Blogtober 2019: 10 Blog Post Ideas for Blogtober

Blogtober 2019: 10 Blog Post Ideas for Blogtober | Writing Between Pauses

Personally, I love Blogtober.

I know every year, someone publishes a blog post with the title why you shouldn’t do Blogtober!! or start talking about how puffed up traffic from daily content isn’t better traffic (…. which I don’t agree with).

Here’s what I know about Blogtober (and my experience with it): if you approach it in a relaxed way, it can be really fun. If you take it too seriously, it will be a bummer. But it is a pretty great way to boost your traffic, especially if you’re a newer blogger, and in about 8-10 months time, if you pin your Blogtober posts on Pinterest, they can start going viral.

So is there value to Blogtober content? Yes. Absolutely! I think if you plan your Blogtober posts appropriate, you can have some really great, well-performing content that can build traffic both seasonally and over time. It’s just about planning appropriately!

That’s why I’m writing this post. I’ve posted some basic “Blog post ideas for Blogtober” before, but I wanted this to be a little bit more in-depth: where I find my inspiration, how I’ve shifted the focus of my content this year, how I take steps to make daily posting easier on me, and (even better) how I’ve decided to alter my Blogtober schedule this year for my current niche.

You can see a round up of all my Blogtober posts here.

Why I Participate in Blogtober

Because I like it.

There!

Two years ago, I was feeling really down about my blog and my content. Blogtober was the boost I needed, both content and traffic wise. It made me feel really good and helped start me on a path to being more dedicated and focused on my blog’s content.

This year is no different. I’ve been making gradual changes to my content after a brief, semi-hiatus. I’m planning to write more about this later, but I’m planning to use Blogtober as a change to write some more seasonally focused content that fits my niche again. I’m really excited for it.

So, ultimately, if you’re thinking of participating in Blogtober, here’s my advice. When it comes down to it, you should:

  • Want to participate in Blogtober

  • Be excited about the content you plan to write for Blogtober

  • Be organized enough to write the volume of content

That’s it! That’s all! Nothing fancy, nothing special. All that matters is you want to participate and you’re excited about it.

How to Plan Your Content

It’s tempting to fall into stereotypical Fall content. (I used Fall twice in that sentence, but I don’t know how to rewrite it as concisely. C’est la vie!) Especially when you see other people posting things that are getting traction or when you feeling like you’ve run out of ideas. But if you spend time focusing on your audience, and looking at the right sources, you can create content that is fun to write, serves your readers, and fits your niche.

I tend to grab ideas for content from a few sources. Here is a rundown:

  • Pay attention to what my followers like on Instagram stories & Twitter. Do my posts with my Fall coffee mug collection do well? Do hygge-focused posts about books do well? I also run polls on Twitter and Instagram to see what content they want for Autumn—then work on creating that content.

  • Watch trending topics on Pinterest. Autumn quotes, Fall fashion, round ups… these kind of posts do really well on Pinterest. If you’re a lifestyle blog, posting a list of Fall activities might work best. If you’re a travel blog, dream Autumn travel destinations.

  • Write the content that fits your life.

My goal at the beginning of every September is to have my entire content calendar planned for Blogtober—that includes all my ideas, as well as the start of my graphics. If I go about it this way, I don’t make as many mistakes along the way, or get behind, as I am relatively prepared for the month.

10 Blog Post Ideas

Alright, with that being said, I promised some blog post ideas and I’m here to deliver. Here are a few ideas that can be easily adapted for your niche.

  1. 5 Fall Activities (In Your Area/For Kids/For Pregnant Woman/For Single Women/etc)

  2. My Favorite Fall Decor

  3. 10 Instagram Accounts Who Make Autumn Easy (Great for a round up—make sure to contact Instagram accounts before featuring them)

  4. 4 Ways to Edit Your Photos this Autumn

  5. My Favorite [Candles for Autumn/Tea for Autumn/Fall Recipe, etc]

  6. My Dream Autumn Travel Destinations

  7. Preparing for the Holidays (for travel/for work/for family etc)

  8. My Halloween Costume (great for DIYs, kids/families, etc)

  9. 5 Quick Halloween Treats (recipes of your own from the past OR a round up to network with other bloggers)

  10. Preserving Autumn Memories (for families/for future/through writing, etc)

Free Blogtober Planning Guide

This brings me to the most exciting part of this blog post: my free Blogtober planning guide! Want a place to plan your content? To start making notes about what pictures you’ll need to take? Want to map out your content calendar? Plan your promotion schedule during a busy month? I have all of that and more in my Blogtober planning guide. Just click below to download!

If you plan to do Blogtober this year, I want to hear from you! Leave me a comment or send me a note on Instagram or Twitter to tell me your thoughts and what content you’re planning!


Life Lately: 5 Things I Learned Last Week

Life Lately: 5 Things I Learned Last Week | Writing Between Pauses

I have found myself waffling back and forth between two plans lately.

Sometimes, I’m fully committed to being freelance: I post on LinkedIn, I network, I make meetings, everything.

