Book Review: Barred Justice by John Oliver Green

What leads a person to find himself involved with criminals and facing jail time? How do we fall down that slippery slope of befriending someone, and then ending in deeper than we planned? These are the tyoes of questions that Barred Justice asks. And the answers may be a bit more uncomfortable than you might think.

Like a lot of people, author John Oliver Green finds himself in trouble with the law without quite realizing it at first. As a friend of a man who seems, from the outside, to be a decent human being — one who’d been in trouble in his early years but claimed to have left that old life behind — Green very understandably finds himself accepting what, in retrospect, are clearly bad decisions for the sake of friendship. As he puts it, “I had given Bob the benefit of the doubt. Looking back, I think I did this because I liked the guy. Naive? Yes, but I trusted him.”

Green’s friend turns out to be smuggling drugs, and naturally, involved in the dicey financial choices that come with taking money for illegal activities.

It’s easy enough to imagine anyone thinking the best of a friend, only to find ourselves discovering later that all was not what it seemed. What’s harder to relate to is Green’s repeated insistence that he thought it was okay to continue doing what he was doing when clearly he should have walked away sooner. As a reader, I found myself frustrated with his choices, though also aware that in similar situations, it’s all too easy for anyone to do the same thing — making excuses, pretending to ourselves that are choices are okay. A slippery slope, indeed.

The story itself remains compelling, in part because of the deep look it takes at the aftermath of a drug-related plane crash, deaths, and all the legal investigations that entangle Green afterward. At times, the book is a true page-turner, which makes up for the areas where it probably could have benefitted from one more editing pass to remove extraneous or repeated ideas. Either way, you’ll likely find yourself feeling grateful you’ve never found yourself in Green’s shows.

Barred Justice is an ideal read for those who enjoy a good crime story, who like flawed characters (real people — this is a memoir, after all). 

Book Review: What Stories Are You Living? by Carol S. Pearson

As a person who writes and edits stories for a living, I’m always looking for books and other resources that draw on storytelling techniques to broaden my perspective of work and my world. So when I got the opportunity to read What Stories Are You Living? by Carol S. Pearson, I jumped on it.

Full disclosure here for those wondering: What Stories Are You Living? is not strictly a book on the writing process. It’s more of a self-help psychology book, designed to equip the reader to live their best life. But like all books that delve into personalities and our psyche, Pearson’s book examines why we do what we do, who we are, and how this impacts our world. What more could you want from a book that inspires you to write better fiction with truer characters?

What Stories Are You Living? Discover Your Archetypes - Transform Your Life by Carol S. Pearson - a book review

Like many self-help psychology books, What Stories Are You Living? begins with an expanded list of Jungian personality archetypes, along with a test — the Pearson-Marr Archetype Instrument (PMAI). The test results reveal which of 12 archetypes you’re most like right now, and which you’re least like. You’ll get a sense of where you fall on the spectrum for all 12 archetypes —Idealist, Realist, Warrior, Caregiver, Seeker, Lover, Revolutionary, Creator, etc.

What I love most about this approach — whether you’re using it for storytelling or for understanding yourself better — is that the PMAI test reminds you that you’re all these things, all 12 archetypes. It’s just that at some points in your life, you’re more like one type than another. And you can use this knowledge of what’s happening in your life right now to figure out what to do next. And you can leverage that to create a sense of purpose that impacts the world. Much like the mythical hero’s journey as envisioned by Joseph Campbell, Pearson envisions these personality types as vital to our own personal hero’s journey in life. It’s a nice mix.

“The more you identify as a hero who forges your own path,” Pearson explains, “the more you will recognize the contribution you can make is uniquely your own and is needed by the world.” In this and other passages, she makes it clear that learning your archetypes sets you on a path of giving back as much as it gives you insight into yourself.

In addition to providing a way to learn about yourself and gaining deeper awareness of your purpose in life, What Stories Are You Living? will be of benefit to writers of fiction as a supplement to resources like The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. The archetypes can be used to help enrich the characters in a novel, an added bonus that Pearson may not have had in mind but that would be supremely beneficial.

