Did you know LinkedIn is the most underutilized social media platform compared to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok? It is the best search engine businesses, corporations and companies use daily. People wrongly assume that LinkedIn is only for job seekers. However, it provides a rich opportunity to make professional connections. As a result of this myth people assume they don’t have to develop and manage their profile as long as it’s there and the job info is accurate.
But when someone searches for you online your LinkedIn profile comes up first the majority of the time. If it is not updated, no active engagements and few connections, then you are missing important opportunities and don’t even know it.
Hosted LinkedIn Webinar
This is why I was excited to host a webinar titled “Level Up Your Career with an Eye Catching Profile on LinkedIn. It was held earlier this month to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It was sponsored by Bold, Blind Beauty, a platform to demystify blindness through rich storytelling. The presentation focused on 6 sections of your LinkedIn profile: the Header, photo, contact info, summary, work experience and education. Although, there are more sections of your LinkedIn profile, I decided to spotlight these 6 because they are the most important for visibility and connection.
Webinar Mission and Focus
During the webinar I explained what LinkedIn is compared to other social media. Next, I discussed the 6 profile sections. And last I gave challenges to move you to the next level.
To learn more, listen to my presentation at this YouTube link.
As a blogger, I have plenty to do. Continuously coming up with creative ideas and content. Doing research. Reading news articles. Listening to relevant podcasts, and all to stay abreast of current and trending topics. Then there is the content on the written craft itself. Sometimes I feel disorganized and scatter-brained. Sometimes, I wonder how I get it all done? I mean, I haven’t even written the piece yet and I got a full plate. Well, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve that help me to write better, faster and save time.
Well Organized Writer
Many of you know I am a well organized person. This includes my personal and professional life. Thank God for parents who drove this principle home when I was a child because it has served me well. Admittedly, I get a little anal and when I do I try to stop, slow down and breathe. The world won’t end if I don’t get it all done today.
However, strongly leaning toward organization helps me be a happier and more fulfill writer. So, I am passing on knowledge because it brings power. If you can get a little organized in your writing you will be more productive. You will write better, faster and save time. Now, let’s go!
1. Create an editorial calendar.
When I started professional blogging in 2013, I created a calendar. I got the idea from when I was a former freelance writer and pitched to magazines. Many publications had an editorial calendar for topics and themes coming up they were going to publish. You could read this calendar and know what story ideas to pitch.
So, I took that same concept and applied it here. I was writing a weekly blog post for my employer and I jotted down ideas for about a month or two. This method kept me organized, my mind clear and writing effective.
2. Keep track of updates, news and trends in your niche.
Reading articles, newsletters and other blog post will give you fresh ideas to write about. They will also keep you current so when you write, your stories have relevance.
For example, I checkout the National Holiday Calendar. I got the idea to write this post because Thursday, Oct. 20 is The National Day on Writing®. This day celebrates writing—and the many places, reasons and ways we write each day—as an essential component of literacy. Since 2009, #WhyIWrite has encouraged thousands of people to lift their voices to the things that matter most to them.
I also subscribe to Google Alerts. I made a list of key words in my industry and everyday Google sends me an email with current news items on that topic. I use all of these resources to keep a running list of blog ideas. Having this list will ensure you don’t dry out. Or if an idea doesn’t work your list will provide a plethora to choose from.
3. Get on a schedule.
This is not a hard and fast rule. What I mean is look at your day or week and plan things out. Keep in mind life happens and stuff comes up. But if you have a schedule you are more likely to get your writing done and not be so distracted. Each day I make a mini list of things to do for the next day. I try hard to stay on track and leave any extras for after I have met my daily goals.
4. Use non writing time to think.
My best ideas come to me at three o’clock in the morning. But now that my sleeping is slowly improving I am not always awake that early. However, I have other moments I can call on for inspiration. Traveling on the bus to run errands are times when my mind wanders and ideas germinate. Walking on my treadmill and doing household chores are two other times in my day when writing ideas magically appear. Now, the challenge is to quickly jot those ideas down because I am usually not at my computer. I have relied on the recording app on my smartphone to dictate an idea or two before it permanently leaves.
