Category Archives: lifestyle

I’m not late on this post….

420838710095906257_a873bb3665e9I’ve posted this EXACTLY when I meant to, which is exactly two months later than I should have posted this.

So I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus. My apologies. I’m back with a vengeance to share wondrous tales of freelance heroism, hardships and glory!

To begin my tale, I’ve just returned from a trip to New Orleans, whereby I encountered a psychic. Ok, a psychic and a huge amount of booze. But the psychic was the highlight.

As I sat down to have my palm read, the first thing he said to me, while pointing to a little y-shaped crease in my palm, was “I see you are a writer…” Holy telepathy, Batman! Get out of my head!

He followed with “…but you never write for yourself anymore. Only for others. Your writing is out of balance. If you find the time to write for you, the other writing will improve.” Cut to me falling out of my chair. (From shock. Not from booze. I know you were thinking it.)

Of all the things he said to me during my 15-minute palm reading, this stayed with me the most. And whether or not he can see into the future or can read into my soul via my palm, he was onto something. I never write for “me” anymore.

15-year-old me understood the balance: Finish your book report, and then spill your guts to your diary about that “B,” Stephanie, who tried to tell you that your perm looked like fried crap.

20-year-old me understood the balance: Finish your article for the college paper, and then blog about the importance of finding a mini skirt that does double-duty in hiding my new-found pizza gut.

Even 25-year-old me in journalism school understood the balance as I updated my MySpace status with deeply introspective thoughts on the new Rihanna single.

So why doesn’t 3[number deleted] -year-old me understand the balance? All work and no play makes Mandy dull.

So my advice to you, and to myself, is to make as much time for the fun, personal writing as you do for the clients.

Clients are wonderful. They pay the bills, but don’t let them have ALL of your creativity. Reserve some for yourself! Whether you blog beautiful advice to others, or scribble dirty limericks onto Post-it notes, don’t forget why we got into this mess in the first place – because before the clients came along, you simply loved to write. Cheers to that! *hic*


Amanda Smyth Connor is a social media manager for a major publishing company and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies.  She has been a professional writer/editor for more years than she can remember. You can find her at the bar, where most writers do their best work. 




Chaos Theory

FractalAbout two weeks ago, I had a bolt of inspiration…or maybe it was lunacy. By this I mean turn my household (including my home office) upside down and reconfigure the way I utilize my work and living space. Not that it wasn’t perfectly functional,  it just didn’t make sense anymore.

It all began last December when my son Will completed his academic curriculum and entered the home stretch toward graduation in May. He already had a full-time job, and since he no longer needed to spend school nights at his dad’s to be closer to campus, I suggested that he come to live with me in my spacious, two-bedroom apartment.  At the time, the logical choice seemed to be that I would incorporate my home office into the larger master bedroom, and he would occupy the smaller bedroom.

At first, I liked the convenience of my integrated office and personal space, but over time, as my son and I got comfortable in our daily rhythms and routines, it became clear that we were both cramped in too-small spaces, while an absolutely lovely 150 square-foot living room went virtually unused. It’s decorated in a Japanese motif, with shoji screens framing a sliding-glass door that opens onto a balcony overlooking a wooded ravine with a creek running through it. Truth be told, I’ve fantasized about making it my personal space since the day I moved into this place eight years ago, especially since I don’t do much entertaining at home.

So…in that moment of inspiration / lunacy, I decided it was time to deconstruct my world. I had no trouble enlisting Will in the process, and the following Saturday, we set about the task of relocating every object we own: clothing, furniture, artwork, books, office supplies, computers, televisions, appliances…absolutely everything. Of course, this would mean living (and working) in chaos for a couple of weeks until all was put to rights; but it seemed a small price to pay for the reward of more spacious living for us both.

The following morning, when I awoke amid a sea of boxes and dislocated furniture in what used to be my living room, my first thought: “Good Lord!…what was I thinking?” As a Type-A personality, chaos makes me cranky, even if I’m the one who created it. But if there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I’m a firm believer in the divide-and-conquer method of task completion. My motto: I can’t do everything, but I can do one thing. And that’s what I’m doing…tackling the chaos one tiny task at a time until my well-ordered world once again approaches an entropy of zero.

