Bloggers and Noteworthy Reads (This Week’s Reads # 2)

Happy Sunday!

I’d like to give a shoutout to a few bloggers and sites that may interest you. These people are worth following on WordPress if you like book reviews, writing, visually appealing blogs, and personal opinion pieces. This is the second post in this series. Read the first post here.

Here are this week’s reads . . . 


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Written Word Worlds

WordPress: https://writtenwordworlds.com/

Written Word Worlds is a great site, particularly for readers of young adult literature. There are a variety of posts that center around YA fiction, including book reviews and discussion posts. Sarah’s posts are full of useful links and beautiful visuals – something that I am trying to work on.

Check out her rating system for books. She uses teacups! On top of that, it is one of a handful of WordPress sites I have seen this week with an accompanying Youtube page. 

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Written Word Worlds – Home Page

My Pick(s): Sarah’s post on shock value raises valuable questions and provides good food for thought on the insensitive use of traumatic experience in literature and popular media for shock value. Read Sarah’s post here. If you are looking for a post with lighter subject matter, try this one on naming characters. They are both good.


The Cat’s Write

WordPress: https://millyschmidt.com/

Milly Schmidt’s posts are helpful for bloggers and aspiring writers. Much like this blog, The Cat’s Write shares thoughts, habits, notes, and discoveries that come up during the writing process. Milly’s site is clear, laid-back, and to the point.  There really is a variety of content on this site – a mix of personal blogging, writing tips, and guest posts.

 

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My Pick: Like I mentioned earlier, The Cat’s Write has some great guest posts. Here’s one from BB Morgan.


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Next Week

I would like to highlight a few of my followers next weekend for This Week’s Reads. If you are proud of your blog or know of a blog that I should check out, please share in the comments or connect with me below!

 

I hope you found this useful.

-Curtis


Marcus Aurelius and Quotes from His Meditations

Marcus Aurelius was once emperor of Rome, a philosopher, and a military leader. He practiced Stoicism, a branch of Hellenistic philosophy. 

He is a great inspiration.

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Meditations by Marcus Aurelius resting on a copy of The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.

 


A Time to Sit and Think

Years ago, I was on a trip with my fiancé that took me through London, Oxford, and Whitby (photographs available here). We made a few stops at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford, and I bought the Oxford World Classic’s edition Leonardo Da Vinci’s Notebooks, as well as the Oxford World Classic’s edition of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Meditations is a series of private notes that Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself. It is a phenomenal book and one worth reading, especially at this time of year. As summer approaches, subtle shifts in pressure and responsibility have left me reflecting on my life and how I live it.

It’s the perfect time of year to sit down and think. My head bubbles with questions and concerns:

How will this summer go? How will this season and next year unfold? How can I honor my commitments while also enjoying some time off?

These meditations remind me to stay in the present moment, to use logic, and to move through life as a social being. Although these are private notes were meant for the emperor’s reflection,  I have found them useful in my own life. I have shared a few quotes from Meditations below.

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The Oxford World’s Classic Edition

Marcus Aurelius’s examination of his own life, his logical flow of thoughts, and the constant criticism of his own character, each drives me to examine my own life through the lens of philosophy.

I find myself returning to the book regularly, thumbing through the pages in search of something brilliant, or simply reading a series of meditations to process the meaning.

I first read excerpts from Meditations in high school, and now that I have a copy of my own, I finally have the opportunity to dog-ear the pages and mark the passages that resonate with me. Whether I am writing fiction, grading papers, or reading literature, these meditations seem to find a way into my life.

In this edition of Meditations, the work is divided into twelve parts. Each part is labeled as a book. Each book is further divided into meditations, ranging from one sentence to several paragraphs per meditation.

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4 Quotes from Meditations

These quotes are each considered one meditation. They have provided some food for thought this week. I hope you find them useful as well.

Do not suppose that if you personally find that something is hard to achieve, it is therefore beyond human capacity; rather, if something is possible and appropriate for human beings, assume that it must also be within your reach.

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.19


If something is not right, do not do it, if something is not true, do not say it; for you should keep your impulses under your own control.

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.17


Look at the inner nature of things; and in each instance, let niehter its specific quality nor its worth escape you.

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6.3


No more of all this talk about what a good man should be, but simply be one!

