Sunday, December 31, 2017

What are your favorite memories of 2017?

It would be strange if I didn't start off this post with some sort of explanation of where I've been for the past seven months. I didn't really mean to stop blogging. Life just happened and I got busy and I don't think I was mentally in the right place to share everything with the world.

I still wrote—I can't help doing that—but most of my writing was selfish. That is, I wrote for myself, for my own peace of mind, and as a way to process everything that was happening. It's been a busy year. I've moved four times (including moving into my tiny house), switched jobs twice, written and published another book, paid off more than $16,000 in debt, and visited fourteen states. All of that was awesome. When I look back on it now, I feel so blessed and grateful and proud of the progress I've made.

Life is good. And busy. And I haven't been blogging about it. Sorry about that. To be honest, I can't promise that I'm going to start posting again with any degree of regularity. But I wanted to write something today because it seemed like a good time to look back and recap some memories of 2017. Plus I'm home sick from church today so I've got some extra time on my hands and I'm feeling sentimental. It's the perfect combination for blogging. Hopefully this post will catch you all up a bit on what I've been doing because today I'm going to talk about a few of my favorite things.

Favorite book I read this year: War and Peace 

This will most likely also be my favorite book of 2018 because I'm only about a third of the way through. Actually, at the rate I'm going, it could even become my favorite book of 2019. But it's great. It's been awhile since I read a classic and I've missed them. I've also never actually finished one of these big Russian tomes, so I'm sure I'll feel super accomplished when I do.

Favorite podcast: The Dave Ramsey Show

Ten years from now, if I remember nothing else about 2017, I'll remember that it's the year I finally started budgeting and stuck to it. I'm such a nerd about my budget. I love it so much. It's ridiculous. But it's also amazing because it allows me to stay on track with my financial goals and still feel like I'm allowed to spend money on the things that matter to me. One of the highlights of the year was attending a recording of the show in Nashville and meeting Dave.

Favorite city I visited: New Orleans

Hands down the best food I ate this year was in the French Quarter. That place was so cool to walk around in, and I loved the music and the people and just the whole vibe.

Plus we saw alligators. And they were awesome.

Favorite Youtube channel: Knorpp and South

I know I've talked about these guys before, but I seriously love them. In case I haven't raved about them to you personally, they are a full-time traveling LDS family of eleven. They adopted five of their kids from China, and now they're traveling the world together, unschooling, and youtubing, and being amazing. What a dream life they have! And how awesome is it that they take all their viewers along for the ride! Love it!

Favorite thing about living in a tiny house: Everything

But really, I think I'd have to say that it's having a place to myself that is so reflective of my personality. Also, the fact that it's super easy to clean. And also how I'm constantly reminded that I can accomplish hard things and create a life that is unique and beautiful. And the views outside my windows. And how much natural light I get. And how I'm surrounded by all the things I love. Wait, I think I already said that. Okay, I'm officially rambling.

Favorite thing I bought this year: my bike

I don't have a picture of it, but my new bike is a pink beach cruiser, similar to the one I owned a couple of years ago. It lives at my parents' house because for one thing, they have a garage, and for another, they live in a flat neighborhood, which is a lot more beach cruiser friendly than where I live in my tiny house.

Favorite temple trip this year: Nashville!

I went with my cousins on the last night of my three-week trip to the East Coast and the South. It was really special to be there with them, and it was also just a nice time to reflect on all the cool places I'd been and on my goals for the future.

Honorable mention in this category goes to the gorgeous new Gilbert, AZ temple, where I attended the wedding of a good friend in February.

Favorite game I played: Up and Down the River

Oh, man. The best game night of the year was definitely the last night of girls' camp when all of the rappelling staff played cards in the lodge. We were so exhausted, but none of us wanted to go to bed because we'd had so much fun getting to know each other throughout the week and we finally had time to just goof off.

Favorite beach trip: Outer Banks, NC

I think this picture speaks for itself.

Honorable mentions to Corona del Mar and Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz. They're family favorites, so they're oldies but goodies, for sure.

And if we include lakes, then Lake Tahoe because these colors are just so pretty.