And other times, I just wish I had a job again: a job that I turned off, that I could clean out my office for, that I could drive to everyday and have coffee provided.

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, then you don’t know the big, bad, and also very weird thing that happened to me last week. I’ll get to it!

But it’s definitely thrown me for a loop. I’ve recommitted to going freelance, even though it is hard, and makes me tired, and fills me with anxiety in ways that are both good and bad. The last few weeks have been a series of lessons, over and over. I wanted to share a few things as I know that many are on this journey with me. If you’re thinking of going freelance or becoming self-employed (or starting your own business), you’ve probably felt a few of these things. And if you, like me, have had moments of self-doubt and tried to reconnect to a different path, well, you might feel some of these too.

1. Sometimes, anxiety is self-protection.

As I wrote in my newsletter two weeks ago, my therapist often talks to me about how my anxiety and self-doubt is often me trying to protect myself. I hold myself back in ways I don’t truly understand because I’m afraid of being rejected—and then when I step outside my comfort zone and experience rejection, it just reinforces the “you should have anxiety about this,” or “you are an imposter and you aren’t good at your job” feelings. (If you aren’t subscribed to my newsletter, then, baby, please do.)

The past two weeks have been anxiety central for me. Which is crazy because I had one week where everything went fantastic: I had meetings scheduled every single day, I was networking, I was sending emails, I felt amazing. But then, the next week, it’s like it all came crashing down and I didn’t know how to cope.

Anxiety is often what I describe as a combination of my gut feeling (which is instinctual) and this buzzing in my brain that seems to resonate with “wrong, wrong, wrong, something is wrong.” It’s hard to have the two happening at the same time and wonder if one is correct and the other isn’t. It’s hard to trust myself when what I inherently think (go the easy route, don’t make waves) is often a way of protecting myself from experiencing rejection or anxiety.

Anyway, this is all to say: I’ve been working on how I react to things and how I make decisions. I sometimes jokingly say that I am a classic Libra because I can’t make decisions. But the truth is, I struggle with making big decisions because I tend to make life decisions focused on what other people would want, rather than what I would want myself.

2. My gut feeling is usually correct.

It’s time for me to write the big, bad, weird story here & talk a little bit more about what it made me learn.

This might feel a little contradictory to my last point, but I sometimes just get a gut feeling about things. This won’t go well or This doesn’t seem right. It’s not anxiety, exactly, but sometimes a part of it. Sometimes, it’s just a feeling I have that I can’t totally explain.

Anyway, let’s talk about the big bad: I was offered a job.

Let’s rewind: two weeks ago, I went to an interview where they loved me. I met with an executive, who thought I would be great in the role, but wouldn’t be happy. She then offered to accelerate starting their marketing department so that I would be added to it. She would get back to me in a few days. A few days later, we scheduled a phone call. I clarified my schedule (I want to be able to pick up my son in the afternoon, but I could work from home as much they wanted). They had never done a remote position before, but were willing to try. She said they would be sending a job offer by the next day.

The next day, Tuesday of last week, I woke up from a nap to see an email from her, telling me they would not be sending me a job offer specifically because I wanted to be able to pick up my son in the afternoon.

I know this is not the worst example of anti-mom bias in the workplace. I know that. I also know I’m in a really privileged position to be able to ask for that, but I don’t think it should be a privilege. I think it should be assumed that parents need to be able to leave to get their kids when school is over, but if they work a job that is 100% online the way marketing is, then why can’t they just finish up the last two hours of work from home?! I just don’t get it.

I cried a lot.

But, I had been nervous about getting the job offer. I’d debated back and forth with Danny about accepting it. And a small part of me on Tuesday thought: this isn’t right. This isn’t going to happen the way I think it will.

Even as I got excited to accept the job. Even when I thought about the salary and how it would have changed our lives. (We could afford a vacation, for once.)

I was still devastated when I got the email, but I found myself thinking: that gut feeling was right. That feeling I got that they wouldn’t be understanding of my role as a caretaker and mother was right. I was right. It still royally sucked, but I was right. It just sucks.

3. Sometimes, a bad thing leads to a good thing.

The day after I got that awful, no good email, I got a text message about a potential freelance gig. I was groggy, with that “hungover from crying” feeling. I was in a bad mood all day, mostly lying on the couch and sometimes texting Danny, “I had already planned a celebratory Disneyland trip in my mind.” (Yes, I know that is full-blown emo, but what can I say?)

But I scheduled another meeting for a freelance gig. Because why not? Because why stop myself just because I’ve had a rough week?

4. It’s ok to get in your feelings about it—but sometimes your primary feeling isn’t the right one.

As I said, I cried a lot last Tuesday. (And unfortunately, a lot of this blog post is about that email on Tuesday. God, it sucked!) I cried a lot and even though I’d had this gut feeling that it wasn’t the right job for me even though it paid so well and I wouldn’t have to worry about money and it seemed perfect… I still had the feeling that it wasn’t quite right.

But I also had that feeling of: I’m a failure, I fucked up, I’m stupid, I shouldn’t even apply to jobs because no one wants to hire a mother, everyone thinks I’m an idiot.

