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Resolve to Learn

Every now and then (usually when I get bored), I open my email's spam folder. I scan the messages for anything that looks legit, and then push the button that dumps everything else into the trash. While I didn't catch anything this time, my eye did stop across the most interesting subject line: "Resolve to Learn".

What a great line and way to ring in the new year, I thought to myself. Resolve to learn. Since August, I've been in a stuff purging mode. I have been clearing out the clutter and trying to re-align my priorities and self with all the things that matter to me most. This mode always gets me thinking about the new things: projects, classes, or techniques I'd like to try. I suddenly found myself drifting away from wanting things to thirsting for knowledge.

So, when I read that subject line, naturally it got me thinking and listing all the knowledge-based things I wanted to spend my time (and cash) on in the new year. At the top of the list comes my desire to get tarot certified. I've been wanting to do this for years and I figure 2009 is the time. Next comes a small list of conventions, festivals, and retreats that will feed my literary, artsy, and spiritual lives. Finally, there's some classes and writing groups to participate and maybe teach. Of course, all this is in addition to the goals I have set out for myself this year.

I'm excited that the new year is finally upon us and that there's 364 days to pursuit these new knowledge-focused items. Tell me, what sorts of things do you resolve to learn in 2009?

We wish you a Merry Christmas 2008

Happy Holidays from D*I*Y Planner

We at D*I*Y Planner wish you all a safe and wonderful holiday season. This year, I made a fun desktop for everyone to enjoy. Happy holidays and see you next week.

Review: Wikipatterns by Stewart Mader

Information architecture, or how we structure data, intrigues me. When I am online, I love using my RSS feeds to keep me up-to-date with all the blogs and sites that interest me; I love looking at websites and their navigation structures (it shows me how each person uses the web and web tools to organize their interests); and I love collaboration tools. Tools like wikis, that help disseminate and organize information in organic systems.

Wikipatterns, by Stewart Mader, gives readers a guide to using and implementing wikis in their organization. This is a book for non-techies, as it tells you how to use a wiki with your projects, rather than how to install or extend the wiki software with plug-ins. This slim book starts out by offering what a wiki is and what it can offer your project. It then takes the reader through championing and implementing a new wiki. It also covers tips and tricks on getting people to quickly use your wiki and how to avoid or minimize obstacles that could tear down your wiki usage.

The Bare Necessities: A Q&A with Jason Kinziger

Jason KinzigerSomething a little different for DIYPlanner today. There are a lot of people out there who make products we love, or who have dedicated themselves to subjects that continue to intrigue us. We're going to start to interview some of these people, learn what makes them tick, and perhaps get an inside look at the industry that makes us more productive, or more creative, or that simply disposes of all our disposable income.

In writing my review of the "Bare" line of notebooks, I became fascinated by Myndology's unique approach to design. I managed to snag one very busy Jason Kinziger, the owner of this small company, to discuss the creation of this series.

Tell me, what was the inspiration for the Bare line?

I made this product as much for me as I did for our customers. I felt the current paper and notebook market has become overloaded with glossy and saccharine products. I honestly have a hard time walking into a big box store without feeling a little nauseous, there is just so much cheap paper and plastic.

Keep the Ball Moving: Using Your Planner to Maintain Momentum

David Solot is a vice president and organizational development consultant working out of Princeton, NJ. He specializes in helping companies hire and develop top performers, using a combination of psychological assessments, individual coaching, and strategic planning tools. David holds a Masters Degree in clinical psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and is an active member of both SHRM and the APA.

“The ball's in your court.” Regardless of our interest in sports, we've all heard and used that metaphor. Even in your day-to-day working environment. The meaning is pretty simple – it's your turn to act. You might be working on a project with peers and need to provide the next piece of data. You could be negotiating a deal over the phone and need to make the next call. You could be doing market research for a new product and need to pass along what you've learned. Whatever the topic may be, when the ball's in your court, it means you need to act.

The ability to handle the ball when it's in your court is critical to how your peers, your managers, and your clients perceive you. One of the worst mistakes you can make in business is to “drop the ball.” Like the original expression, you don't need to be an athlete to understand what this one means. When the ball's in your court and you drop it, you failed to act. Or failed to act appropriately. You may have gotten distracted and failed to make a critical phone call at the right time. You might have failed to give information to the key stakeholders by a required due date. You might have failed to sign the new contract sitting on your desk instead of getting it into the hands of your client. All these actions say one thing: You dropped the ball.

In this economy, our actions or inactions takes on a monumental level of importance. When times are good and sales are plentiful, dropping the ball can be a minor annoyance. When times are hard, however, each opportunity for your business or career becomes critical. Dropping the ball results in lost revenue, a lost job offer, or even the insidious downwards creep of your performance evaluation.

So you have the ball. It's in your court ... how do you handle it? With my clients and my employees, I teach two simple concepts for maintaining momentum.