Favorite TV show of 2017: Fixer Upper

I LOVE Chip and Jo. Who doesn't, right? Their houses are beautiful and they are just awesome people who I admire and want to be more like. Honorable mention in this category goes to Parks & Rec, which I finally watched on Netflix. Ron Swanson is the best. End of discussion.

Favorite hiking spot: Las Trampas

I don't know why I like this place so much more than all of the other amazing regional parks in the area, but it's just a great place to feel like you're in the middle of nowhere and that you love the world and the world loves you back.

Favorite ramble of the year: This is a three-way tie between the walk I took in Washington, DC one evening; the time I spent wandering through the historic district in Savannah; and a walk around St. Petersburg, Florida with one of my best friends.

All in all, it's been a year of going on awesome adventures, working hard, learning a lot, trying new things, spending time with cool people, and reaching good goals. I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store, and I hope you all have a fun and happy New Year's Eve!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Why should you set goals?

People, why is this even a question? Goals are the best. They're how I've made it this far in life, which, granted, doesn't always feel that far, but still.

Pretty much every good thing that has ever happened to me has happened because of a goal. Publish a novel? That was a goal. Buy a tiny house? That was a goal. Find a real job that will let me move back to California? That was a goal. Get out of debt. Still working on that one. But I have a plan and it's totally going to happen. I can see it.

Other things I can see in my future: more books (I want to write at least two more this year); more travel (after I get out of debt); more friends (yes, I even set goals about this kind of stuff). I'm such a huge fan of goal-setting.

But sometimes I am guilty of writing down my goals and promptly forgetting about them. I'm being real here because I want you to know that it happens to everyone.

When I was younger, especially in high school, I would come up with these grand, overarching reform plans for my whole life. I'd write myself a program or a regimen for how to overhaul my life. I was a weird kid, I know. Essentially, I was learning how to set goals. I was learning how to envision my future and work toward it. But because I was still a kid, I would often try to change too much too fast and when it didn't all happen according to my timeline, I'd get discouraged and then I'd give up. And that was when I'd start planning my next reform program.

As a result of my inability to live up to my unrealistic expectations of myself, I constantly thought of myself as a failure. I thought I was unmotivated, that I lacked discipline, and that I'd never be able to achieve my dream life because I couldn't put in the effort it would take me to get there.

Obviously, this wasn't a helpful line of thinking, and as I've gotten older I've learned how to forgive myself and keep going, even when I'm not perfect. Turns out I didn't lack discipline, and I have a great work ethic. Part of this has probably come from growing up a little more, but I think the basic behaviors were there all along.

Anyway, I'm going to stop my goal-setting informercial now in order to actually report on my 2017 goals. It's not quite the middle of the year yet, but it's getting close and I figured now was as good a time as any for a check-in.

So, what were my goals? I'm not going to post them all here because some are a little too personal, even for my blog, but here are the ones I feel comfortable sharing:

1. Make more friends in my new ward.
2. Spend more time with my family.
3. Write an LDS novel.
4. Move into my tiny house.
5. Go on long walks more frequently.
6. Present at ACES.
7. Change positions at work.
8. Pay off my personal loan and possibly my car loan too.

And here's my mid-year progress report:

1. Yep!
2. Kind of unavoidable when you live with them.
3. I haven't even started this one yet. It might still happen. I did come up with a premise the other day. I just need to figure out when I could write. I used to write in the mornings before work but now that I'm working from home, I basically start work as soon as I wake up. I don't know. Maybe I'll start staying up later. I need to get into a better writing routine.
4. I'm halfway there. I have my stuff in the house, I just haven't moved the house to somewhere I can live in it. It'll happen though.
5. Despite all my instaspamming of pretty walking pics, I'll confess I have lots of room for improvement here. Maybe I should spend less time taking pictures and more time actually walking.
6. Done!
7. Also done! I recently switched from being an assessment editor to an assessment developer. I won't bore you trying to explain what that means but you should just know that I'm going to a lot more meetings now, I'm learning tons, and I'm really liking this new position.
8. I'm super close to paying off my personal loan. Like tantalizingly close. It's so much fun watching the numbers go down as I pay each little bit. Also, I've become a way better budgeter this year than I ever have been in the past. I finally feel like I know what I'm doing with my money and I LOVE it.