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 10.16


Is there a quote that you particularly like?

-Curtis

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Monday Recap – Last Week’s Wins

I’m smiling.  It was a productive week and a restful weekend. Here’s a recap of last week’s wins:

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Monday Recap – Last Week’s Wins

Home & Writing Books

I spent time with my fiancé, attended a student play and worked 5 hours closer to my 300-hour goal for writing my novels. This puts me at the 300-minute mark, which means I’ve hit the first level (copper) of the Minutes To A Better Book challenge.

Paper Palaces, Posting, and Site Changes

For the last few weeks, I’ve experimented with posting every day. While I see more visitors on this site, I want to make sure that the content makes sense for you. I created a poll for followers so you can give me feedback on how many posts I should do per week.  

I have also created a few new pages and changed up the top menu. They are getting a few hits from outside of WordPress, which is always nice.

Quick Links – New pages:

Let me know what you think! Like a page or two, if you want.


A Mock Schedule

I really enjoy posting every day. I feel like I don’t have to fit in all my thoughts into two or three posts. I can spread them out. I have tried to come up with a few structures for posting. Still, I’m taking a break from posting this week to focus on some other things.

Here is a rough and loose  idea of what content may come if I post every day:

SundaysFeedback! Polls (To stay open throughout the week) (Here is this week’s poll. Please vote!)

Mondays 

  • Last Week’s Wins –  a recap of the last week & a look at the current week 

Tuesdays 

Wednesdays 

Thursdays 

Fridays 

Saturdays 

If I don’t post every day, I would like to try creating two or three posts that combine the elements from above.  


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Noteworthy Posts from Last Week:

If you didn’t get a chance to see these, check them out!


What do you do on your own blog or site? Do you have a set schedule or preferences?

-Curtis

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A Poll for My Followers: How often should I post to Paper Palaces? What works for you?

Happy Sunday, everyone!

I just wanted to get some feedback from you this week. I’m trying to make an effective posting schedule without bogging you down with too many posts. Let me know!

-Curtis

If you’re new, you can start here.

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How would ______ do this? Three more questions to ask yourself when experiencing a creative block. . .

I knew I had an idea . . . I knew it was great, but where did it go? The blank screen had no answer for me, and only the sound of my cat meowing filled the air. What happened to that shiny object I was chasing? Luckily, I had an answer.

This is the second post in a series on creative blocks. You can read the first post here.

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Ideas are abundant, which is why I take the time to create notes for new ideas that I have.

That is what I would say to you if I was diligent.

The truth is. . . I run with my ideas, big and small, and sometimes, they get lost.

Some writers call this being a pantser from the phrase “flying by the seat of your pants.” I’m guilty of being a pantser; however, there are times when I really do take the time to develop my ideas, like my current project A Thousand Watchful Eyes.

Today was not one of those times. Part of today was a “shiny object” day, where I chased new ideas like a small, eager animal collecting whatever catches its eye.

It’s tragic. I am attracted to new ideas like cats to fuzzy socks. Sometimes I can’t stop.

While this process is almost always exciting, there is always the danger of losing out on an idea that would be a worthwhile investment.  Luckily, today’s shiny-object fiasco came after a morning of creating fiction.

A Full Morning of Fiction

For those of you new to Paper Palaces, I am working on a fantasy saga. The finished work will span twelve novels (a prequel series and main series). Every day, I try to work on the project, but I also have to dedicate my time towards other tasks. Managing this time is often difficult, as everything seems important. Last week, I wrote about a new writing challenge to push myself towards dedicating a large amount of my time towards writing my books. So far, it is working.

Still, I want to write short stories, and I want to start new books. Yesterday, I wanted to a create handful of detailed blog posts and useful how-to articles, and today, I just needed to write fiction. The urge to create more writing ensues, but wanting to write more is not enough.

I fought the urge to chase shiny objects today by focusing on one project: my fiction.

Here’s what happened:

  • I revised chapters for three hours.
  • I made detailed notes about new chapters.
  • I redrafted two old chapters and wrote one new chapter.
  • My chapters look better.
  • I no longer feel stressed writing new posts and articles.
  • I now have time to pursue my “shiny object” ideas, if only I could remember them.