That’s what I like most about it for the writers I coach and edit. This book comes in handy in understanding how characters in a story can relate to one another and the overall plot. And if it helps you understand yourself and set yourself up for success in real life too — all the better.

4 Tips for Staying Productive During the Holiday Rush

Are you looking at your to-do list right now… and your calendar… and wondering how in the world you are going to get everything done by the end of the year?

I know I am. And if you’re like me, you’re not just thinking through your personal to-dos like holiday cards and parties. You’re also trying to juggle your business responsibilities, especially if you’re a small business owner, solopreneur, or a side-hustler — because when you’re working for yourself in some capacity, the responsibility to hit deadlines and deliver is all on you. You’ve got to get it done, no matter what it takes, because there is no one else to step in to do it for you.

Well, I can certainly relate to that feeling. And while I don’t usually mind the pressure — after all, that’s why I thrive as a solopreneur — I also know we need to make our lives manageable, especially during the added pressure and expectations of the holiday season. So, with that in mind, I offer you 4 tips to help you stay productive between now and January 1.

  1. Make a plan.
    This doesn’t have to be a detailed, perfect, unbreakable plan. In fact, it’s probably best if you maintain a roughed out plan, maybe in pencil so you can erase and readjust without too much painimg_29961.jpg. The key is to be realistic about how long it’s going to take you to do something, factor that into your planning, and do your best.

    Example: You see that photo of my calendar for today? It’s got a rough plan with not much on it right now, except for some deadlines and hard plans. The To-Do list to the left is a list of things I need to get done in general. I’ll pull some items off that list to do today — probably a few client articles, and some personal errands over a long lunch.

  2. Start earlier than you need to.
    Many of us have the tendency to procrastinate. It’s an even greater temptation when you’re your own boss, because no one can stop you from leaving your desk to go do laundry or take an hour to read a book. If you start projects earlier than you need to, you’ll be ahead of the game, which is key to managing a busy schedule. It’s actually how you free up time for yourself, to be honest.

    You can start earlier in several ways — by starting your work day a little earlier, spending a little less down time at lunch, working a little later, or working on the project a day or two earlier than you think you need to. When you fail to start early enough, you can end up miserable.

    Example: Failing to plan enough time for things can get you in the situation of having to do what I did this past weekend. I worked super late Friday night to meet a deadline I would have met easier if I’d started working on the project just one day earlier. And I worked over the weekend on articles I could also have finished earlier in the week. I was exhausted. I got sick. Procrastinating wasn’t worth the pain.

  3. Be prepared for the crazy to happen.
    Even if you’re a good planner, disciplined, careful, you’ll still face something absolutely nuts at times that throws off your schedule. Small business owners, solopreneurs, and freelancers are especially vulnerable to this kind of disruption, so you should pad your schedule to account for it.

    Example: I have three indoor cats that normally get along pretty calmly. And on nice days, I open the glass sliding door to expose the screen door, giving them and me some fresh air while I work. And this also normally works great.

    Here are two of the culprits, faking their innocence.

    Except for the day last week when a strange cat came onto the back deck, violating cat rules of territory. Because my cats couldn’t get outside to chase the stranger away, they attacked each other instead, and I suddenly had the mother of all cat fights skidding across the floor.

    Three hours later, I had isolated the cats so they could calm down, bought some Feliway and calming cat treats, tried to soothe them individually…and missed both the rest time I’d planned for that afternoon, as well as the two hours of client reading I’d planned.

    STUFF LIKE THIS HAPPENS when you work for yourself. You better expect it to happen, when you least expect it, of course. You’ll laugh about it later, probably, but when it happens, you just have to roll with the punches.

  4. Spend time on yourself.
    It is all too easy to get lost in the to-do list and deadlines, especially when the holidays are approaching and you have added things to care for — such as gift buying, visitors to make room for, relatives coming for dinner, and more. Don’t neglect caring for yourself as well. Getting enough sleep, taking a break from work to walk or stretch or hit the gym, journaling, reading a good book, having a leisurely lunch with a friend — activities like these recharge your battery and give you more energy and creativity, which you can take back to your work or to-do list. These two things — hard work and rest time — go hand in hand in ramping up your productivity. You need to do both. Don’t neglect one for the other.

