On Writing

Positive Thoughts for Writers #amwriting #quotes

Despite being home sick today (on another round of antibiotics with a trip to the asthma doctor scheduled for tomorrow), I very much remain focused on the important things. I find it exciting to purposefully shed things that have taken my time and energy without providing benefit (and in some cases causing harm).

One of these things is writing. For me, I love the fact that writing can be hard. Challenges give me energy and drive. If writing were always easy, I would probably get bored. Most of my writing friends feel the same way. That being said, sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes we spend too much time worrying about what people will think and it slows us down. Today I gathered some of my favorite quotes and images to inspire me – to give me that second wind and push me toward the finish line. I hope it inspires you, too.

writerboat
via WriterStat

twitter @WrtrStat

vkvjlp1gI went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. ― Erica Jong via Writers Digest

“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” ― Flannery O’Connor via Goodreads

tattoo
via Guff

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” ― George Orwell via Goodreads

audacity
via Positive Writer

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” ― Stephen King via Goodreads

“Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.” ― Truman Capote via Writers Digest

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ― Anaïs Nin via  annepeterson.com and Positive Writer

Random Thoughts

New Site Design #amwriting #blogging

thefaulknerportableI got some good advice from my friend Tess after my blog post yesterday. If I really want to shake off the negativity, I need to lighten up. Not just my content, but also my site design. I agree!! I’ve had that old design for a long time and really liked the idea of making a change. I had a lot of fun selecting just the right colors and fonts and layouts. I think the end result is bright and happy. I hope you like it, too.

In addition to a new look and feel, I made some changes to make navigating the site easier. On the main page, I ditched the boring Categories section and added an Archive by date and a Category Cloud instead. I moved the Creative Commons License to the footer, so it’s still on every page, but isn’t taking up space on the side bar.

My favorite addition, however, is content I’m starting to add to provide additional value for my readers. On the side bar, I’ve created a couple of lists for links – kind of like a custom blogroll. I follow around 600 blogs, so I thought I’d use some space to introduce my readers to some of my favorites. While I’ll likely keep a couple of links static, I really like the idea of rotating the list to highlight different blogs, and especially to give some newer blogs a little attention.

In addition to the links, I’m adding resource pages (where I may put some more permanent references to some of the top blogs in each of my industries. So far, I’ve added a resources page for Agile, and plan to add pages for Writing and User Experience, too. I’ll see how that goes and decide if everything still works together or if I need to think about creating more than one blog (one for writing and one for technology).

I hope you enjoy the changes and additions. I’m certainly open to comments and suggestions, too, so please feel free to send them my way!

On Writing, Random Thoughts, Spiritual

Goodbye Negativity – I don’t have room for you in my world #amwriting #ampraying

I woke up this morning in Atlanta with the same awful headache that plagued me the entire DevNexus conference. Despite having looked forward to today’s Atlanta Writing Workshop for many weeks, I made the decision to just come home. Disappointed and cranky, I found a seat at breakfast as far from other humans as possible and stared at my phone, in case anyone thought to, I don’t know, make eye contact or something.

As I made the rounds on the social media sites, I found myself moving from cranky to irritated to angry, which has become a too-familiar pattern in these months since the election. I wandered around until I landed at the @realdonaldtrump Twitter account. Spiking my mood, I retweeted some snarky thing to no audience in particular – I guess so I’d feel like I have at least some kind of voice in this surreal new world – but instead of making me feel empowered, I felt even more deflated. I looked back over my Tweets for the past several weeks and realized all the emotion, all of the anger and fear and disappointment and confusion, had made its way onto my page.

My husband likes to say that anything that does not provide value and add something to your day should be cut out of your life. He’s much better than I am about cutting things (subjects, people, whatever)  completely from his world. Not that he isn’t interested or engaged in all this Trump-craziness – we both have to be, as so much of what has transpired so far has impacted our professional lives directly in one way or another – but he doesn’t get as emotionally invested as I do. He sent his strongly-worded letter to Senator Graham; whereas, I write the letter, make the phone call, attend the town hall, Tweet about it, etc..