In essence, there is no issue, but I want to keep writing, and my ideas have run dry.

What is a person to do?

What I have done to fight this type of creative block

Keep a list!

Really, keep a list of the ideas that you want to develop. This list could evolve into a document, a database, a binder. . . Honestly, it can be as big or as small as you need.

There’s an interesting technique that some artists use, where they create a portfolio of inspirational images to motivate them through the creative block. In this case, your list would keep your fledgling ideas safe until it was time for them to take wing.

But what if you forgot to add the idea to the list?

Well, honestly there’s not much you can do. But I suggest asking the following questions.

Here are three questions you should ask yourself when your ideas are scattered or missing . . .

  1. What inspired me today?

  2. Are there any other ideas that I have yet to develop?

  3. How would _____ do this? 

These open-ended questions will help you to open up the creative part of your mind, and I’m not just talking about writers. This will help with any project. These questions help me when my brain feel so overwhelmed, or so blank, that it needs a starting point.

Each question focuses on different solutions for creative block. Number one focuses on building specificity, number two focuses on working through former ideas, and number three focuses on developing organization and style.

When all is said and done, I enjoy the writing process, but that does not mean I don’t get stuck. In fact, it’s my desire to make write a large body of work that sometimes keeps me away from the screen.

In order to focus, in order to fight the blank page, we must find what works, and that looks different every day.  Here is how I approach each question:

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Question # 1: What inspired me today?

This may be the easiest question to answer. You simply have to remember what you have done today. If you can’t think of something inspiring, try thinking of something that makes you curious.

Were their people you interacted with that sparked your curiosity today? Was there a moment that stood out to you as interesting? How could you translate part of your personal experience today to your craft?

Finding inspiration is sometimes as simple as sitting down and writing stream of consciousness for ten minutes and picking an idea that appears. I call this method a “brain spill.” Caution – don’t publish your stream of consciousness, or “brain spill.”

Your goal is to get to a place of specificity, not to produce polished writing. This is great if you don’t have any ideas on hand because there is always something to use from your brainstorming session. There is always something that you can use from your day if you spend enough time thinking about your experience from different angles.

Question # 2: Are there any other ideas that you have to develop?

For non-fiction, I have a document that is an entire list of questions sorted by topic. Someday, I will answer all of those questions. Each question is open-ended.

I have another document that is a list of story titles, character names, and one-liners. I used to keep these in a handwritten journal, but lately, I like to keep everything digital. These are helpful for writing fiction.

I sporadically collect pictures and articles from the web to help inspire me. Pinterest is a pretty great tool for that, but it’s also an easy way to procrastinate.

Keeping your ideas handy for later will help you build a bank of ideas to develop. These seeds of ideas are not ready on their own, but with enough care and the right conditions, they can grow into better ideas, stories, projects, etc . . .

Question # 3: How would _____ do this? 

This is a great one if you have a personal hero in your field. Sometimes I think to myself: How would J.K. Rowling do this? How would George R.R. Martin do this? Or, more specifically, how would Rick Riordan describe this character? How would Kelly Barnhill explain this to a child? How would my favorite blogger structure this post?

You can get as specific as you want, or stay general. The point of this exercise to think outside of yourself. This gives you a break from your own organization and style, providing a space for you to create something new.

Take-Away

If I remember anything from this today, it is to keep my idea bank full while also dedicating appropriate time to my projects and to never give up, no matter what complications arise.


I hope these questions help you with your creative projects.

-Curtis

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Bloggers and Noteworthy Followers (This Week’s Reads # 1)

Happy Friday!

I’d like to give a shoutout to a few bloggers and sites that may interest you. These people are worth following on WordPress if you like book reviews, travel blogs, challenges, and writing. Here are this week’s reads . . . 


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Adventures of a Bibliophile

WordPress:  https://adventuresofabibliophile.com/

Adventures of a Bibliophile is a solid site if you like reading challenges. Stephanie tracks her reading challenges and infuses her posts with her own experiences. It’s a nice personal blog to read, and she inspires me to take on challenges of my own. I personally enjoy any blog that gives readers a sense of progress or momentum.

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My Pick: She’s currently working on a Shakespeare Reading Challenge.