5. Go offline.
This is a real battle. So many of us are addicted to our devices. And we gotta check social media or emails to maintain that fix. But to be a better, faster writer that saves time you must do it. So, turn off emails and social media while writing. Plus, you will be less distracted and more energized.
6. Set a timer
This is a new thing I recently tried. Do you know what? It actually worked. Having the clock ticking adds a little positive pressure to push and soldier through a writing project. I want to get done by the time the bell rings so I don’t let my mind wonder as much and I stay focused.
Now with that being said, I use the timer method for actual writing not for major editing, preparation or research. Although, now that I am thinking about it as I write this post, it might be good for that too. When I research I can go down a rabbit hole. Before I know it, time has passed and I’m still not done.
7. Create an outline.
An outline will help you know how to start and end. It will help your piece stay on course. Have you written an article or blog post only to recognize you are rambling and all over the place? I will be the first to raise my hand and say yes. But writing a little outline helps me avoid that pitfall.
In order to write that well-crafted or soon to be award- winning piece you got to be organized. This will lead to writing better, faster and save tons of time.
I am naturally curious. I enjoy learning about all kinds of things. But mostly skills to advance my career and writing. Online courses have been my ticket to exploration and career advancement. I take these courses easily from my home. They are convenient and sometimes free of charge. They are fairly accessible with my screen reader.
I remember the first freelance writing online course I took. It was several years ago. A small group of us wanted to learn better ways to write query letters. Our desire was to pitch story ideas to printed publications (online pubs were not the norm back then) that would get the assignment. We had a weekly lesson and later posted our homework for group critique. It was a great experience and I learned a lot.
Online Learning Day
Although this was a long time ago, I have never stop being an online learner. Today, Sept. 15, is National Online Learning Day. This holiday focuses mostly on educational courses and classes for children and young adults but the holiday can also apply to people like me. Those who are much older and have an interest in learning skills to help their careers.
Besides just wanting to learn something new, why do I take courses online? Well, for a couple of reasons. Online courses enhance my job searching. They sharpen my skills in writing and blogging.
Enhance My Job Searching
Recently, I lost my latest freelance job and I have been more assertive about looking for work. It has been a long time since I actively searched for employment. I wasn’t current on the latest job hunting trends and techniques. LinkedIn has been a great resource for this exploration. I have learned about writing better cover letters, what hiring managers want, and the importance of digital networking.
LinkedIn sends me alerts with topics of interest around job seeking. I scroll through the list and take the ones I need the most. These courses are quick little videos but are jammed pack with valuable and useful information. What I learn from these courses I can apply immediately to my job search.
Extensive Online Learning
For a deeper dive, I have ventured into extensive online learning. The latest example was on Google Analytics. I took the course directly from the Google Academy. Each lesson was on some aspect of analyzing data for your website. It was a self-pace course and fairly accessible. You could opt for the video or read the transcript. I chose the transcript option so I could stop and easily take notes . There was a quiz after each lesson where I had to score 80% or better to get my certificate. After completion Google sent me a certificate and provided ways to share my success on social media.
The only drawback was the application examples. There were opportunities to directly apply what you were learning. I struggled in finishing those sections because they were inaccessible and hard to navigate. Besides this issue, I enjoyed the course, learned a lot and got my certificate.
I had a similar experience taking courses with Salesforce. In the spring of this year, I applied to get training with a technology organization. Once completed students would be connected to job opportunities. I had to complete several sales badges as part of the application process. This experience took me through several learning modules and tracks where I had to read the course materials and take a quiz afterward. Although, I wasn’t accepted into the training program, I learned a lot about Salesforce and how it is trending right now.
Sharpen My Writing and Blogging Skills
I have also increased my knowledge of writing and blogging through courses with WordPress and my online writer’s group, The Freelance Writers Den. Both offer instruction in blogging, journalism, SEO and marketing.