CelesteHeiterFZBioCeleste Heiter is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine, the creator of the LoveBites Cookbook Series for Kindle Fire, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children. She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press; and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema .

Visit her website, and her Amazon Author Page.

10 Unique Christmas Gifts for Writers

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.


This week, Catherine embraced the Christmas Spirit of Marketing (yes, Virginia, apparently holiday goodwill can be harnessed to help you market your writing!), and I, too, must get my ho-ho-ho on.

(Yeah, I’ll wait while you realize that didn’t sound right….  )

Today, I bring you 10 gifties for you and your writer friends.  May the delight of giving lead to milk, cookies, and a  Grinch-y ”heart that grows three sizes that day.” 

#10  Punctuation Saves Lives

I think we know this deserves a t-shirt.  Why, look at that!  A t-shirt perfect for gift giving.

punctuation saves lives

This shirt is yours for $15.99 over at Cafe Press.

#9  Going Straight to Hell

Some clients, some projects—they’re hell.  Just sayin’.  Why not get a passport to make your trip easier, something that doubles as a journal for these trying times? 

Yes?  Hells, yes!

Hell Passport

Travel instructions included.  Just $2.95 at The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild.  Wild site.  Fabulous gifts.

#8  Everything is Better if It Looks Like a Book

I sob at the practical nostalgia of BookBook, a case/wallet for your iPhone.

Book Book for Iphone

I found it at that gift-giving-extravaganza that is Amazon, just $59.95 for iPhone 4 & 4 S, same for the new Iphone 5.  Suddenly you’re not working, you’re spending quality time with books.  Totally different.

#7  Old Book Smell

Many of us fell in love with writing as a child, in a dark musty library (one of the 2,509grand structures built by the Carnegies, no doubt, where the motto “let there be light” made every reader feel heroic).

If you miss that good ol’ musty book smell, good news, you can buy it and successfully make the transition to electronic books smell intact.

Smell of Books

Smell of Books offer Classic Musty and New Book Smell for $9.99 each.

But be careful.

Please use in well ventilated area.

May cause dizziness and hallucinations. May cause itching and runny nose.

If symptoms persist for longer than eight weeks please consult your physician.

Not for use on “real” books.

Do not use while riding public transportation.

Discard empty container with hazardous waste.

Not for use as a room deodorizer.

Not for use on burning books.

Do not use on a Zune.

Keep away from the Kindle Fire!

(Plus, it’s not a real product. But the hilarity of this site alone should inspire you to pen your own faux site as a Christmas gift to those you love.  Or even customers and readers.  Everyone needs a good laugh for Christmas.)

#6  Paint a White Board on Your Wall

IdeaPaint is proof science makes the world a better place. Proof, I say!


It comes in clear, white, and black.  Enough to cover 50 sq. ft. is $225.00; 100 sq. ft. is on sale for $315.00 (for clear).

I found this goodness at an equally awesome site called Idearella: Creating Glass Slipper Ideas in a Wicked Stepsister World. Their 2010 list of Christmas Gifts is super-awesome-sauce.


clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

3 Massive Goals for Writers (Move Over NaNoWriMo): Part 2

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

Thousands of writers around the world are taking on National Novel Writing Month (November), where you write an entire novel in a month.

It’s one massive goal.  It’ll shake you up and jumpstart your creativity and your career. 

Well, I’ve got 3 other massive goals that could be just as epic. If NaNo isn’t your thang, check out one of these.

Last week I encouraged you to Create a Writer’s Manifesto.  This week? Your massive goal is to go head-to-head with Leonardo De Vinci, the Big Guy.


.Josh Mings, over at SolidSmack, wrote about the awesomeness that is Leonardo De Vinci’s resume.  Apparently the Big Guy actually had to write up his skills and sell his ideas and abilities to his royal patrons.

In other words, he had to first get hired.


So, here’s this week’s Big Massive Goal.  Write a resume as if you are the Leo De Vinci of your field.  Feature the skills, ideas, and abilities you WILL have once you reach that status.