But then I talked to my former boss and she told me that there was no reason blaming myself. What kind of company offers someone a job, then yanks it away because they decide they don’t like the already agreed upon schedule? Especially in marketing, where a flexible schedule is sort of… the point of working in marketing? “Be angry,” she said.

The right thing is not: “I fucked up.” The right thing is: “they fucked up and I’m so angry.

The worst part is that companies here in Eugene so often complain about being unable to hire good talent. They can’t find people to hire or the people who apply don’t have enough experience. I have 5 years experience; I am a high level marketer; I’m very good at what I do! I am the good talent! But because businesses see “work” as being 40-60+ hours a week in an office, no exceptions, they aren’t willing to accept people who might need other schedules: mothers, or people with disabilities, or anyone else who just doesn’t want to be chained to a desk. Millennials have a much different view about what it means to work “full time” and it’s time for everyone else to catch up.

I sat up on Tuesday night until nearly 3 am writing a blisteringly angry article for LinkedIn. I probably won’t post it, but God, it felt good.

5. It’s ok to be content.

“I should be making more money,” I thought. But is that right? Do I need to be making more money?

If you can’t tell, a big part of why the loss of that job offer sucked is because the salary was good. Full disclosure, I’ve never been motivated by money when it comes to my jobs; I just want to work and to be quite honest, I have a really hard time understanding salary comparisons. I have known, at least somewhat, that as a marketer I should have been making more money ages ago, but it didn’t really matter to me. We got by.

It’s only been the last probably year where things felt really tight, but that was for reasons sort of beyond our control. We had a year of bad financial set backs and then, in 2019, my workplace was becoming more and more financially unstable as well. (Again, no one’s fault! Just the way the cookie crumbles.)

So the idea of a lot more money was huge. We haven’t been on a real vacation since we went to Disneyland in June 2017 and friends, I am exhausted. I think about getting in my car and just driving away at least once every single day. I have worked, for at least 5 hours, every single day since June 2017 on either this blog, or work, or some other professional capacity.

As much as I wish we could be saving more money, I have also realized it’s ok to just get by for a little while, especially if it means improving my mental health. Money is nice and I wish we could afford a trip to take a break (we both need, Forrest needs it), but I’m ok with waiting if it means I’m not continually being punched in the gut by companies!


Whew, I know that was a lot but it felt good to write out. I’m trying to look at the next few weeks with positivity. I have time to make Forrest a birthday cake, to take him to school most days, to pick him up from school and love him. It has been a rough few weeks for me, but I’m lucky to be doing as well as I am, considering everything.

With that said: how have you been doing? Share with me!

Beauty Review: My September 2019 Birchbox

Beauty Review: My September 2019 Birchbox | Writing Between Pauses

Another month, another Birchbox!

This is actually my last Birchbox from a 6-month gifted subscription. I won’t be continuing my subscription and I’ll share my reasons at the end of this post.

One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever I’m having a hard time in my personal life, I turn towards writing about beauty products because I find it very soothing & calming. I can still engage my brain, but not think too much about how sad or burnt out I feel. If you haven’t read my most recent Instagram post, you should to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

I’ll be writing a full blog post about it soon, but I need a little bit more time to decompress and really think about what I want to say.

ANYWAY, let’s talk about Birchbox this month, shall we?

Is Birthbox Worth It?

1. Davines MOMO Shampoo & Conditioner

I’m annoyed at how much I like this shampoo (and liked the conditioner, but there was seriously only a TABLESPOON in the packet, gag me), because I didn’t realize it’s from the brand Davines. I feel like every time Birchbox sends me a hair care sample it’s that French brand or Davines. Branch out, Birchbox!

That being said: wow, I love this shampoo. I love this shampoo so much I’m considering spending $30+ on a full size bottle and I’m considering spending $33 on the conditioner, because it really made my scalp feel ah-may-zing. And as someone whose scalp often feels like the Sahara Desert, that’s saying a lot.

I think for most people, the conditioner would probably be too heavy. But dang, it felt good.

Both the shampoo and conditioner have a really light, natural melon scent. Really lovely.

2. This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray

I love a pillow spray. I actually own several pillow sprays, and I often sleep with my diffuser going (lavender and jasmine is my favorite sleep scent, but if I have a headache, I often add peppermint and eucalyptus and cut the jasmine). Needless to say, I was pumped for this pillow spray. It is a REALLY small tube though, but I’ve used it for three nights in a row and it is going strong. A full size bottle is $29 (oof).

It is scented with lavender, patchouli, and chamomile essential oils, which is funny because it smells almost entirely like vetiver to me.

I love the smell of it, but as with most essential oils, I think the claims about “helping 89% of users fall asleep faster” are bullshit. It smells nice and it is relaxing, so I love it, but I can very easily make it myself!

3. MODEL Co Lip Oil

This is a very standard lip oil. The applicator (a fluffy doe foot) sucks. I like lip oils at night, but I don’t like glossy lips generally. So this isn’t my favorite product to receive.

MOMO Shampoo

4. Eyeko Brow Liner

I don’t use brow products, so this has gone immediately into my donate box.