So I'm sorry if this post is boring or weird or sadly not filled with pictures of my tiny house. I feel like my blog has been a little neglected and hodge-podge of late, but it's mostly because I've been super busy working extra side gigs in order to pay off my debt early.

In other news, I decided not to have a formal open house for my tiny house, but if you are interested in seeing it, please feel free to message me on Facebook or however you would normally get a hold of me. I'd be happy to arrange a time for you to come see it in Pleasanton before I take it to wherever it is I'm going next.

And that's the other thing I've been meaning to post on here. I thought I had my life figured out, but I'm being super indecisive about where to live next. I've basically given myself till the end of the summer to make up my mind. In the meantime, I'll just be hanging out in the backyard (and sometimes in the big house). Hope you're all as excited for summer as I am. BEST SEASON EVER!!!!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Are you living in your tiny house?

Technically . . . no.

But I am blogging in my tiny house!!

The real answer to this question depends on your definition of "living."

My tiny house arrived here in the Bay Area on Wednesday afternoon, so about two days ago. The plan was to park it somewhere in Pleasanton temporarily and then move it to Sunol (about 15 mins. away) on Sunday. We were all pretty sure that my house would not fit in my parents' backyard. Well, we knew it would fit back here, but we didn't think we could get it around the side of the house in order to get it in place.

That's why I've been asking all around to see if someone would let me park my house on their land or in front of their house, even just for a couple of days until I could get it to my family friend's property in Sunol.

BUT when the house got here on Wednesday, it turned out that it DID fit around the side of the house. That was the first super awesome thing that happened this week.

The second super awesome thing that happened was when someone from the city came by to see if my house was in violation of city zoning codes. Yeah. Not even 24 hours after my tiny house arrived, the city was on it. Scary! And also a little bit big brother-ish. I mean, whatever. It's not like I'm trying to break the law but it does seem weird that they would come so soon. They said they got an "inquiry" about my tiny house.

I was working at the time, so my mom explained that yes, it was a tiny house. And then the nice man from the city said that since the house is on wheels it's actually considered a trailer and that it's perfectly legal to park a trailer in our yard, as long as it's at least three feet from the side fence and six feet from the back fence (it is) and not hooked up to any utilities (it isn't) and not being lived in.

So that's why I'm technically not "living in" my house. Technically, I am camping. I still shower in my parents' house and eat in there and watch TV in there, but I have started sleeping in my tiny house and working in it during the day and storing my things in it and spending lots of time in it because it makes me happy. I don't know if I'll sleep in it every night. I still have a bedroom in the main house that I can use. But like right now, while my brother and his family is in town for the weekend
, it's nice to have a place of my own to hang out in so the main house isn't so crowded.

The third super awesome thing that happened this week is that I know for sure now that all of my things will fit in my tiny house. I was pretty certain that I could fit everything, but you never really know until you try. Turns out, I will be just fine. Honestly, I have way more storage than I need in here. It's awesome.

You guys, I love my house. And even though I can't technically live in it yet, it's still so great to have it here where I can spend time in it and enjoy so many of the perks of tiny living. I don't know for sure how long I'll keep my house here or where I'll go next with it, but I have absolutely no regrets about choosing to purchase a tiny house and I'm excited to finally be starting my tiny adventure.

Feel free to comment here or on Facebook if you have questions for me. I imagine there will be a few. I'll try to respond or I might decide to address your question in more detail in an upcoming post.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Should I have another tiny open house?

Time for an update on my tiny house situation.

First the really good news: I found a place to park my tiny house! I can't wait to share pictures because it really is an ideal setting. It's up on a hill in Sunol with a million-dollar view and beautiful southern exposure, which means lots and lots of sun all year long! A family friend has offered to let me park on her land, which is so generous of her, and I'm really grateful for her help. The property has horses, an olive vineyard, a pool . . . . It's gorgeous. And it's also only about 10 minutes to downtown Pleasanton. Finding this spot means that I'll be living here in my tiny house for at least the next couple of years, and after three moves in three years, that sounds awesome. I love Pleasanton and the Bay Area and I can't wait to re-establish some roots here. I think it'll be the perfect place to officially start my tiny house adventure.