Today I think I reached my threshold. Between the news stories and the posts on Facebook and the Tweets, I feel like I’m drowning in Trump – suffocated by his narcissism, ignorance, bullying, and ugliness. Strangled by every word I hear about what he’s said or done today or what his minions have said or done. Making things worse are all the fights I’m witnessing on social media between my friends on the Trump Train and my friends wringing their hands in delight at the thought of derailment.

My dear friend Tess gave up on Twitter a few weeks ago. I don’t think I want to give up Twitter completely because I very much enjoy the socializing with my fellow writers and readers, but I knew before I left that breakfast table that I needed to find a way, somehow, to remove the negativity from my world. I want to do it, however, without sticking my head into the ground. I still need to be engaged serve as an advocate and defender. Surely there is a healthier option.

As I started the drive back to Columbia, I looked at the next book in queue in Audiobooks – Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer by Pricilla Shirer. Really? When I’m wallowed down deep in pissy attitude? I literally rolled my eyes. At God. I knew I was supposed to listen to it whether I wanted to or not. As I pulled out of the parking garage, I took a reluctant swipe at play, determined to not enjoy it.

Strategy 1 – Your Passion – Getting It Back When It’s Gone. I realized my morning bible time had all but disappeared, replaced by my morning ritual of “catching up on the news” before and after work each day. When was the last time I had some Bible time? It had gone the way of my writing and running and other things I’d been passionate about. WTH?

Strategy 2 – Your Focus – Fighting the Real Enemy. Have I been putting all  my time and energy into fighting the wrong battles? Worrying about things I can’t change and ignoring the tools at my disposal that could truly make a difference?

Strategy 3 – Your Identity – Remembering Who You Are. At 45, I have reached a point in my life where most superficial things don’t really bother me much. I realized listening to this, however, that I was still really shaken by how “less than my best” my conference presentation was, especially in comparison with my colleague Doc Norton‘s presentation on a similar topic. Two thoughts. 1) Had my passion and focus here, for my work, been impacted, too? 2) Is there any person on the planet who isn’t at least a little insecure?

Strategy 4 – Your Family – Fortifying the Lives of Those You Love. Oh my family – a constant source of joy and worry. I don’t care how old your children get, you never stop worrying about them. And the grandkids, my little treasures, when was the last time I wrote each name in my prayer book and prayed for them as individuals?

Strategy 5 – Your Past – Ending the Reign of Guilt, Shame, and Regret. Every time I think I’ve accepted God’s forgiveness (and forgiven myself) for the many sins in my past, BAM!! out of the shadows comes some reminder. This is another area where my energy is often misdirected–when I should pray fervently and pity those people who would seek to hurt me rather than be irritated or angry.

Strategy 6 – Your Fears – Confronting Your Worries, Claiming Your Calling. All of the strategies struck me, but this one perhaps most. I am the Queen of procrastination and most of the time, it’s easy to point to why. I did it with my conference presentation. DevNexus is a really really technical conference. I’m an English major, not a computer engineer. Even being an application development manager and understanding (most) of every session I attended, I still worry every time I present there. I do the same thing with my writing. I’ll do anything BUT write the closer I get to the completion of a project.

I still have Strategies 7 through 10 to go, but I’m not stupid. I got the message loud and clear on why God wanted me to read this book. And why now. I have spent way too much time and focus on the things that not only add no value, they just make me angry or sad. And every time I retweet with some snarky response, it not only brings me down, it spreads the fever to all my readers. That’s not fair to them. That’s not why I keep a Twitter account in the first place.

So, my first strategy to implement is reorganizing my schedule and focus to spend my time and energy on what’s most important. Clearly I need to lay off the political posts, never look at Trump’s Twitter, and make my first activity every day my bible time. I need to be praying for the president, not trolling him.