5. MAC Cleanse Off Oil

I love a cleansing oil, so this one I was pretty excited about! The sample is minuscule though. I am not sure I buy that there is jojoba oil in it, as jojoba oil is not clear. Immediately after using it the first time, however, I broke out in MULTIPLE large cysts on my chin, which have become increasingly rare for me. Did the oil cause it? It’s hard to know because it’s totally possible it is stress related. That being said: I’m going to wait to use this again.

6. Bioderma Sensibio Light Soothing Cream

Speaking of those cysts, I also used this with the MAC Cleansing oil, so I’m not sure if the cysts are caused by: the cleansing oil; stress; or this moisturizer. Anyway, I did really like this moisturizer; it smells good and did make my skin feel really soothed. When I get stressed and upset, I tend to look like a mess, super red and splotchy, so this was nice. But if it made me break out: no so nice.

what comes in a birchbox how many samples
Birchbox makeup bag September 2019

I’ve really enjoyed receiving a Birchbox these past few months, but as I said, I’ve decided not to continue. I just don’t think the customization and types of samples I can receive are worth it. I much prefer Ipsy at this point (even though I’ve switched back to the regular Glam Bag). When it comes to beauty subscriptions, I can be highly particular about what I like, so it’s hard to explain.

That being said, I’ve really enjoyed receiving Birchbox for the last 6 months. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’re a Birchbox subscriber; do you like it? What makes you love a beauty product subscription?

How I Grew My Pinterest Engagement by 400% Without Really Trying

How I Grew My Pinterest Engagement 400% Without Really Trying | Writing Between Pauses

I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog post for a while now. Here’s why: I think Pinterest is a bit of a mystery to a lot of people, especially woman-owned businesses. They might use it personally (nearly every woman I know has a Pinterest account), but they might not be using it for their business. And if they are, they might not be using it effectively.

This blog post isn’t just for bloggers looking to increase traffic, by the way. This blog post is for:

  • Business owners

  • Anyone selling a product to women between the ages of 18-45

  • Bloggers

Here’s the rundown of what I’m about to tell you: I increased my engagement on Pinterest by 400% without…

  • paying for Tailwind (too expensive)

  • spending hours on Pinterest

  • more effort than checking in once a day

I noticed this increase most starkly this month, but it’s been steadily building for the past 6 months, ever since I put in renewed efforts to build a strategy. I am cheap, however, and didn’t want to pay for something like Tailwind. This is all just me, Pinterest.com, and the Pinterest app.

Let’s jump in.

(Pst, if you’d like to check out my Pinterest, you can do so here.)

Analytics

Here are my analytics on Pinterest for the month of July:

July 2019 Pinterest Analytics

And here are my analytics on Pinterest for the month of August:

August 2019 Analytics

Between May and June, my impressions varied between 19,000 and 21,000 per month. (For whatever reason, I don’t have full analytics for those months on Pinterest. It may be a switch in their built-in analytics programs.)

That’s a pretty significant jump over 4 months, right? And like I said, I didn’t spend money on it and I didn’t dedicate hours of my day to it.l

So what did I do?! Let me tell you.

Methods

When it comes to me and basic methods for social media, there are no secrets. I realize a lot of people would put this information behind a paywall and it’s one of my biggest annoyances. I’ve signed up for tons of free Pinterest (or Facebook or whatever) webinars and sat through them, only for it to be 10 minutes of basic information (like “make a Pinterest account” DUH!) and 20 minutes of selling me a bigger webinar or e-course.

Sorry, not interested.

Here’s what I did over the last 4 months:

  • For each blog post I posted (which admittedly wasn’t a ton), I created 3-4 additional Pinterest graphics. This was because I was testing what worked best on Pinterest. I don’t have a concrete answer on that, by the way.

  • I then pinned each blog post at least the week it was posted. Usually, I did this all as one on Saturday morning. Then I would schedule the different Pinterest graphics over the next few days. All of these pins initially went to my specific board for my blog posts.

  • From there, I pinned each blog post pin to my group boards.

  • Throughout the week, I would check each day and pin each varied Pin as it posted to my group boards.

That’s literally it! That’s all I did! I just kept up this weekly and daily task list every single week for four months.

It does seem time consuming. But let’s break it down.

  • On average for the past few months, I’ve been posting maybe 2 blog posts a week. In total, each blog post might take me 2 hours.

  • It might take me an additional hour to great 8 different Pinterest graphics.

  • On Saturday, it took me on average about 2 hours to write unique Pins for each blog post and Pin/schedule.

  • Every day, sharing pins to my group boards took maybe 30 minutes.

In total, that’s 7 hours for writing blog posts, creating graphics, and posting on Pinterest. However, 4 of those hours I’m already doing anyway in the form of writing and scheduling blog posts. Then, in total per week, I spent 3 1/2 hours on Pinterest throughout the week. That’s definitely less time than I spend on Twitter and Instagram. (Is that embarrassing?!)

Here’s a few additional things I did throughout these 4 months as well:

  • Checking daily Pinterest trends (if you press the search box to type, you can see trends for you specifically as well as trends throughout Pinterest). If I saw any trends that correlated to blog posts I had, I immediately repinned those blog posts to my group boards.