The bad news is, the property requires some improvements before I'll be able to actually live in my house there. I'll need to set up the utilities to connect to my house, like water, power, and internet. The spot where my house will go is mostly level, but not perfectly so. And there's a path leading to the spot, but in order to get the house there, I'll need to turn the path into something less like a path and more like a real road. All of that is going to take time and money to accomplish before I can move in. Right now I'm tentatively hoping I'll be moving in sometime this summer, but I can't say for sure.

The other bad news is that technically living in my house there won't be legal. It's actually not illegal. It's just not legal, according to the official zoning code. I know there will be people in my life, like my parents, for example, who will disapprove of my choice to live outside the law. But personally, I've made my peace with this issue. I've prayed about it. I've studied the codes and laws involved. I've done a lot of research, and ultimately I've decided that this is what's best for me right now. You can still feel free to comment on my choice, and I'd be happy to chat with you about more of the specifics when it comes to zoning laws, but you won't be changing my mind.

This leads me to my real question of the day. Would anyone (in California) like to see my tiny house before I move into it?

I'm planning on moving the house up to my friend's property on April 23rd. That's a Sunday, but it's the day that works best for her. Right now, as you might remember, my house is still parked in Southern California. I'm making arrangements to get it up here, but I'm trying to decide if I should bring the house up a few days early so that people can see it.

Once I move it into place on the 23rd, I don't think I'll be inviting many people over to see the house. I'll take plenty of pictures for you all, but I won't be hosting big gatherings because I just won't have the space for it.

However, I know that in the past few months, several people have mentioned wanting to see my house in person. Is that still true? Specifically, if I had an open house on April 21st or 22nd, somewhere in Pleasanton, would you come?

There are a lot of logistics involved in moving a tiny house, so I just want to make sure it would be worth my while. I'd need try to figure out a place to have an open house, for one thing, and a place to park my house in between when it would arrive here and when I'd be taking it to my friend's place. I really am trying to gauge interest with this post, so please comment here or on Facebook if you'd come. If there aren't that many people interested, I won't worry about it. I'll probably still invite people over to see it one at a time, but I might wait a few months until I get things a little more settled.

Thanks for all your love and support during my tiny house journey so far! I'm really excited about how close I am to finally living in my house! 

(And I'm excited about having my house closer to home so I can take some new pictures to share. These ones from the construction phase are a little outdated at this point.)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What is ACES?

I told my coworker I would blog about this, so this one's for you, Camilla. 

Let me just preface this post by saying that if you're the kind of person who has never been entirely sure what to do with a semicolon or which their/they're/there to use when you're writing, you might want to stop reading right now. We are about to dive deep into editing-land, and I want to save you from it. Consider this a trigger warning, of sorts. This post could cause extreme boredom, revulsion, and/or horrible flashbacks to English teachers and their red pens of pain that you have now spent years trying to forget.

For anyone still reading, welcome to the world of grammar geeks, style sticklers, and, of course, word nerds. This post is coming at you live from St. Petersburg, Florida, (enjoy the photos) where I have just spent the day reveling in the company of my particular tribe of nerds. That's because ACES stands for the American Copy Editors Society and I'm currently attending their annual conference.

This hotel is full of introverted, but unfailingly kind and knowledgeable folks, who are thrilled to be here listening to other knowledgeable folks talk about punctuation minutiae, explain how dictionaries are compiled, and recount hilarious anecdotes about misplaced modifiers. I kid you not. This is really happening.

For editors, this is a rare and exhilarating chance to hang out with people who get you. I've been to writers conferences and publishing conferences, but it's with my fellow editors that my loyalties will always lie? lay? reside.

Even though most of us walk around this conference in constant, quiet fear that someone will catch us committing a grammar faux pas, we love listening to the hum of quiet conversation about citation guidelines, style sheets, and word processing innovations.