The latest course I took was on a LinkedIn marketing bootcamp. The course provided a weekly lesson from constructing your profile, to increasing connections to applying for jobs. These were paid courses and well worth the cost. I have already noticed and increase in my productivity and online visibility because of the skills learned.
Online learning has been an excellent resource for me. I can learn what I want when I want. I would dare to say as technology advances and nontraditional ways of learning become more accepted, we will all see an increase in the availability of online education and courses.
About a year ago I talked about my challenges applying for jobs online. In a post for Inclusively I gave details on the struggles with inaccessible websites and online job portals. Unfortunately, a year later the problems still exist.
As a freelance writer and blogger, I am regularly on the hunt for new contract assignments and searching online is a primary part of that exploration. When I come across complex combo boxes and inaccessible edit fields my perseverance wanes. My enthusiasm about landing that next writing gig quickly diminishes.
Help is on the Way
Yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I started using a virtual paid personal assistant called AIRA. When I initially heard about AIRA some years ago, the focus was on getting visual assistance to navigate the physical world around you. The professional human assistant would use the camera on your smartphone or smart glasses to give you visual information live and in real time. It was a tool for travelers. Since I was not in need of that kind of help I put AIRA on the back burner.
They have expanded those services and provide remote assistance via your computer. This was great news for me as I continued to struggle with inaccessible websites. So, I downloaded the app, created my account and selected the paid membership level. I am able to call AIRA any day, anytime to get assistance . AIRA has a special feature called “Job Seekers.” This free service is specifically for filling out job applications and updating cover letters and resumes.
AIRA and CAPTCHA screens
I have used AIRA to help with frustrating and inaccessible CAPTCHA screens. You know the ones that ask you are you a human being? Usually, I would check the box and type into the edit box what I hear. Unfortunately, many job sites don’t offer that option. Only type in what you see with several pictures popping up on the screen to identify. Of course, I can’t do that and as a result can’t submit my job application. What I find so perplexing is the employer gives all this info about being an equal opportunity employer and understands diversity and inclusion. They say they will not discriminate based on age, gender, race or disability and feel free to disclose. Yet, they have this inaccessible screen prohibiting me from applying. This experience questions how much of an equal opportunity employer they really are. Or perhaps, they are just unaware of the importance of accessibility for all applicants.
When I come across this situation, I no longer throw up my hands in annoyance. I no longer moan and groan. I no longer walk away in pure exhaustion and don’t apply for the job. I call up AIRA and use remote access with a human assistant. I explain the problem and they check off the appropriate boxes. I have even asked them to do a quick review of my application before submission. It is always good to have a second pair of eyes look things over before pressing the submit button.
AIRA and Job Assessments
Another task AIRA has helped me with is job assessments. Some applications require the completion of an assessment along with submission. These assessments rate me on my writing and editing abilities. Some will score me on my knowledge of particular skill sets like SEO and WordPress . When I start the assessment the timer interferes with my screen reader. So, while trying hard to concentrate the timer is verbally ticking off each minute I have remaining. This is incredibly distracting and stressful. So, instead of dealing with all of that headache, I call AIRA and the assistant can read the questions to me while I give my responses. We can review the assessment and then submit.
Use AIRA After Hiring
After landing a job, the assistance from AIRA doesn’t stop. Many of my friends who are employed use AIRA to help with various work assignments. Some employers are receptive to blind employees using AIRA on the job as a work accommodation and will pay for the monthly subscription. AIRA is sensitive to the employability of blind people and supportive of removing barriers.
AIRA Provides Me relief
Job hunting has its own list of hang ups, adding inaccessibility just increases irritation and disappointment. I want my job exploration to be as stress free and pleasant as possible. AIRA gives me relief. They rejuvenate my desire to keep searching. If you are visually impaired and a job seeker, like me, investigate AIRA as a handy tool in your career toolbox.
Tuesday, June 21 is my birthday and I am breaking tradition. I am celebrating by writing gifts to myself. I know you are supposed to receive gifts from others and I will happily take them. I just wanted to do something a little different this year. After all the birthdays I have had, and there has been plenty. You got to spruce things up a bit and get a little more creative.