  • If I had seasonal posts that I thought might be relevant, I would also repin those. In mid-August, I started to notice a steady increase in engagement on my Blogtober pins from 2018 and 2017, so I began sharing those Pins to my group boards as well.

  • I created Pinterest-specific graphics for my affiliate codes, announcements, and sponsored posts. These included information that people needed without having to jump to my blog; it helped increase uses of my affiliate codes as well as my traffic. I was slightly worried that giving away the free bit wouldn’t help my traffic, but I was wrong. It helped a lot!

A Note on Group Boards

As you can see, I rely on group boards a lot on Pinterest. I am hesitant to make suggestions for group boards, as these aren’t ones I own. I don’t necessarily want to be held responsible for the rules or content should anyone disagree! However, if you would like suggestions, please don’t hesitate to send me a note and I’ll send a few links over.

As well, if you would be interested in a group board with me, let me know.

Do I expect to see results forever?

“Forever”—what a funny way to phrase that!

To I expect to see these massive increases in engagement (and subsequently, my blog traffic) forever using these methods? No. I think this was a good way for me to get started and get the ball rolling, so to speak. As I continue to tweak my methods, I expect to have to change things and, eventually, I know It will be beneficial to me to start using different methods, including paying for tools and streamlining my methods.

However, I wanted to share this method I’ve used because I see so much advice about Pinterest that literally boils down to “pay for this tool!” I don’t know about you, but I am so hesitant about paying for things that I feel I can do for free, at least for right now. In the future, that may not be the case, but it is for me right now at this moment (given being recently laid off!)

Now, it’s time for you: do you have questions about Pinterest?

5 NaNoWriMo Essentials to Survive November

5 NaNoWriMo Essentials to Survive November | Writing Between Pauses

I love a good list, as you all probably are aware by now. On Wednesday, I hit publish on my NaNoWriMo guide which I’m so excited about. (If you haven’t already, you can download a copy here. It has a few basic worksheets to help you get ready for NaNoWriMo!)

Today, I want to switch gears, but keep it on NaNoWriMo: let’s talk what you need when November comes around. I’m talking the tools I use, the programs that help me function, my favorite coffee cups… you name it, it’s probably an essential. (Ok, I won’t include “my favorite coffee cup”, but you get the drift!)

One thing I want to talk about first though is why NaNoWriMo is so important to me—and why I think you’ll love it too. Whether you’re a young professional or a new mom (or a mom who has been momming for a while now), it’s easy to take on too much and get burnt out. So isn’t NaNoWriMo in that same universe?

I suppose for some, it might. But I know so many women my age, or just a bit younger or a bit older, are looking for something to pour their energy into. They are frustrated at work for whatever reason (even if they love it!) and/or they feel like everything revolves around their kids. It’s nice to do something that is just for you. As well, so many women who read this blog (yes, you!) are creative, inspiring, and have stories to tell. I’ve spoken with so many of you; I’ve seen your Instagram posts and your jokes on Twitter; you are as good a writer as any published author, I promise you. So if you’ve always wanted to write, but are intimidated by the big writing community (I have a lot to say there), NaNoWriMo is a great way to get some words on the paper and find a community where you are nurtured without anyone making you feel less than.

Now, without further ado: let’s talk essentials.

1. Google Docs

I know some people don’t like putting intellectual property on Google, but… there really is no better way to write online than Google Docs. With Google Drive, you can write on your laptop, your work computer (shhhh!), your phone, your tablet, whatever. You don’t have to always be in the same spot with one singular device. I also personally love the Google Doc tools: simple word counts, good grammar and spelling checks as you type (still in Beta, but honestly, very good), and a basic interface.

The only downside is that you require an internet connection to use Google Docs (unless you turn on offline editing, which is kind of a pain to use)—and an internet connection, as we all know, has a high potential to be abused.

Some people love Scrivener or Novlr to write online. However, I’m not in the habit of buy subscriptions to products that literally already exist for free. (No shade.)

2. A Good Playlist

Writing requires background noise. Just enough background noise so you don’t get bored, but not too much background noise that you get distracted by it.

I have a few playlists on Spotify that I swear by. Everyone’s preferences for background music vary, but my one big piece of advice is that if you’re at home writing, don’t use headphones. Play music on your computer, your phone, or via a Bluetooth speaker. If I use headphones while I’m writing, I’m categorically not going to pay attention, plain and simple.

Another good option is to pick a few movies that are just boring enough to listen to in the background. My go to movies at the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. I’ve seen them enough that I’m not distracted, but they are pleasant enough to hear in the background. Plus, if I need a moment, I can step away and basically go into the movie without feeling like I’ve lost anything.

3. A Supportive Team

If you’re planning to do NaNoWriMo, one of the best things you can do is find a few friends who are also doing NaNoWriMo so you can support each other. There is nothing like being up early or up late writing and having someone to text, to bounce ideas off of, or to simply commiserate with.

4. A Few Good Distractions

“But Michelle, November is only about writing!”