Which brings me to my big news. Well, big if you're an editor who loves The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) as much as I do.

Today I attended a session presented by one of the main editors at the University of Chicago Press, which publishes said manual. The presenting editor's name is Carol Saller or Carol Fisher Saller if you're talking about her in an official author capacity. She is one of my editing heroes. When I rode the elevator upstairs with her yesterday I had to stop myself from gushing because that would have made us both uncomfortable, but she really is just that great.

Carol (as I like to call her, since that's how she introduced herself to me while we were waiting for the elevator yesterday), was there in the session this morning to talk about the brand newly announced forthcoming seventeenth edition of CMOS and a few of the changes and updates that have been made.

Knowing her audience was full of editors and journalists, Carol anticipated us wanting to share these updates with our fellow word nerd friends and only asked that in doing so, we did not offer our own personal interpretations of these new guidelines but simply pass them along, exactly as written. So that's what I'm doing. I took pictures of her slides, and here they are, complete with my terrible photography skills and some not-so-great conference room lighting.

I will say there are some changes that I'm super excited about. Some I'm ambivalent about. And others I think are a little bit of a misstep, but I also think that's to be expected, given the nature of the manual. I won't offer my personal thoughts and commentary here (mostly because I'm too tired right now to do anything but add pictures to this post and call it a night), but if any of you fellow word nerds want to chat in the comments or on Facebook, I would be happy to follow up with you there. Tomorrow. Or some other time when I'm not exhausted.

This hard-to-see picture is to illustrate the amount of red-lining that transpired during the writing of the type 2 singular they entry. Apparently the debate was "lively" but "extremely collegial."


And this concludes our terribly lit slideshow, people. I hope you appreciated it. I could go on and on about how much I'm loving this conference, but I am sure you all have better things to read on the internet or better things to do in general.

I do want to write a post sometime on the topic of accessible content, which topic I'm going to present on here at the conference on Saturday. But like I said, I'm too tired to write more right now.

In other news, there's a ship here that looks like a pirate ship and it was super impressive to me.

PS–Did I mention that I rode in an elevator with Carol Fisher Saller yesterday? Best. Elevator ride. Ever.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

But what about today?

I've been trying to write a blog post all day.

Actually, to be honest, I've been trying to blog for weeks now. I've considered lots of topics, but nothing has been pulling at me to write it. And so I've been putting it off in favor of other things: watching Netflix, going for walks, practicing the piano, working, hanging out with my family, trying to teach myself to make and stick to a budget. All good things, really. But not this. At times I've even wondered if maybe I'm done blogging, or if I should just take a sabbatical for awhile and come back to this when I'm in a better frame of mind.

I can't say that won't still happen, but I don't think it's happening quite yet. I still like my blog a lot. I just haven't been feeling super inspired to talk about anything.

I think part of that has to do with what I actually want to address in this post: For the past few months, I feel like I've been living too much in the future. I'm so excited about things that are coming up later this year, like moving into my tiny house and paying off loans and going on trips, that I've basically been ignoring my current day-to-day living.

This is probably not a surprise to people who know me well. I tend to live in the future a lot. I like to set goals. I like to make plans. I like thinking about how I could progress and become better. I really like change, and when I can see it coming, it makes me excited.

Those aren't bad qualities. Sometimes they're very good ones. The problem comes when I get so caught up in the future that my current life starts to feel empty by comparison. This is when I start to think things like, well, I'm not that happy now, but I will be soon. I'll be happier just as soon as I get my tiny house towed up here or just as soon as I can go on another trip or just as soon as this work project is complete.

But what about today?

The thing about living in tomorrow is that tomorrow never really comes. Or by the time it does, you're focused on the next thing. The thing that comes after whatever you just accomplished.

I'd rather not wait that long to be happy. And it's not just happiness that I'm talking about. I generally am fairly happy and optimistic, no matter what's going on. What I'm talking about really is more than happiness. It's a sense of peace and wellbeing that comes with knowing my life has purpose, like what I'm doing matters now and will continue to affect me as I move forward.