Review: Developing Story Ideas

Developing Story Ideas, by Michael Rabiger, tackles the question that plagues most writers today: where do you get your ideas. This book is his valiant attempt at an answer. It's also a textbook, aimed for use in screenwriting classrooms. I saw it on the textbook shelves for the Art Institute of Portland while perusing books at Powell's. The title was enough to intrigue me and I knew that I needed a copy. Despite the book's goal to provide exercises and structure to fit a classroom setting, Rabiger recognizes that the work could be read and used by the solo writer. He also recognizes that the text can be used to apply to all sorts of storytelling formats: screenplays, novels, short stories, memoirs.

Rabiger's premise is that you can use your life, the situations you've been in, the people that have come into contact with you, your dreams (both goal based and night time meanderings), and your imagination to create amazing stories. The chapters are structured similarly: introducing a topic and then diving straight into three or four exercises (that you can do on your own or in a classroom setting) that show you how to use or develop the concept being discussed. Concepts in later chapters build off and use elements of earlier ones. Developing Story Ideas also includes chapters dedicated to the tools of the trade, reviewing current/past works of others, and revising your works into standard formats.

Shoot-out Review: 3 Cheap Fountain Pens, Part III - Parker Reflex

Cheap Fountain PensIn my quest to find an inexpensive and economical fountain pen, I've previously looked at two options. The Pilot Vpen (a.k.a., Varsity) is quite an ordinary looking pen with a good nib, but no way of refilling its ink, and the unique look of Bic Select X Pen was otherwise betrayed by its cheap materials and the various ergonomic factors that made my hand cramp. Last on my list is the Parker Reflex (the red pen on the left). Can Parker pull off a quality starter pen for less than $10, or will all three of these writing instruments be confined to my junk drawer (a.k.a., the pen graveyard)?

Whereas the body of the Vpen looks like a regular wavy-paint dollar-store rollerball and the X Pen looks like a retro submarine, the Parker Reflex is much more spartan in its design. Its unassuming outside appearance is essentially a long and thick coloured stick, its only design attributes being a glossy plastic body, an inlaid matte black plastic round at either end, and a wide stainless steel spring clip in the shape of a stylized arrow (a Parker trademark). The plastic on my candy apple red model is somewhat pearlescent under bright light, a not unpleasant effect when matched against the clip and end pieces.

Upcoming Telecourse: Letting Go of Your Writing and Getting it Published

Editor's Note: Taylor is a contributing writer to D*I*Y Planner and I have asked him to post this message regarding his latest teleclass. I've worked with him personally with my own writing and can vouch for his integrity. Taylor is energetic about helping people write and break into the publication industry. If you're free this night, I encourage those of you who are interested to join in on the phone discussion! Looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say. /innowen

NaNoWrimo is done. You've written 50,000 words, and got your first draft done. Now what? As a writing coach, this is a question I recently posted to several of my clients. While writing a 50,000 word novel is quite an accomplishment, many writers stop with that task and don't do anything to pursue it further. Or if they do pursue it further, many writers get caught up in an endless cycle of writing, editing, and revision, with no clear goal in sight for when the work will be submitted to a publisher.

While NaNoWrimo is an excellent motivation for getting people to write and edit each others' works, the next step of submitting the book for publishing is just as crucial, because it takes those 50,000 words and turns them into a novel.

On December 8th from 5:30 to 6:30 PST I am offering a free teleclass "When you know it's time to publish: How to let go of your writing". In this class I will discuss how to know when it's time to let go of your writing and trust yourself to send it off to a publisher.

For more details about the class, please visit http://www.imagineyourreality.com/workshops.html

To register for the class visit http://www.imagineyourreality.com/schedule.html

TGIO: My Post NaNoWriMo Recap

Well, it's the end of November and I achieved what I set out to do. This year, I gone and done crazy (and it was crazy, believe me!). I wrote 50,768 words by hand. It took me 17 days; with an average of 3,000 words a day. If you go to my domain, you can check out the daily log that I kept through it all. It details my progress through the month: the good, the bad, and the whining.

TGIO, or Thank God It's Over, happened twice for me this year. The short and sweet point of it happened when I turned in the novel and got official approval of being a winner. However, the earlier and more bittersweet moment happened when I penned the words "The End" onto the last signature of my writing journal. That moment is the hardest, because I I had to say goodbye to the world I've created. Seventeen days is quite a long time to live in the world of my protagonist. A world where magic lives and good triumphs over evil--with nothing more than the power of intellect. I loved writing about the lives of my characters, their journey of uncovering information, and exposing the darker side of what could exist in our world. After spending all that time in this world, it's hard to let it go. This year, when I closed the leather cover, it made the transition from that world back to my world seem very real. I went to bed that night and cried. I wasn't ready to let go. Is any writer really ready for that moment?

But it's all over for me now. Seeing that I've had a week or so to think it all over, I wanted to share some final thoughts on what I learned from the experience of writing longhand.