Now you may be asking, “What is a writing gift?” I am not talking about physical gifts like fancy or expensive writing pens or decorative writing paper. Not even cute little paperweights with witty writing sayings or slogans. Or a writer T-shirt with matching tote bag or coffee mug. What I am talking about are gifts that bring sparkle and joy to my creative process as a writer. These gifts are not covered in shiny paper and bows. Rather they are internal and part of the process of a writing life and routine.
1. Gift of calling myself a writer
No imposter syndrome here! Although I am currently not on the writing payroll, I do consider myself a writer. I am writing this post, aren’t I?
Publication and payment are not sole determinations of a true writer. Writing takes work, energy and perseverance but it is also fun and exciting.
Whether I get paid or see my byline writing is a gift. Not everyone can do it. Coming up with creative and interesting content, and writing compelling prose is a real talent. Nothing to sneeze at! The actual acknowledgement it matters is Honoring the time and talent to my craft.
Thinking of myself as a writer is a gift because half of the writing process is mental. I am the first person to make my work legit. If I don’t believe I am a writer then I can’t expect anyone else to believe it either.
2. Gift of time to write
My lifestyle affords me the time to write. I don’t have to squeeze it in between work and family. I don’t have to get up early before the kids wake up. I don’t have to leave my home for a quiet place to concentrate. I can write at any time I want. Morning, noon or night. I have even gotten spirts of writing inspiration in the wee hours of the morning. Booted up my computer and got to typing.
And because I am very organized I can plan and prepare in advance. Well, you know, as much as humanly possible. Things can come up unexpectedly. I can schedule my time, giving space for life, friends and social activities along with moments to write.
3. Gift of letting go
I am a perfectionist by nature and it comes out in my writing. I will ruminate over a piece of work, nick picking before pressing the submit or publish button. I am learning to let go and that this is a gift to myself. I don’t have control over how my work is received by others. I don’t have control if an editor will publish it or not. I don’t have control of reactions from a social media post. I can just control what I write on the page.
The ability to release and let go reduces stress and anxiety I didn’t even know I had. When I let go I can focus on the pure joy of writing.
4. Gift of boredom
Taking time away from writing to just sit and think about nothing is a gift. I do this in the A.M. while listening to the bird’s chirp outside or rain pelting across my windowpane. I just lay in the bed and do nothing. Letting my mind scatter, thinking of nothing in particular.
We all know, children get scolded for letting their minds wander, not paying attention or listening. But actually, in this situation, being a kid is a good thing. Mental musing is a gift . It allows the brain to recharge and helps creative ideas to flow naturally.
5. Gift of community
The writing life is typically solitary. Yet having a community of fellow writers is not competition but friendships that feed and nourish creativity.
Having others to “talk shop” builds connection and a sense of belonging. I am not alone and having others to converse with is a wonderful gift to myself. Every writer needs a friend who truly gets it without having to explain. Support one another through this writing life because we are all in it together.
6. Gift of saying no
Saying no is a powerful gift to myself. I have to prioritize what writing I am going to do. Do I have the time? The energy? The head space? The knowledge? Sometimes I want to be Super Woman and do it all. I don’t have to feel guilty or obligated to write a piece or take an assignment that doesn’t fit. Can you relate? I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have looked over writing opportunities trying to decide if I should take the gig or not. Sometimes you find yourself compromising for the money, the opportunity, the prestige. Or fill in the blank. This is the time to weigh the cost and use the gift of saying no. It will free you for that yes coming around the corner.
7. Gift of saying yes
Understanding the powerful gift of saying no, leads to the time to say yes. I am imagining that moment when this amazing writing assignment comes to me out of nowhere. The one I have been waiting for and didn’t even realize it. The one I was a little shy and afraid of. This is when I will use my gift of saying yes.
What Are Your Writing Gifts?
These seven writing gifts are included in my self care regiment and writing toolkit. They are great reminders of who I am and motivate me to keep going. Now, that you know my writing gifts, what are yours? Share in the comments and let’s celebrate the power of gift giving.