Those kinds of feelings are what I've really been putting off lately. Living in the future or in tomorrow means I start investing my future plans with that sense of purpose, rather than making my purpose something I can do something about right now. In some ways, it's convenient because it means I get to sit back and twiddle my thumbs while I wait for the future to come. In other ways, it's gutting. It makes me feel like there's no point in even getting out of bed in the morning because today is just one more day of pointless nothingness that needs to be ticked off a calendar before I can get to those better days I know are coming.

That's what living in the future can do to you. That's the really dangerous part about it.

Instead, I'd rather live in today. I don't want to have to wait until my life is perfectly put together before I start enjoying it. Because the truth is, my life is never going to be perfect, so I would be waiting for a really, really long time.

Unfortunately, I'm not as good at living in today as I am at living in the future. Today is messy. It's full of mistakes. I make them all the time. It's also full of other people who I have to interact with, and that can be a struggle for me. Today might be mundane. It might be mediocre. It might have moments of awesomeness, but it might also have moments of sadness, frustration, guilt, annoyance, fatigue, fear, uncertainty.

Today is a little too real for me. Tomorrow is the stuff of fantasies. In today, you're forced to confront reality. In tomorrow, you can be anyone, do anything. In today, you're you. And that you is probably flawed, which is pretty frustrating.

Anyway, I feel like I'm babbling a bit, but I hope you guys get what I'm trying to say. I'm also getting really tired, and that's not helping.

I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to accomplish this whole transition from future to present living. If anyone has ideas on how to do that, I'd be happy to hear them.

Sometimes it helps me to get outside. Nature is fleeting. When you spend time outside on a regular basis, you start to pick up on how quickly things change, especially this time of year. There's so much growth and change that happens in spring: flowers bloom and then vanish quickly; trees bud and then the next time you see them, their buds have changed to full dark leaves. That's part of the reason I take so many pictures when I'm outside. I know that whatever I'm seeing in that moment won't happen quite the same way ever again. There are too many factors at play, like the weather and the light and the time of year. It's like Pocahontas says, "what I like best about rivers is, you can't step in the same river twice."

If I can extend that fleeting feeling from nature into my interactions with people and the tasks I have to accomplish each day, I might start to feel more connected to today.

 Another thing I might try to do more of is noticing my present surroundings, including the people and moments that made today special to me. I probably won't share them all on my blog because that would be exhausting and probably not all that interesting to read and would, frankly, belabor the point.

But to conclude this long and rambling post, I'll share a few little things I noticed today that made this day special to me:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Today I walked into church and one of my good friends was sitting there and so instead of sitting alone, like I normally do, I sat with her. That was nice for me. I don't mind sitting alone (usually I prefer it) but today I felt like company, or at least I felt like having her company.

Today I played the piano and noticed that I'm getting better at it. I'm not very consistent about practicing, so my progress is slow, but it's still happening.

Today I had dinner with my family and it was yummy! The missionaries came over, and we had roast and potatoes and my mom made her famous crescent rolls. There are definitely some benefits to living at home, and this is one of them.

Today I drove through some beautiful green hills down 680 to San Jose for a fireside. The sun was setting and it had finally gotten low enough to break through the hazy cloud barrier that hung around for most of the day. The golden light on the wildflower-covered hills was lovely. I saw a rainbow. I love living here where I do. There's something about this place that just resonates with my soul. I love the Bay Area, and it loves me back.

Today I realized that I need to be better about studying the scriptures and strengthening my spirituality. I've been on auto-pilot a lot lately. I'll read, but I won't really think about what I'm reading. I'll pray but I won't really think about what I'm saying. Somewhere along the way, I stopped talking with God and started talking at Him. I can't imagine that's a very interesting conversation from His perspective.

So there you go. That was my day. It wasn't wasted, and there were good moments in it. I just needed to take the time to notice them. I hope I can keep doing that. Because as much as I love the future, I think I could also learn to love today.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Guest Post: How do you go from good to great writing?