Alisa Ellie

WordPress: https://alisaellie.blog/

I found Alisa Ellie on Instagram during a bookstagram shoutout session. I was first drawn in by her beautiful feed. I soon found that she had short, informational posts on blogging, writing, and books. Her blog is also very aesthetically pleasing. She is honing her own style, for sure.

Check her out. Her posts are funny and useful.

Alisa Ellie

My Pick:  I picked her Writing as a Skilll chose this post because it meshes well with how I view writing and writing habits.


Some Noteworthy Followers

I’d like to get in the habit of featuring some of my followers, new and old in a weekly post (usually on Friday or over the weekend). I’ve read some great work on WordPress, and I think it would be nice to bring specific posts to light in the future.

Check out these wordpress bloggers who are following me right now.

Thrifty Bibliophile

WordPress:  https://thriftybibliophile.com/

These book reviews are short and to the point. I really enjoy how quickly I can get an overview of a book.

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My Pick: The site is also very well organized. I have included a link to her book review index (very helpful!).Check it out here.


Write Kind Travels

WordPress:  https://writekindtravels.com/

Book reviews, Barcelona, and travels. There are a variety of posts and topics on this site. I personally enjoy the blend of information and photography. In fact, I may try similar posts on my site when the time comes.

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My Pick: Her Book Tour of Barcelona is gorgeous, as is the rest of her travel section.


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I hope you found this useful! If you have a blog I should check out, let me know.

-Curtis


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How to manage your time when everything seems important…

book business calendar close up

We all know what it is like to be overwhelmed. Our parents, siblings, or friends may have events for us to attend. Our bosses, colleagues, customers, or clients demand a certain level of performance. At work, home, and in our relationships, we commit ourselves to activities and tasks that seem important. Sometimes, significant people in our lives ask us for favors, to complete a job, or for our help.

Sometimes the assignments arrive at the last minute, while at other times we have had a project looming over our heads for months. We intend to fulfill our promises, to deliver on the expecatations of our peers. And we do. . . when the conditions are favorable.

But what happens when all of it is important?

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For many, a sense of panic creeps into the day, or maybe a less-intense mental fog takes over the brain. While there are a select few people who thrive in a busy environment, over-committing your time and effort to multiple objectives can cause overwhelm or burn out.

My life is fairly busy, and I tend to enjoy it. At least, I enjoy being busy to a point. I’ve learned how to create a happy work-life balance in my own corner of the world. Seven years of teaching helped me. But I’m not perfect. I’m still adjusting the formula, and I still encounter busy times.

Even when the number of your commitments is fair, it is still possible for the milestones of your projects to converge. This nexus of obligation can make even the most organized people stressed out.

Sometimes, all of the important tasks are hard to accomplish. Worse –  they can prove difficult to prioritize. Everyone’s life is a complex network of obligations, commitments, and responsibilities, but moving through them does not have to be complicated.  

In fact, you could move through them gracefully.


How I manage my time when my calendar feels full . . .

My life is full of complications, obligations, and commitments.  It’s May and I have fifty more essays to grade, 340 mini-journal entries to read (that’s one week of journal entries from 68 students), and a novel to finish writing. I also want to spend time with my fiancé, visit my brother and parents, and occasionally relax.

On top of that, the laundry is piling up, the dishes need to be washed, and I have a wedding to help plan.

Usually, I have routines in place to take care of these activities, but this week, it seems like my ability to stick to routine has fallen apart. I know this is normal. Why? Because I talk to other human beings. This situation occasionally happens to all of us. The details are different, but the reality remains the same: we have many roles to play and only so much time to play them well.

When everything piles up, my main goal is to stay sane while trying to fulfill all of my responsibilities.

Here’s what I do.

I focus on two key habits: 1.) Prioritizing, and 2.) Reflecting.

These two habits may seem simple, or daunting, depending on who you ask. If at the end of the day, I have spent time doing both, I can rest knowing I have at least moved a step closer to fulfilling my objects.

I want to do everything, every single day, but the truth is . . . there is rarely enough time to do everything in one day and remain healthy. So, I must prioritize.


Prioritizing:

There can only be one priority at a time, but with a list of commitments, we have to decide how the items rank. Your number one priority will be a mix of what is most important and most urgent.

I read a book by two Navy SEALS a few months ago: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win.  While reading it, I came across the phrase “prioritize and execute.”  