I’ve never been great at growing vegetation. Plants and flowers don’t seem to flourish around me. The idea of getting outside in the heat. Dealing with bugs of all kinds. Tilling soil and getting dirty. None of these are my thoughts of a fun and enjoyable activity. Then add my visual disability to the mix and my interest quickly wilts like leaves on an unwatered plant. Although there are blind gardeners they must have a passion I don’t possess. But what I have found fruitful is writing about the topic. Now, that is something I can do.
I have been reading a lot about spring and it has inspired me to write about the season as it relates to the writing craft. I can’t grow an actual green thumb but I can do it with words. Here is how I do it.
1. Start New Writing Habit
Spring is the time to rejuvenate. The time for rebirth. The time to try something new. With that in mind, start a new writing habit or ritual. I tried something new with writing this blog post. Before writing anything down or doing any research I wrote a list of keywords that communicated spring and growth. Words such as: nature, nurture, flourish, blooming, blossoming, petals, plants, leaves, stems, root, ground, dirt, soil and germinate. This writing exercise helped to get the creative juices flowing. It boosted my excitement about writing this piece. I felt energized . Also, it helped eliminate using the same standard, old words and phrases multiple times.
2. Writing in a Different Genre
Another new habit worth trying is writing in a different genre. If you are a nonfiction writer try fiction. If you are an author enter a writing contest or pen an article for a newspaper or magazine. Just like growing the same crop every time the soil will lose nourishment, your writing can go stale. Your creativity can suffer. I have tried a new writing assignment. A submission I wrote was recently published in my local library’s anthology. it has motivated me to continue in this direction and I am working on another anthology submission for Black female writers.
3. Interact in Person
Spring is also the time to come out of the winter cave. During those cold months we stay at home and hibernate. Plus, the pandemic has made many of us hesitant to physically interact with each other. But this is the prime time to get out of the house. Slow down those numerous Zoom calls. Renew old friendships and meet new people. Whether it is a writing group, book club meeting, or just hanging out, these interactions boost positive energy perfect for growing creativity.
I am an introvert but love interaction. This spring I started attending live theatre again. I went to my first production last month and it was a wonderful experience. I will share more in a future post. Later this month, I will be meeting with my dinner book club in person for the first time since the pandemic started.
4. Write Down Ideas and Thoughts
Now, for the real dirty work. You must plant seeds in order for your writing green thumb to grow. Just like in a real garden, seeds must be sown in order for flowers, fruits or veggies to materialize. Something I do regularly is write down blogging ideas whether they turn into a published piece or not. This boosts my creativity and gets those little writing shoots growing. When you write a list of ideas you can refer back and it keeps your creative brain fertilize. You are giving your thoughts and ideas a safe place to grow and germinate.
The seeding stage is the most important of phases of a plant’s growth and can’t be rushed. In other words, you can’t speed up creativity. it has to sprout over time, and with water, sunlight and nurturing creative ideas will soon emerge through the soil.
5. Remember the Writing Process
Seeds are resilient to weather changes, fighting their way through the ground. You will see little spurts of green sprouts inching their way up. As a writer it is easy to focus on the victories and successes of our craft. The published article, blog or even book, without properly acknowledging the hard work it took to get there. There is real time and struggle in accomplishing any objective or success story. Remember the experience and don’t forget the writing process as you work toward your goals. Enjoy the journey not just the fruits of your labor.
6. Stop Writing If Burned Out
Are your writing seedlings not growing? Don’t see any shoots sprouting up? Experiencing creative burnout? Yes, I can relate. If you are Stuck on the next section of a story, unclear on a headline, struggling with a character. Then stop. Do something totally different than writing. Do something you enjoy but doesn’t require a lot of mental gymnastics. This gives your brain a break allowing creative ideas to blossom. For me exercise is my thing. Turning up the music loud and walking on my treadmill not only is good exercise but I can relax and enjoy the moment. usually by the time I am done I can get back to writing. Other times, I will sit on the piece and sleep on it. Then come back the next day and continue to write.