Dear lovely blog readers,

I know I've been a little . . . sporadic about posting lately. The truth is my life has been really busy with work, tiny house logistics, more work, moving, continuing to minimalize, attempting to put myself on a budget for the first time in like ever, and lots of other good things. But the sad fact is that my blog has gone slightly neglected. I can tell the weeds around here are getting a little high, and I'm sorry about that. I'm hoping to remedy the situation soon. Specifically, stay tuned for a tiny house update. Good things are coming! Yay!

In the meantime, however, we have a super special treat today in the form of a guest post from one of my favorite people ever: Elodia Strain.

To give you some back story, I've known Elodia for almost ten years now. (HOLY COW, I am OLD. She's not old. Just me.) When I first started working as an editor, lo those many years ago, Elodia was one of my very first authors that I worked with and I was so dazzled by her that I just about keeled over from the excitement. I kid you not. I was definitely fangirling the entire time I worked on her book. We've been friends ever since, and her writing has only gotten better!! It is not an exaggeration at all to say that I LOVE Elodia's books.

In celebration of her newest book coming out, which you can find here on Amazon, by the way, Elodia's been on a blog tour and I'm super flattered that she took the time to make my blog one of her stops.

Since we're all about questions and answers around here, I asked Elodia to tell us how to take writing from good to great. (And by "us," I mostly mean me because I really need this advice. Seriously.)

Here's what she had to say . . .

My Quest for Great Writing

As part of the blog tour for my new book, I made sure I got to stop by this one, which is a personal favorite of mine. I admire the blogger as an editor, author, and person. So. Heidi posed me this question: “How do you go from good to great writing?” This is a question I seem to ask myself on a daily (sometimes minutely) basis. And as I’ve asked and worked toward the answer, I’ve come up with a few tried and true tactics that I seem to use over and over, book by book, page by page. Maybe they’ll spark something anew in your personal creative pursuits!

Number one, I think about the readers. A LOT. When I wrote my first book in 2005, I was writing the kind of book I looked for and couldn’t find a lot of—squeaky clean romantic comedies with a little sweet meat to them. Just like inventors talk about solving a problem, I was writing to fill a need. I still do that. Maybe someday I’ll write a super heavy literary masterpiece, but for now, I’m writing for the woman who is overwhelmed by life and needs a laugh, the woman who needs a little pick-me-up. I care about the people who read my books so much. I’m grateful to them, hopeful for them, and always, always aware of them.

Second, I write when I’m not writing. When I start a book, I buy a bunch of yellow (or white, if my go-to store is closed) notepads, and put them all over the house. On the treadmill, next to the kitchen sink, in a basket by the bathtub. These are for my “relaxed brain” notes. Thing is, when I write, I often leave spaces if I can’t find the best words. For example, I’ll type: Ian drove (an old school Americana type of car.) Then, while I’m doing dishes or painting my toenails, my “relaxed brain” will come up with: A 1975 Ford truck. For the sake of trees and cash, I’ve tried keeping my “relaxed brain” notes on my phone, but I always come back to my trusty notepads. (In fact, here is a picture of one week of notes taken while working on The Dating Experiment.)

Third, I try to make every word count. Early on, when I was first started writing, I would sometimes spend hours writing descriptions and backstory that was just kind of…lame to write. And then I had this serious Eureka! moment. I realized if it was drudgery to write, then it probably wouldn’t be a lot of fun to read. This has been one of the single most important lessons I learned as a writer. And it’s not to say that writing isn’t hard, and painful, and all those things, but you just kind of know when something is fun and when its not.

Which brings me to my last tactic. When it comes down to what words end up being put to paper or screen, I trust others’ opinions sometimes, my gut often, and God ALWAYS. This is true for all aspects of writing from plot to characters to setting. I have a whole lot of growing to do as a writer, but I have yet to regret following this pattern.

Wow. What awesome words of wisdom. Thanks so much for stopping by, Elodia! I loved your advice! And thanks to all you readers for your patience with me when life temporarily takes me away from blogging. I promise I'll always come back. And in the meantime, if you're looking for something to read, might I suggest checking out more of Elodia's awesome writing in The Dating Experiment or any of her books, available on Amazon and in bookstores all over. Hope you're all looking forward to a great weekend! I'll be back soon!  —HD