Oof, yes. But if you spend all your time writing and thinking about your story, you’re going to get so burnt out.

So:

  • Download that show you want to watch

  • Buy the movie you have been looking forward to

  • Make plans with friends

  • Take out a few books from the library

  • Write down a few good recipes to try

Whatever floats your boat, make sure to indulge in other fun activities during November so you don’t suck all the joy out of writing. This is really essential.

5. A Place for Notes

Aren’t you glad I didn’t put something hokey like “lots of coffee hyuck”? The writers and coffee trope exhausts me to a certain extent (and I do love coffee).

But also, so does the “get a notebook!” trope too.

When I say a place for notes, it can be whatever you want: treat yourself to a new notebook. Or start a word document just for NaNoWriMo notes. Or use the notebook your carry around either way. Often when I’m writing I will think of something I want to include in a future scene. During NaNoWriMo, I try to stick to my outline and not write scenes out of order; it’s just easier for me. So, I will often take notes on anything I think of as I’m writing—such as a line of dialogue I want to come up again in the future. Sometimes I use in-app notes for this (like comments in Google Docs), but usually I just jot it down in my planner or notebook.

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo When You Work (+ Free Printable)

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo When You Work Full-Time | Writing Between Pauses

For those who are new to NaNoWriMo, it can feel huge. Almost impossible.

50,000 words!? In a month?!

Even if you love writing, even if you’ve dreamed of writing a book (you know, you have 400 notebooks full of ideas, or the notes app on your phone with random mishmashed ideas written down), 50,000 words can feel like a lot if you’ve never actually finished a plot.

But I promise you: it’s actually not that huge.

In fact… it’s not even the length of the average novel.

Sorry! I know!

The truth is, 50,000 is usually a starting point for a novel. And it’s a good starting point! If you just want to get words onto paper, 50,000 is nothing to sneeze at.

And NaNoWriMo is honestly the most motivating way to do it.

I do NaNoWriMo every year and have since 2010. Is this my 9th NaNoWriMo? Yes! Am I as excited as I was in 2010? Also yes! I have won some years and not others, but I’m so proud of the years I completed.

As I wrote last year, I don’t write creatively with the focus on publishing. I usually write stories that I can’t stop thinking about, that I want to read. These novels are for me and me only. Maybe in the future, I’ll sit down and cobble them all into something big and maybe with the intention of publishing. But for now, I just love putting words onto paper and getting 50,000 of them out in the semblance of a story.

If this is your first year doing NaNoWriMo, I have some advice to help you. If you work full time, planning and writing can seem like a big, huge task. I’ve broken it down here for you.

Before we jump into my tips though, I wanted to make sure to share my previous NaNoWriMo blog posts!

Now, without further ado, let’s talking: working, planning, & winning NaNoWriMo.

1. Schedule your time.

I’m a big fan of scheduling my time. Since I’ve gone freelance, I usually dedicate my mornings to freelance & client work. Then, in the afternoon, I work on my blog or any creative writing I’ve been planning. I usually mark this out in my Google Calendar, then in my daily planner, along with my to do list.

During NaNoWriMo, I will often add NaNoWriMo specific time periods. For example, if I plan to drop my son off at school in the morning, I’ll plan to go to the library and write for an hour before heading home to work. This gets me out of the house; encourages me to dedicate at least an hour to NaNoWriMo; and allows me to look forward to it, especially if I’ve been thinking of the story.

Think of the time you have during the day. Could you take your lunch break at a coffee shop and write while you eat? Could you spare an hour right after work to write? Do you write best in the morning or the evenings? Think of your typical day and schedule your time accordingly.

2. Write an outline, of course.

I’m a big fan of outlining. I know some people prefer a “pants” (that is “flying by the seat of your pants”) approach to NaNoWriMo, but I think most pantsers are the ones nervous about finishing or failing. (Although I would argue not finishing NaNoWriMo isn’t “failure.”)

If you have time to get ready for NaNoWriMo, then surely you have time to write an outline, even a rudimentary one.

I’ve written outlines for 8 out of 9 NaNos. Only the first year was I pantser, and while I finished, it’s one of the most disjointed things I’ve ever written. I haven’t won every NaNo; there have been 2 years when I outlined, when I didn’t finish. 2013: I cannot remember why. And 2015: when I had just had my son.

Outlining is a huge help. So, write an outline. At the end of this blog post, I have a handy-dandy guide which includes an outline exactly how I outline my NaNo novels.

3. Be realistic.

Plain and simple: if you work a high stress job, or you work and have kids, it’s important to be realistic. Every year, I approach NaNoWriMo with the idea that if I finish, I’ll be excited; but if I don’t, it’s ok. There is no reason to beat myself up for it. I’m busy and I have a lot going on! NaNoWriMo makes me happy, but if it starts to feel like a burden, I know I need to take a break or stop completely.

All I’m saying here is this: be realistic about your expectations of NaNoWriMo. If you already get up at 6am, you aren’t going to feel good waking up an hour early to write. If your job demands your full attention from the moment you get there to the moment you leave, you aren’t going to be able to break away for a few sneaky NaNo words.