Spring is here and full of writing possibilities. Use my ideas to inspire and refresh your work. I am sure that one, two or maybe even all of them will help you grow that writing green thumb.
Writing has been such an intricate part of my life it is hard for me to remember the days when I was not a writer. With that being said writing is something I love to do not just a task to make money. The creative process is a joy. Coming up with topics to write. Stringing interesting words and phrases to make sentences worthy of reading is exciting. Researching fascinating topics for a blog or an article thrill me. But I noticed a shift recently. It was not glaring directly in my face like a deer in headlights. Rather it was more subtle and quiet.
It all started around the Christmas holidays. My mother came to visit me and boy what a treat. For her short visit I set up a firestick so we could lounge on the sofa and watch TV and movies. This is what we typically do when I am home. We did that and had a wonderful time. But after she left I kept lolling on that sofa. It was hard to get up and get going. I would tell myself, one more movie and then I will get to writing only to look up and the whole day was gone. This strange and weird pattern stretched over several days and then weeks. I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. This behavior was not my style.
Showing Signs of Creative Burnout
I did a self-check in and noticed my love for writing was not gone. I was just not in the mood. I was just not motivated.
After reading all the new year articles about setting goals and intentions I stumbled across some talking about creative burnout. As I continued to read and research I discovered this was me. Like being diagnosed with a disease, I was displaying the signs and symptoms. I became my own doctor and started to work on a cure. Or at least a way to reduce the symptoms so I could get back on track. As of this writing I am in a better place but don’t feel completely recovered. I don’t feel that I have fully gotten my writing mojo back. Rather I am managing my creative burnout and here’s how.
Need to Chill Out
AS they say in the Alcoholic Anonymous meetings you have to admit there is a problem. You can’t be in denial and expect to get better. As I said earlier, I knew something was wrong. Or at least something was off. But I had to go a little deeper. I looked at my personality. I am one of those Type A people most people love to hate. I am on time every time. I am meticulous about keeping things organized. I keep a running list of things to do and don’t handle it well when I can’t scratch items off my list daily. So, you get the idea of the kind of person I am. In a lot of places my type works very well yet in other places people want me to chill. I have worked on relaxing and cooling out over the years. Which leads to my creative burnout.
Since I know who and what I am, it began to dawn on me this period in my life was probably a needed respite. Instead of getting stressed out, worrying or even ramping up my work, I needed to stop and listen. To take a chill pill as they use to say. To slow down and be quiet.
I Am Not Alone
The next thing I realized is that I was not alone. While sitting on my sofa mindlessly watching movies I felt a little isolated. Like I was the only one or one in a few dealing with this issue. But that is not true. People who are creatives can experience burnout. That is people who are writers, artists, social media experts, musicians, influencers, podcasters, etc. People who have to crank out content constantly for the man. You know who I’m talking about. It is a continuous grind to come up with creative ideas to write about, to blog about and on and on. After a while you get tired because you are not a machine but a human being.
As creatives, yes, we take breaks. Yes, we do all the selfcare stuff. But we can still get burned out. Because we are on someone’s schedule and the work has got to be excellent. The heat and pressure is on.
Switch Writing Gears
So, what to do? I have switched gears up a bit. I have worked on writing projects that don’t demand all of that from me. Projects where I can use the other side of my brain. This way I can give myself some needed rest while still doing what I love.
Not Demanding Perfection
I am also not demanding perfection from myself as much. I realized the huge amount of stress I was placing on myself. Not that I won’t produce excellent work. Or be open to correction and criticism to improve. That is not what I am talking about. I am referring to the fact that I am not perfect. That I tend to be nitpicky when it comes to my work. I know as long as I do my very best that is good enough. I just have to keep telling myself that until it sticks like old chewing gum on the bottom of my shoe.