Jocko talks about prioritizing objectives and following through in their execution. Most of the time, this is just a matter of silencing your anxiety and cultivating enough discipline to activate a task. This was not a new idea for me; however, both authors emphasized one piece of the time management puzzle that I was lacking.

They spoke about the importance of perspective – knowing how your actions affect others when you are making your priorities. Without perspective, without a sense of the bigger picture, these priorities could result in neutral outcomes, or worse, negative outcomes.

When prioritizing, be sure to think about the bigger picture of why your particular project, activity, or task needs to be accomplished. For example, I am writing a novel series. I am doing this to communicate ideas that I have and stories that need to be told.

 

On a larger scale, writing these books is about fulfilling a larger dream of engaging with my life and work on a deeper philosophical level. It may be through the lens of fantasy fiction, but it is the lens I have chosen. If I forget why I am writing, any activity I do could have the potential of negatively impacting this process. I could accidentally over-invest my time in trivial activities, instead of putting my effort towards meaningful action.

On that note, here is an exercise you could try:

I do this at home – especially when I am too tired to tackle any task.

  1. Take ten minutes to write down everything that needs to get done. Write whatever comes to mind. This frees up your brain. Just let it all out. Sometimes it helps to separate what is urgent from what is important. Meaning, some tasks are supposed to be done before others, but may not seem as important.
  2. Rewrite the list in order of importance and urgency. If something must be done on a specific day, add a note.

With your list, you have a number of directions you could take. Personally, if you’re about long-term change, you should consider investing time in figuring out why you are doing something. All of a sudden, some of those tasks will make their way up the priority list.

At this point, I suggest doing the NUMBER ONE thing on your list for at least ten minutes. If you finish this task, move to the next, as long as time and health permits. Don’t hurt yourself.

Your goal is to finish the tasks in the order of their importance and urgency.  If time allows, move on to task number two, three, four, five, etc . . . If your number one item is a large-scale project, then it may help to break that project down into manageable tasks that make sense for the day.  

If you are having trouble figuring out why something is important, then maybe you shouldn’t do it, or maybe it is truly unimportant busywork. At the end of the day, you will know what is important to you.

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Reflecting:

This is just as important as prioritizing in terms of keeping yourself sane. At the end of the day, or idealy while I am finishing tasks, I keep a log of what I have done. This is a list of victories from the day, big and small. This helps overcome overwhelm.

 

Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself at the end of the day:

  • What did I accomplish today?
  • What could I do to make tomorrow awesome?
  • Would I have changed anything about today?
  • What small battles did you win?

You should celebrate your accomplishments daily. That way, when you think of work, you think about the small wins that total up instead of all the little mistakes. While it’s healthy to reflect on failures, it’s important not to beat yourself up.

Being intelligently critical is different. If you are able to self-criticize without losing your momentum, then you are at a great advantage in accomplishing your goals and commitments. This type of reflection is helpful. Thinking about how you can improve and how to improve is always useful.

Sometimes you need to be honest with yourself.

Most of the time, your dreaded important task takes less time than you would think. By prioritizing what is important, following through, and then reflecting at the end of the day, you will decrease the amount of overwhelm you feel.

If you are trying to do too much, try setting an upper bound, as James Clear notes in his article, “Do Things You Can Sustain.” Read it here. While I’m at it, here’s another good James Clear article on marginal gains.

I’m applying these same strategies to help balance my work and writing commitments this week. I hope this helps you as much as it helps me!

-Curtis


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Why 300 hours of writing seems like a good idea . . .

For the last two weeks, I worked on promoting and participating in a 7-Day Reading Challenge. This summer, I plan on challenging myself with an experiment that I call Minutes to a Better Book. This long-term experiment involves dedicating 300 hours towards writing my books. Here’s why I’m doing it:

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Why am I choosing to dedicate 300 hours towards writing my books?

My goal is to dedicate as much time as possible towards my book series. You can read about my new personal challenge here.  

The truth is, I’ve spent much more of my time doing other things – and for good reasons. By day, I’m a teacher. I grade papers, read young adult novels, and help kids develop their reading and writing skills. When I get home, there are nights of my week dedicated towards grading, reflecting, reading and planning for my classroom. This is the case for many teachers. 