4. Download my free planning guide.

It goes without saying that having a plan in place is so important to finishing NaNoWriMo, especially if you already have huge demands on your time, like work, kids, grad school… you name it. I put together a planning guide to help you get a few pieces in place.

My planning guide includes:

  • A schedule to help you plan your days, as well as write down some spots you like to write & your favorite writing tools, so you know what to grab everyday when you’re leaving your house.

  • An outline guide to help you plan your outline. This follows my guide that I write about in this blog post here.

  • A self-care worksheet to help you write down some ideas for taking a break and keeping your stress level down.

Do you have questions about NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram!

Life Lately: August 2019 Wrap Up

Life Lately: August 2019 Wrap Up | Writing Between Pauses

August was a rough month for me!

There, I said it. It’s been the undercurrent of everything I’ve posted, on Instagram, on my blog, on Twitter, for the past month and it’s hard to not seem like a total sad sack about everything. But I’ve felt like a total sad sack!

July was emotional: I was laid off and scrambling, feeling totally adrift.

In August, I started taking on some freelance work, but not a lot. It lacks the structure that I like to have. I’m committed to freelance work for now because it’s what I have available to me at the moment. I’m keeping an open mind, but going freelance is much easier said than done.

Anyway, let’s back up and talk about August.

1. We went to the coast!

I wrote about our trip to Rockaway Beach here. I was a bit of a mess on this trip; it was so close to being laid off and I was still dealing with a lot of anxiety and fall out from it. I wanted to have more fun than I did, but it was still enjoyable. Next time, I’m going to try not to get laid off, like, right before a trip I’ve been looking forward to for months.

2. I filled my schedule completely full for 3 weeks and nearly lost my mind!

I scheduled appointments with friends.

I got coffee with coworkers.

I visited digital marketing agencies.

I emailed everyone I’ve ever worked with to grab coffee.

I went to interviews.

I worked at coffee shops.

I spent time outside the house.

And honestly, it nearly killed me. Last week, I had three appointments nearly every single day of the week. It was great for my business (so much freelance work!), but it was not-so-great for my mental health. In the future, I’m going to keep specific days open for appointments and keep everything in those days if I can help it. Easier said than done, but last week was a lesson in “too much.”

3. I bought a new computer.

So about that working in coffee shops bit… I have an iMac, which I love, but when I went to work in coffee shops, my ancient (circa 2010!!) Macbook was not cutting it. I tried updating it to the newest OS, but I cannot remember my admin password. Oops! So I decided to scrape together some money and buy a new computer because it felt like an investment that was worth it. It’s been really nice being able to actually work now when I’m at coffee shops and I’ve gotten a lot done.

4. I wrote a lot.

When I wasn’t sending messages on LinkedIn or answering phone calls, I decided to write. I worked on my NaNoWriMo outline; I started several short stories; I’ve started writing poetry again. I hate not having anything to do and without work, I tend to be a bit listless. However, writing felt good. It felt good to just write again, even if it’s “purposeless.” Writing just for fun was a high point, honestly.

Things I’m Looking Forward to in September

I’m looking forward to the start of Fall. I know everyone who knows me is tired already, but yes, I am ready. Yes, I have a pumpkin outside my house already. And a scarecrow. No, I won’t stop being Like This.

I’m also looking forward to more days at home, working. Forrest is going back to school and Danny is going back to work, so I’ll fall into my routine a little bit and be able to actually get work done. A win win for everyone involved, honestly.

I’m looking forward to saving some money! Danny and I really have our hearts set on a big vacation in the next year. We were on our way to saving for it when I got laid off and ended up using a lot of our savings on bills and moving expenses. Major downer, but I’m hoping that with some good freelance work in the next few months, we’ll be back to our usual savings.

How was your August? Tell me about it!

A Busy Mom's Guide to Back to School Cleaning (+ Free Checklist!)

A Busy Mom's Guide to Back to School Cleaning | Writing Between Pauses

Back to School season is officially here! While I know many schools in the United States have already started, here in Oregon, school never starts before Labor Day. (And I am still thrown by those mid-August start dates from my friends!)

For many moms, back to school season is time to get everything back in order. The kids have a schedule again (that you don’t have to set yourself!), you have a little more free time or wiggle room in your schedule, and you’ll spend about 50% less on groceries now that you aren’t having to feed them 400 snacks a day. (I always thought that joke about kids snacking constantly in summer was a myth. Then I had a kid of my own and they really do snack more in summer.)

Even if you’re not a mom, there is just something about September, isn’t there? The weather is changing; summer is over; it feels like time to get serious again.

Every September or October, I do a massive deep clean on my house. I mean massive. Moving furniture. Shampooing carpets. Washing all my rugs. Organizing the closets that I’ve been throwing things into and closing the door on with my eyes closed. It makes a huge difference to how my home feels once the holidays roll around.

I wanted to share my tips for taking on a big, back-to-school (or just September!) deep clean. I know cleaning isn’t everyone’s forte. Some people hate it; some people just don’t think about it. But there is nothing like a clean, organized home for your mental health. Some people just are naturally messy or disorganized, but getting your house cleaned up can be great for feeling more productive or overcoming a mental health speed bump.

