Freelance Fridays: Spring Cleaning the Home Office, Part 2

All right, so you’ve got your music, your coffee break, and at least one already-clean surface somewhere in your house, so today isn’t a total loss. Now comes the fun part: climbing Mount Paperwork. Start with several empty boxes or bins for sorting everything into piles.

Freelance Fridays: Coffee
Drink up freelancers, it’s Friday!

Depending on the amount of work you need to finish, I suggest the following categories:

1. Old receipts and banking information. These can go directly into your existing storage system. Banking information for accounts you’ve already entered into your accounting software can go here as well.

2. Paperwork that belongs in existing files. Just make a stack for now. You’ll sort out the contents for individual files once the rest of this is out of your way.

3. Paperwork for which new files must be made. Set these items aside until you have a chance to dig out your trusty LabelMaker.

4. Receipts for the current year. File if you’ve already entered them in your accounting system, or put them in a labeled folder to work with later.

5. Unpaid bills. This category also includes forms, and miscellaneous business items you need to deal with. You should already have an inbox of some kind. Stash it all there.

6. Stuff you can throw away. Include old catalogs, industry publications, junk mail misprinted documents, information on past events, and any other items you no longer need to keep.

Pick up every piece of paper on your desk and on the floor and put it into one of those boxes. Don’t get distracted reading everything; for now, the goal is to get a paperwork-free surface in the office and the trash out of your way. Throw away old envelopes, newspapers, advertising, dried-out pens, and anything else that does not need to stay in your office or your files.

Once the floor is clean and your trash pile is gone, sort through the remaining piles, one by one. Start with the items that need to be filed in existing spaces. Pull the appropriate file folders and stash each of those items. For the remaining items, sort by category, place in new, clean file folders, label, and put away.

Now for the actual cleaning part. Your goal for today is to get the office clutter and dirt under control.

Dust any open shelves. Remember to clean off photo frames and any decorative knickknacks. Wipe the dust off your light fixtures and replace any burned-out bulbs.

Using t

he edge attachment, vacuum corners. Check for cobwebs. Vacuum the open floor.

If you have blinds or curtains, now is the time to scrub them.

Go through your supplies and make a shopping list. on my last run I stocked up on Ink, binder clips and envelopes, among other supplies.

Pick up a can of compressed air and blow out your keyboard. Find an electronics-safe cloth and wipe down your monitor.

Vacuum or wipe down your office chair.

Using an alcohol-based spray to kill germs, wipe down your desk area and all the items you frequently touch, such as your phone, doorknob, and mouse.

There! Your office is clean, tidy, and ready for a new paperwork avalanche! Happy spring!

KateI’m blogging my way through my first novel in 2016. Subscribe to the RSS feed on the home page or find me on Facebook for new updates!

Writers Wednesday: Writing What You Know, Or Not

If you’ve been following along for a little while, you may recall that I’ve committed to drafting my first novel this year. Surprisingly, making the leap to fiction after years of academic and journalistic writing requires letting the fundamentals go. In journalism, you write what you know. What you know is what you can verify. Crossing the line into reporting things you don’t know is precisely what gets you into professional difficulties.

The same is true in research. You report what you can back up with sources and original work.

Fiction, however, is by definition not reality. Fiction is all about what could be, what might be, not what is. Why, then, are budding fiction writers still told to “write what you know” so often?

In The Atlantic, Bret Anthony Johnston posited that following the “write what you know” mantra limited creativity instead of encouraging it.

“Part of me dies inside when a student whose story has been critiqued responds to the workshop by saying, ‘You can’t object to the _________ scene,'” Johnston wrote. “‘It really happened! I was there!’ The writer is giving preference to the facts of an experience, the so-called literal truth, rather than fiction’s narrative and emotional integrity.”

In other words, take “write what you know” too literally, and you might come up with a prize-winning article, but you probably won’t be crafting a fictional masterpiece, considering the whole point of storytelling is to escape real-world constraints. Of course, I am one who banishes countless story ideas to the dustbin for lack of relevant earthly experience. More confident writers may feel comfortable bulldozing ahead despite this kind of advice.

So does that mean you shouldn’t know what you’re talking about? Hardly. Johnston suggested writers should use their knowledge and experiences as inspiration sources. The goal is to infuse storytelling with elements of familiarity and believability, not to restrict authors to narrating curated versions of their own lives. That’s memoir, not fiction. Nanci Panuccio at Emerging Writers Studio takes this concept a step further, calling it “your emotional truth . . . tapping into the things that deeply matter to you. Your pain, humiliation, frustrations, fears, obsessions and confusions. It’s your spin on the world and all that you are.”