Even finding twenty minutes to write my fiction has seemed harder these days, and I think I know why. I have been avoiding my novel. More specifically I have been avoiding ending my novel.

The reason is simple. End a novel is hard.

Ending my novel would mean passing judgment on a project that I have worked hard on, put off, and returned to over the course of a year.

It would mean that the manuscript was ready for full revision – a process I actually love once I get started. I feel like my worst procrastination habits come in two places: right before the start and right before the end of major tasks and activities. Novel writing is no exception.

With my first novel From One to Another, I wrote a short, 50,000-word young adult realistic fiction novel. To be honest, it was pretty awful, which is why it will never see the light of day in published form. I have since had practice writing, but I noticed that I am most enthusiastic when I start stories and novels.

In many of my major projects, I encounter resistance around the 75% mark. One factor is time, and another is commitment.

As we near the summer, everything changes.

I have fifteen days before my students end the year and fourteen more before I am finished with training, meetings, and other important school-related work. My brain will be free to write for hours on end when the summer comes. If I’m organized, this could be a great chance. I will have more time and mental space to write!

I would be a fool, however, if I didn’t admit that this will take discipline and follow through.

Why is this different than any other summer?

In the past, I didn’t set a specific goal for writing my books. Now, I have one. I want to dedicate 300 hours to my books this summer. This is different than setting a word count. I noticed that I am more productive just setting aside time for the task, rather than an arbitrary outcome or word count.

When the summer hits, I’m aiming for three or more hours a day of writing.  In the next 30 days, that will be hard to find, but after the next 30, it will definitely get easier. Don’t worry. I will still post about other subjects, and not every post will be a process post. 

Right now, it’s a push for as many minutes as I can contribute to my novel, no matter how small. It will all add up. 300 hours is just a worthwhile mark to hit.

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Let me know what you think!

-Curtis

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Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks

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Why would anyone listen to your story? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Sharing Anything with Anyone

I just picked up a copy of Story Genius by Lisa Cron, and I’ve really felt inspired by the exercises she has included. While the questions below do not appear in her book, I feel like they fit her general emphasis on the importance of story. Here are three questions to ask yourself before you share your story with anyone.

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3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing / Sharing Your Story

Why would anyone listen to your story?

Stories are ways to communicate deeper ideas, and they are only as compelling as the motivations that drive the characters within them. This speaks to the heart of one of the lessons I learned from the first pages Lisa Cron’s book. Good storytelling relies on solid emotional content, and our stories are only as good as the reasons why we are telling them.

While the content of the story enriches the experience for the reader, it is the context – the reason why – that makes the story worthwhile. I’m starting to think about the short fiction that I write, asking myself this question.

Why would anyone read the story? Having a solid “why” may ensure that your story is interesting enough to listen to, view, or read.

Is your story relevant?

Really knowing your audience is important, no matter what story you are telling. The way you frame the story for your audience matters. The emotion you reveal and the details you emphasize shape your story.

Being relevant means that you are telling the story to the right people, or that you are telling the story the right way to your audience. Every audience is different. There are cases where a story is told so well that it is universal. In that case, the story is always relevant. It may speak to a higher truth or part of the human experience.

A relevant story impacts readers. An irrelevant story is forgotten.

How will this story impact your reader, listener, or friend?

How you tell your story changes the impact it has on the reader. Are you trying to prove a particular point, or is your story a way to connect with someone? What mode of story are you using?

Sometimes stories share ideas that are meant to change the reader’s world. Other times, a story is meant to communicate an experience. But what are you communicating? What’s the point? How will your reader walk away?

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I hope you enjoyed these questions!

-Curtis

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7 Lessons I Learned From Hosting My First 7-Day Challenge, and What I’m Doing Next . . .

Today marks the end of the 7-Day Reading Challenge.

At least, it marked an end to the official days. . . Here’s what I learned from hosting a 7-Day Challenge over Twitter, Instagram, and WordPress, and what I plan on doing next.

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Seven Days of Challenging Myself

I spent the last seven days of my life reading for 20 minutes a day and posting to Instagram, Twitter, and WordPress about my reading experience. This was an attempt to start building a stronger reading habit while connecting with others about the joy of reading. You can read about the challenge here.