Leo didn’t start off a

  • painter,
  • sculptor,
  • architect,
  • musician,
  • scientist,
  • mathematician,
  • engineer,
  • inventor,
  • anatomist,
  • geologist,
  • cartographer,
  • botanist, and
  • writer.

He had to gain those skills and master them first.  So project yourself into your own future. 

What does your resume look like AFTER you’ve mastered all the skills you need to be a living legend?

What are your skills, traits, abilities, ideas, influences, moments of genius, hidden accomplishments, strokes of brilliance, and shining moments?

What would your writing life look like if it were so “out there,” so stratospheric, that it was studied by students of writing for the next 500 years?

Write that.

And then make it true.


clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

3 Massive Goals for Writers (Move Over NaNoWriMo)

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto.

Sometimes you need a massive goal, the kind that requires heroics and gives your life meaning. The kind that kickstarts your efforts and launches you to victory with immediate results.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where you write a 50,000-word book in one month.


Polished?  Er, no. 

A messy first draft?  Hells yes.

In honor of this prime example of Massive Goal-ness, I bring you 3 equally massive goals you might not have considered… but you should!

1. Create a Writer’s Manifesto

Why?  It’s a rallying cry for your career, your passion, and your intent to succeed.

I first became aware of the awesomeness of modern manifestos when I read Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Non Conformity website

This, I thought, is what life can be like.  This is the power of words.

He’s added a second manifesto, and you can read them both here:

Want to read more about creating a manifesto?  Read these articles:

And check out Jeff Goin’s e-book: The Writers Manifesto.


clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

Multi-Tasking with MS Outlook

FZOutlookI tend to multi-task. And since I work from a home office, this often means that while I’m writing a book or working on a large publication layout project, I’m also doing laundry, prepping meals, and tending to the everyday needs of my freelance clients. How is this possible?…Microsoft Outlook.

While many of you probably think of Outlook primarily as an e-mail client, I use it as a task manager and the hub of both my freelance work and household activities. In addition to its function as an e-mail program, Outlook has several nifty little features, including a calendar, pop-up reminders, and a task manager, which help me run my blended business and household like a Swiss watch.

I use the calendar to schedule appointments and deadlines, as well as recurring events such as holidays, daylight savings time, birthdays, and anniversaries. I also use it to schedule smaller events, such as taking vitamins and medications, recording television programs, watering plants, and keeping up with my son’s academic and social schedule. Each time I schedule an event, I create a pop-up reminder that can be customized to notify me anywhere from one minute, to days or weeks in advance. There’s even a *snooze* function that allows me to postpone or procrastinate if needed.

My favorite Outlook feature is its To-Do Bar. This customizable list-making device sits just to the right of my e-mail window; its width can be sized according to the screen space; and it’s divided into six sections: Today…Tomorrow…This Week…Next Week…Next Month…and Later. On it I can jot down a quick note to make a phone call, create a small errand/shopping list, schedule a recreational outing, or make a list of goals for the day. And much like the calendar, I can also note future tasks or events. Tasks may be color-coded for organizing and prioritizing; and the drag-and-drop feature allows me reshuffle the tasks on the list, or move leftover tasks forward to another day. Best of all, Outlook’s To-Do Bar has almost eliminated my need for Post-It Notes.

Outlook has become such an integral part of my daily life that I also use it to compose drafts of all my writing. To begin a blog, article, or even a book, I open up a new e-mail document and use it like a word processing program. If I need to take a break, I can close the document and store it in my Inbox or in a separate e-mail folder for that specific project. I create all my research notes, outlines, timelines, and drafts as e-mails in Outlook, and I send myself a copy of the e-mail to leave on the server for safekeeping. Once I’m done with the project, I create a permanent document in MS Word and save it to my hard drive and back-up drive.

No doubt, there is an array of similar programs out there for both PC and Mac that will function in much the same way, but for my purposes, Outlook has everything I need in one facile suite. It’s the first program I open in the morning…and the last one I shut down at night. I’d be lost without it.

Celeste Heiter is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine (, the creator of the LoveBites cookbook series for Kindle Fire (, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children ( She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press (; and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema (

Visit her website (, and her Amazon Author Page (