But what do we know? How much do we know? And do we know anything that is inherently interesting or valuable?

Here, I’ve identified five types of knowledge to guide your fictional trajectory.

1. We know what we have experienced.

2. We know what we feel.

3. We know what we have been taught.

4. We know what we have researched.

5. We know what we can imagine.

Every time you draft a story, all of your unique knowledge is there in the room with you. It’s a starting point, not an end game.


I’m blogging my way through my first novel in 2016. Subscribe to the RSS feed on the home page or find me on Facebook for new updates!

Freelance Fridays: Spring Cleaning the Home Office, Part 1

Now that the tax season rush is mostly over, Project Locate My Office Floor is commencing. Neatnik, I am not, but at some point, I am going to have to get to my chair. Employees like to get paid, as it turns out, so  I really must unbury my checkbook before they show up with pitchforks and moldy tomatoes.

Maintaining a functional workspace is one of those annoying but necessary chores that for easily bored people like me requires gearing up every so often, preferably armed with loud music and a boost of sugary caffeine. Spring cleaning the home office enables me to get a fresh start on the new tax year as I finally put last year’s sky-high stacks of receipts and forms to bed.

As highly as I recommend regularly dosing your keyboard with compressed air and de-germing every visible surface with those little alcohol wipes, today’s post is for the rest of us, the busy, creative clutterbugs currently plopped in the center of about a square foot of bare floor space, wishing we could be doing anything else. Seriously, I’d even reconsider my stance on skydiving right now, and I hate plummeting to my doom and crunching all my bones up into human soup. But, no, we’ve got to do this organizational crap, and I know it sucks, but bear with me for a little while.

Step 1: Load the dishwasher
Quit looking at me like that! Get your dishes off the counter, throw a load of laundry in the machine, or feed the dog. The goal is to hide at least some of the other clutter in your house and get at least one quick, simple chore that mostly does itself out of the way. Also, hungry dogs are hugely distracting. You won’t be able to use your messy kitchen or your laundry stacks as an excuse to get out of cleaning the office if you’ve already started tackling those things, and seeing one newly clean surface helps get you into the proper cleaning mode.

Step 2: Make coffee
You can have tea, if that is your thing. Cocoa is also acceptable. Basically, any sort of drink that you routinely enjoy that gets you energized and excited about your day is what you want here.  Sip slowly and happily for at least five to 10 minutes. No chugging. This isn’t a frat house, although it might look like one.

Step 3: Pick your soundtrack
No sitting for hours creating playlists. I’m on to you. Turn on the radio, find your favorite channel. Stay off YouTube and quit pretending you’re searching for music videos; watching adorable kittens isn’t going to get your office any cleaner.

What will? Find out next Friday when we continue with Part 2. Happy scrubbing!


I’m blogging my way through my first novel in 2016. Subscribe to the RSS feed on the home page or find me on Facebook for new updates!

Writers Wednesday: The Confidence Game


I had a total breakdown last week.

My other half and I had gotten into it over my stereotypically millennial quandary: what to do with myself when I grow up. Somewhere in the midst of our battle-turned-pep talk, he dropped this bit of unexpected advice: “You should be more like Donald Trump.”

He didn’t mean politics.  Successful people, he argued, project an aura of self-confidence and asserted competency, both to themselves and to others, even (especially?) in the moments when they are, objectively, at their weakest and least qualified. Someone like Trump keeps rising in the polls because of his bravado and braggadocio rather than despite it. It’s essentially the same methodology pickup artists use to attract women.

red pen and ink
It’s Wednesday, writers! You know what that means.

This “fake it till you make it” approach does not come naturally to me, or as it turns out, to many women. Indeed, even when we’ve legitimately earned our successes, we remain vulnerable to the ravages of impostor syndrome, the persistent belief that despite our accomplishments, we do not deserve our place at the table. Men struggle with this as well; a 2015 study concluded that most of the population now battles perfectionism, feelings of incompetence, and fear of success. 

The inability to recognize their own accomplishments is holding people back, because they cannot muster the courage to fully pursue their goals. If you cannot convince yourself that you are capable, it will be that much more difficult to convince others to take a chance on you. Since capability itself is developed through practice, avoiding new things for fear of failure limits your growth potential.

The caveat, of course, is that arrogance is no substitute for competence. Style must be backed by substance. A little well-placed bluster, however, just might get the door cracked for you. It’s up to you to finish walking through.


Have you suffered from a severe lack of self-confidence? How did you overcome it?