I thought that building the reading habit would be the hardest part. It was not.

The most difficult element of the challenge was keeping up with a consistent posting schedule across the three mediums. The process taught me so much.

Here’s what I learned:

Lesson # 1: Hosting a challenge is fun, even with a small number of people.

As of writing this post, the Instagram hashtag garnered about 26 public posts. This is a relatively small number considering what is possible during a challenge. However, this made no difference in terms of how fun the challenge was.

Some people are still continuing the challenge, and that’s unbelievably cool. Others are just starting, like this user, @blackbird_reads, who is creating a story highlight for the challenge.

I had the opportunity to connect with people I didn’t know, inside and outside of the challenge, simply because we were consistently reading and posting about our reading experience.

Lesson # 2: Social pressure helps me accomplish tasks.

Hosting the challenge gave it an extra edge, as I had the opportunity to see the process grow. I was pushed by social pressure to make sure I completed my 20 minutes of reading a day. Social pressure also encouraged me to post daily on WordPress and Instagram – a habit that I would like to continue whenever possible.

Lesson # 3: I can easily let social media consume me.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I found myself checking Instagram far too much, and I needed to check in with myself about how much social media time was healthy. I know I may sound old saying this, but there definitely is a limit to how much Instagram a person should consume before it consumes you.

Still, it wasn’t wasted time. Last week I didn’t even know what a theme or aesthetic was for an Instagram feed, and now I’m learning how to post more visually-appealing content.

Lesson # 4: On most days, I wanted to read for more than 20 minutes.

The reading challenge not only pushed me to read for 20 minutes, but it also pushed me to think deeply about my own reading. As a result, I took a longer amount of time to process my reading each day. For that, I am happier.

Lesson # 5: The most meaningful connections were with people over the smallest things.

Whenever someone told me about a new book, project, or ARC, I felt like we were building a small community around reading. I know that Bookstagram and other communities exist for readers, but this felt more personal. Maybe it was the size, or maybe it was the specificity of the challenge.

The smallest conversations somehow felt bigger, like we strangers were reaching across the internet and building bridges.

Lesson # 6: Hosting a challenge keeps you focused on a small set of tasks.

Hosting the challenge kept me focused on these tasks:

  1. Reading every day.
  2. Posting to Instagram every day.
  3. Writing blog posts every day.
  4. Asking questions every day.
  5. Becoming inquisitive about what works and reflecting for a few minutes on new things I could try.

Lesson # 7: Seven days is too short of a time to recruit people to a challenge. Which is why it will remain open . . . forever.

I only promoted the challenge for a week before it started, and I honestly have a very small following of people at this point. This didn’t discourage me when I started the challenge, and it doesn’t discourage me now. In fact, it’s rather encouraging. I’m keeping the hashtag open, and I will post regularly to it, just in case someone else decides to take on the challenge and #readwithcurtis.


What’s Next?

I organized all the 7-Day Reading Posts on a new site page. You can check it out here.

I’m going to post about my reading regularly to the Instagram hashtag #readwithcurtis , and I will update the #readwithcurtis site page when I write articles about specific books.

New Habits to Keep

  1. Reading regularly.
  2. Posting regularly to Paper Palaces.
  3. Posting to Instagram daily.
  4. Connecting with others daily.

I’m sure there will be days when this won’t be possible, but I think setting the intention is important.

A New Challenge

I’m planning a new challenge, just for me. It’s more of an experiment than a challenge. You can follow the experiment via this blog. Of course, you are welcome to join in too!

For the next season, I am going dive into my fiction writing. I will post about it regularly on my Instagram feed as well under the hashtag #MinutesToABetterBook, and I will, of course, create process posts here on WordPress. I want to see how quickly I can get to 18,000 minutes (300 Hours) of time dedicated to just writing fiction, specifically my books. Read more about Minutes to a Better Book here.

I’m would like to complete that writing time by the end of the summer. It will take many early mornings, and probably some late nights, but the story must be told.

-Curtis

Let’s Connect!

Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks

Facebook: /curtisteichertbooks

Patreon: /CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter: @staghorncrown

WordPress: PaperPalacesBlog.com

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Want to try the 7-Day Reading challenge? Read more about the challenge here.

-Curtis