Making Peace and Not Afraid
I have also made peace with this place in my life. I am not fighting where I am. Everything has a purpose. This transition or phase or whatever you want to call it is happening right now for a reason. I am learning how to lean into the moment and experience the ride. I don’t have to be in control of everything all the time. And actually, it feels pretty good to pump the breaks.
Lastly, with this new resolve I am not afraid of totally losing my mojo. AS a matter of fact, it is slowly coming back. Not in a big title wave like I had originally expected but more like drips from a leaky faucet. I can live with this fact because writing is my joy.
Talk to me. Are you a creative? Have you experience burnout? If so, what things did you do to manage it? How did you get your mojo back?
Although this year’s tax filing deadline is right around the corner on April 18, I traditionally file my taxes in February or March. I figure the sooner the better and to just get the whole maddening business out of the way quickly. But more importantly I file early because things get pretty busy and hectic. This way I avoid the stress and anxiety as much as possible.
Before losing my vision I prepared my taxes myself. It was fairly simple and straightforward. But afterward, I lacked the confidence to do it on my own and some tax preparation products and tools were not very accessible or complicated. Even though tax filing has become more accessible over the years I still prefer to have a professional handle the paperwork. So, when I was recently in my tax guy’s office he was telling me once again how organized my paperwork was and how easy it was to file for me. He tells me this year after year, marveling at how I do this with vision loss. I just smile and say, “Thank you for the compliment.” But it got me thinking and led me to share some of my tax filing tips. The things that keep me stress-free and organized each tax year. Hopefully, you will feel the same after reading.
Make Excel Your Friend
The biggest tool I use to stay calm during tax filing is Excel. This software program is my friend. I use it daily for all kinds of things. To track my grocery spending. To track my Uber/Lyft ride amounts. To track my credit card payments. To track my out-of-pocket medical cost. Do you get my drift? Excel is a great way to track numbers for nearly anything you want. So, each year I track my freelance income and expenses. For example, on my freelance expense spreadsheet I create rows and columns for the date, company, expense description and amount. On a spreadsheet everything is laid out and easy to read. You can also sort and reorganize the columns and rows to crunch the numbers in different ways which my accountant loves.
Each year I create new spreadsheets with the year in the title so I know the difference. I usually will do a save as in Excel and just update the new one. I find this easier because the formula I use to calculate my totals stays the same each time. Then when I meet with my accountant I just hand him the thumb drive and he can clearly read and review the spreadsheets he needs for tax filing.
Create Email Receipt Folders
Now, how to deal with all those paper receipts. And no, I am not talking about stuffing them in a folder or shoebox. I have noticed nowadays most receipts are provided electronically. I can even get my grocery receipts sent via email. Now what I do is create folders in my email provider for receipts. I label the folder in accordance with what is in the folder. I use Outlook for this process. I have a folder for all my Amazon orders. Another one for house-related things. Another for medical. I refer back to these receipts for taxes when I need to. I can simply punch all the info into my spreadsheets and/or print out the receipt for verification if needed.
For receipts that are not electronic I store in a paper file folder for tax filing only. I have a dedicated folder strictly for this purpose. Throughout the year, as I get receipts, donation letters, home ownership tax statements and other documents, I place in this folder. Although the amount is minimal this step keeps me from getting stressed out later because everything is in one place and ready to go during tax time.
These paper receipts I store with a copy of my tax return and place in my water and fireproof safe. There I keep copies of previous tax returns for the future just in case the IRS comes calling.
There you go. My two biggest organizing tips for stress free tax filing. Some might be looking for a long laundry list of tips and tricks but for me it is really this simple. I have been doing this for years and it actually works. Hopefully, if tax season is stressing you out, my tips helped you feel better. With some organization and preparation this year’s filing could be your calmest ever.
Yes, words Matter. They are what we use to communicate. Whether it is verbally or in written form words are the tools for language. From the time a small child learns to talk, the significance of words becomes clear. With that being said words have power. They can inspire, motivate or encourage ,. Yet, words can also cause harm. They can tear down, harass and destroy. This is why it is so important to be wise and thoughtful in the words we speak to each other and also to ourselves.