It is also time to stop researching my books and finish writing them. I have more than enough material and continuing to read about things like neglected foster children and heroin overdoses just makes me angry at the world and the systems with holes as big as elephants in their safety nets… and they aren’t even central to the story! It’s just procrastination, like my other book, which I know I’ve been avoiding finishing because I’m absolutely sure there are a hundred Agile experts who know way more than me and should probably be writing that book themselves. What’s that? Is that Strategy 3 and Strategy 6 calling?

I do hope, through all of this, that I find the right channels to be heard and affect change in healthy, positive ways. I would guess that, after the quite direct messages I received, something to that effect is in order one way or another. I’m always amazed by where God takes me when I stop rolling my eyes and start listening to him.

Random Thoughts

First Things First – Beat the Procrastination Demon

Procrastination – Writer’s are often experts. #amwriting #writinglife #writingtips

Jack's Blog

One of the more popular blog topics targeting writer discusses why writers procrastinate.

One recent blog asked whether perfectionism caused writers to procrastinate. At last count there were 171 comments on the blog. Many agreed perfectionism to be an issue and offered advice, the most popular to write the draft and let the revision stage improve the manuscript. Easy to say, hard to apply, isn’t it?

For me and I expect a lot of writers, perfectionism never factors into the equation because some of us can’t even get started. Now that is true procrastination.

The reason (to me) is simple. Sitting down to work on a writing project, whether it is an outline, a first draft, or revising an existing project, means you have decided to commit a block of time to essentially create something from nothing. Many writers fail because they realize that block of time can be…

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Agile, Project Management

How to Put Your #TechnicalDebt Budget on a Diet #Agile #DevNexus @DevNexus

As an application development manager, I spend a good deal of my day thinking about technical debt. Some people think the concept of “technical debt” didn’t exist in Waterfall projects, but it’s really been around since the beginning of code — the difference is back when, we weren’t doing it on purpose. Now we’ve always seen some debate, going way back, with folks arguing messy code can’t count as debt; however, just like a financial debt, whether you applied for a loan or got hit with a big speeding ticket, you still have to pay it (often out of finite funds).

As part of our Agile journey, my teams are currently learning new ways to address technical debt. It won’t do a bit of good to clean up the current debt if you don’t also put your debt on a diet to reduce the rate of accumulation of new debt. That’s like taking out a new credit card to balance transfer and pay off another card… and then maxing out that card again!

Technical debt, having become my main focus recently, is what I’ve been invited to speak about at the DevNexus 2017 conference in Atlanta February 22-24. I spoke at this conference in 2015 and I’m so happy to be coming back. I will still talk a bit about my passions, Agile and User Experience, but the main focus this year will be on the technical, and often political, side of Agile.

Many Agile teams have a hard time managing technical debt. Like foundational stories, technical debt stories often get pushed to the bottom of a product owner’s priority list. It seems like we fight a constant battle between dealing with our mess and wanting to deliver the sexy new feature. Some of the items I’ll cover include:

  • What technical debt is (and what it isn’t)
  • Good and bad sources of technical debt
  • Techniques to reduce the production of more debt
  • Creating a debt reduction value proposition for product owners and customers
  • In-sprint options for dealing with debt (and foundational stories)

The conference sold out last month, so it’s too lake to get tickets. However, as part of the overall presentation, I’ll add some content on technical debt here. If anyone would like a specific question answered, please feel free to contact me.

Random Thoughts

The Writer’s Toolbox – Timeline: A Writer’s Best Friend

In case you missed it – Post on timelines from Jack Strandburg @jackstr952 #writingtips #amwriting

Jack's Blog

Every writer develops their stories in different ways. Some outline, some write from scratch and let the characters develop and the plot emerge as they write. Others might draft three or four chapters before they decide it’s time to step back and determine the flow of the story.

I’ve tried all of the above and other approaches, but always come back to, and finally settled on outlining. My “ideal” story will be mapped out with all questions and issues resolved before I write the draft. Of course, that’s in a perfect world.

Regardless of the approach you use, at some point the chronology of the events in the lives of your characters will need to be validated. Most, if not all stories involve background events for your main characters, which may or may not be included in the final version. But these events are important because you want to ensure…

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