    Example: After my overly full weekend, I gave myself permission to rest on Monday. Of course, I wasn’t feeling well either, so that also fed into my decision. But I gave myself permission to not feel well, and thus not be as productive as I normally hope to be. I read a lot, I napped, I sipped tea, and I didn’t expect to get any client work done. It was glorious, and much needed.

Do you have any favorite tips and tricks for staying productive during the holidays, or any other time of the year? Please share in the comments, so I can learn from you.

And don’t forget to follow this blog for more tips on productivity and other ways to be successful as a small business owner or solopreneur, or contact me anytime you want some help with writing, editing, or coaching to help you boost your business success.


The Pull of What You Really Love

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi

blog picI have been thinking about this concept: that it is good to know and to pursue what we truly love. As a writer, I love writing because it is beauty in the making, taking shape as I create it. I enjoy editing because it refines what is rough and turns it into a pleasing form. I even enjoy proofreading, because it corrects tiny wrongs and allows you to see what is right more clearly.

But this quote from Rumi is about more than just writing. What are the things we really love? As we identify these things, we are naming who I\we truly are as people. We are delving into the depths of self and drawing on what is there to make our whole life an act of positive creation.

This is not an easy pursuit. Delving into the self can be scary. We may not always be thrilled with what we see. But sometimes, we can be surprised by glory too. Only by following the pull of what we really love, no matter the strange paths it takes us on, can we be our true selves.

That’s a lesson for writers, for sure. Who we are as artists is going to end up in our art. There is no avoiding it.

But it’s also a lesson for whoever we are and whatever we do. As we take time to etch out a mental picture of what we love, what pulls on us, what paths we feel drawn toward, we can help ourselves to make choices that lead us to the goals we are aiming to accomplish. It helps us to let go of the activities that really don’t serve us, and give more time to the things that matter most to us.

The lesson: Even if you’re having a busy day or staring down a long to-do list, take a few minutes to breathe, remind yourself of your biggest goal in life — your one true thing — and choose to find a way to pursue that goal today. Even if you only do it for five minutes. It’s how you get to where you want to go.

Keeping Resolutions…at Any Time of Year

It’s not easy keeping resolutions. Turning those goals into actual results… Well, that can be tough. But there are some things that can help.

  1. Be specific. You’ve heard this before, because it’s true. It is much easier to aim toward something and actually take action if you’re specific about it. For writing, this might mean deciding not just to “write more,” but to write “one piece a month.” For business owners, this might mean adding one additional hour to your cold call marketing. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, define a specific step you can take to work towards it.
  2. Create a habit. To make your goals come to pass, you’ve got to keep with it. That means you need to keep it up past the discomfort point, until what you’re doing feels good, natural, necessary. I had to push through many weeks of not wanting to go to the gym but going anyway. Now I am uncomfortable if I don’t go to the gym. That’s how you make a habit. It’s hard work, and it takes discipline to push through the times you want to quit or procrastinate. Do the hard work. It’s worth it.
  3. Keep a log. That could be a journal. A quick note in your phone. Whatever. But there’s something about writing things down and keeping track that helps you keep up a habit. You can do this with all sorts of tasks and goals. And no matter how small it may seem, give a little attention to that accomplishment by writing it down. It’ll make you feel successful, which is a key to helping yourself move forward. And you can pull out that log anytime you need to encourage yourself to keep going.
  4. Be accountable. This is like keeping a log, only you get another person involved. This is particularly helpful when you have an honest, loving person who will tell you kindly when you’re getting off track. And also, choose someone who will genuinely enjoy hearing about it when you stay on track and have success. You don’t need frenemies. You need partners, coaches, buddies, mentors.
  5. Put something on the line. It can be money. It might be a massage or pedicure (two of my favorite things). A trip to a movie you’d like to see. An ice cream cone. Just because we’re adults, it doesn’t mean a little reward is a bad thing. Indulge the kid in you with a promise that your success matters because it will get you something. Or, if you’re wired this way, plan to “lose” something if you don’t succeed. (No coffee for a week, money to charity instead of to that new laptop you want, no chocolate cake tonight, that kind of thing.)
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