Words Matter Week
This is Words Matter Week, March 6-12. Sponsored by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. They know the importance of words and have been celebrating it for 14 years. In the past people have honored Words Matter Week by writing in their journals, taking a writing class/course, or writing stories and poetry. But I decided to do something a little different. I did a simple Google search and found 15 quotes on the power of words. These quotes are insightful and thought-provoking. I hope they will resonate with you and remind you of how much words matter not just this week but every week.
15 Quotes on Words
1. “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” Maya Angelou
2. “Raise your word, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” Rumi
3. “Words: So innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” Nathaniel Hawthorne
4. “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it until it begins to shine.” Emily Dickinson
5. “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” George Orwell
6. “Language creates reality. Words have power. Speak always to create joy.” Deepak Chopra
7. “It’s no use of talking unless people understand what you say.” Zora Neale Hurston
8. “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” John Keating
9. “Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace.” Buddha
10. “Words have power, words are power, words could be your power also.” Mohammed Qahtani
11. “A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever.” Jessamyn West
12. “There is power in words. What you say is what you get.” Zig Ziglar
13. “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa
14. “Speak to yourself like someone you love. Encourage yourself, motivate yourself, and uplift yourself with your words.” ATGW
15. “Words have magical power. They can either bring the greatest happiness or the deepest despair.” Sigmund Freud
Hey everybody, it’s Valentine’s Day on the 14th! The special time we celebrate love. But this post is not going to be about anything romantic or sexy. Sorry no hot and steamy love stories or how to romance your sweetheart here. This post is going to address 8 reasons why I love writing.
I have been a writer for several years and despite the ups and downs of my life I still love it. This has included death of friends and family, becoming disabled, various job changes and now a pandemic. I am still writing and loving it. And this is the thing. If you don’t love what you do it will show and people will see it. Why put all the work and effort into something you don’t have a deep love or passion for? So, as it is with my writing, I love what I do and here’s why.
8 Reasons Why
1. I love the creative process of writing. I am naturally curious and interested in all kinds of things. Sometimes those thoughts end up on my computer page. I get to stretch my brain muscle and put digital pen to paper on topics I wonder about.
2. I love the Spiritual Aspect Of Writing. Writing helps me connect with God and also the universe. It generates a positive sense of my existence. Although I have a journalism degree and years of experience, I know my ability to write is not just from my talents alone., I feel incredibly grateful for this gift of written communication.
3. I love stringing various words together to create sentences, paragraphs and ultimately pages. I find words and writing thrilling. When I get into my zone words can just fly off the page.
4. AS a professional writer, I use writing to explore topics of interest. I enjoy reading and learning about things. A lot of times that curiosity comes out in my writing as I pitch a story to a client.
5. Writing is like therapy. Years ago, I started journaling and found it so helpful when unpacking complicated emotions and thoughts. Writing my feelings down on paper has helped me to get through difficult moments in my life. It has also given me perspective and the ability to look at the bigger picture. Lastly, when I review past journal entries I can see my development, growth or sometimes stagnation.
6. Writing is my legacy. Since I am single with no children I won’t have a family to leave behind once I am gone. But I have tons of my published writing work. People can read my work and be inspired, motivated and hopefully encouraged.
7. Writing allows me to speak for my community. I am a Black woman with a disability and many times are stories are not told or told incorrectly. My love of writing gives me the power to say something, which I don’t take lightly. My writing lets me educate, share a different perspective and enlighten people based on my life experiences. Responses to my writing have helped me build community and connection.
8. Writing allows me to express my opinions and beliefs. As a professional writer I have had to write for others with their thoughts, attitudes and style in mind. But when I do my personal writing I can let my hair down and say the things I really want and in the way I want. This is a big reason why I started this blog in the first place. I needed a platform for my personal thoughts, feelings and musings about things. I wanted a safe place to express myself in a written format.
Are you a writer? If so, I’d love to hear your reasons for why you love writing. Whether you write for the pure joy or as a career choice we all have stories to tell. Share yours with me in the comments.