  It’s been an ongoing process to change.  While I’ve done well for myself career wise (Note: I work as a sales manager for commission areas of a large department store.) I also quickly learned that what made me happy was writing and travel, and if I was going to get that back in my life that meant change!

So, a year and a half ago, I started blogging!  And I met amazing writers and readers online!  And through them, got involved with some writing contests and critique groups.  Next, I saved up my money and used my vacation time to attend writing conferences and travel around the world.  I just blogged all about my recent trip to South Korea:  favorite spots, food, and hiking.

See, there is hope!  And it’s never too late!  My dear friend Marcia Richards and I started up the Life List Club several months ago, and I think I came into it with this exact idea.  That all of us can define the decade we’re living in!  If we want to, and we make changes, and we risk things and we TRY!

So what are you waiting for?!  What’s on your life list?

What do you think about Dr. Jay’s theory and your 20’s being the Defining Decade?  Are you currently in your 20’s?  Would you do differently if you could back?  What advice do you have for parents raising a 20-somthing?

Jess Witkins claims the title Perseverance Expert.  She grew up in a small Wisconsin town as the much younger youngest sibling of four, she’s witnessed the paranormal, jumped out of a plane, worked in retail, traveled to exotic locations like Italy, Ireland, and Shipshewana, Indiana, and she’s eaten bologna and lived to tell about it!  She deals with it all and writes about it!  Come along on her midwest adventures; Witkins promises to keep it honest and entertaining.  She blogs regularly at Jess Witkins’ Happiness Project.  Go ahead, SUBSCRIBE, you know you want to.

Follow on Twitter:  @jesswitkins