For me, cleaning is a stress release. It makes me feel better. An overly cluttered home makes me feel incredibly stressed. However, I’m also not perfect; sometimes I find it easier to take advice from people who are doing their best (and have a few messy rooms they let go because, why bother?! I’m busy!) and finding ways to be happy without it being 100% clean 100% of the time.

If this is the same for you, let me provide my guide for a big, massive deep clean to start your Fall and Winter right.

1. Start with a Game Plan

I’m a planner. I like to start everything with a list and a plan to make sure I have all my ducks in a row and everything in order. When it comes to my big back to school (or pre-holiday, if you will) deep clean, I like to have a specific plan in order to make sure I don’t have anything that could distract me from my purpose. Basically, here’s a rundown:

  • Schedule a week to spend deep cleaning. For me, this is either the second full week in September or the first week in December. Historically, that’s what it’s worked out to, because it’s when I have childcare & Danny is back at work. (Funny how Danny is a bigger distraction than Forrest!) Making sure I have a week off where I am not working has always been the most important part of my deep clean. Yes, I could probably cram it into a weekend… but it’s much more fun to have time off. Plus, scheduling it in advance means I’m more likely to do it.

  • Make arrangements to have a babysitter. If you have a child, then get that babysitter or childcare lined up! Paying for a babysitter for a week, if you’re a SAHM, or keeping your pre-existing childcare, if you work, is important for making sure you have no distractions. Plus, it’s so nice to have time for yourself to tidy your home. Maybe you can sneak in some self-care or trashy TV too.

  • Make a priority list. Usually, my deep clean has a focus. I want to get everything looking amazing for the holidays; I want to reorganize the living room; or I want to make sure our closets and garage are ready for a big clean out. Whatever it is, I make a list of my priority rooms and areas.

  • Download a few podcasts, audio books, tv shows, or movies. I like to have something playing while I clean. While I fold laundry and clean out my appliances, I often listen to podcasts or new music that I’ve been intending to. While I’m vacuuming or really getting into scrubbing, I like a movie or TV show that I don’t need to follow 100%. No matter what you like, get some media ready and lined up so you can listen and enjoy while you work.

2. Work in Order of Room

Everyone has a priority list (as discussed); now, make your list in order of those priorities. For me, I feel like my house is most clean when my kitchen and living room are in order, because those are our most used rooms. After that, it’s pretty much workspaces, bathrooms, and bedrooms. So, here’s the order I usually deep clean in:

  • Kitchen

  • Living room

  • Kitchen pantry & entryway closet

  • Office

  • Bedrooms & bathrooms

  • Garage

  • Other closets

This helps me, again, have a game plan. I might split it up into days. Say I have 3 days off from work to get it done. I’ll focus on the kitchen, living room, and pantry the first day. The second day, I’ll hit the office and bedrooms, as well as the bathrooms. Then on the third day, it’s time for the garage and closets, which often are the most tedious (because it’s just cleaning out). If I have an extra day, I’ll do all the laundry I cleaned out, bag up Goodwill stuff, and do Goodwill runs all day. Otherwise, that’s stuff I can do at home with Forrest.

To me, knowing the order I want to go in keeps me from getting distracted. Say I’m empty the dishwasher and putting stuff away, then remember we have some water glasses upstairs; I’ll run up and grab those, then remember I need to grab the dirty towels for the laundry; I’ll throw them in the washing machine, then notice a basket of clothes that need folded; I’ll carry those downstairs and start cleaning up the living room because I hate sitting in the living room when it’s messy; then I’ll notice how dusty the TV is and start dusting… and on and on until an hour later, I realize the dishwasher is still half emptied.

3. My Favorite Products

When it comes to cleaning products, I like to keep it simple. Yes, you can find some really good specialized products out there, but when it comes down to it, having a set of the basics is just so much easier than buying tons and tons of stuff and having to organize that as well. Here is everything I keep on hand for my day-to-day cleaning and my big deep cleans.

  • Mrs. Meyer’s Everyday Cleaner - I use this for everything. Instead of bleach or similar cleaners, I like this for my counters and appliances. We have stainless steel appliances, so once every few months, I might use a specialized stainless steel cleaner. But I have found that this works just as well for my cooktop, sink, and more.

  • Mrs. Meyer’s Lemon Verbena Window Cleaner - I love a good window cleaner and this one is my favorite, plus it smells amazing.

  • Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner - I have tried every all-natural cleaner (like Mrs. Meyers & Method) and none of them work quite as good as Lysol. I try not to clean my toilets more than once a week, as I try not to put too much chemical cleaner into the water table, but I also want stuff clean, you know? Plus, I found that sometimes the scented Mrs. Meyers toilet cleaners made me gag. I don’t know what that was about, but… better safe than sorry.

  • Method Foaming Bathroom Cleaner - For showers & tubs, this really can’t be beat. The Eucalyptus and Mint scent is so good. I also use it on my kitchen sink every once and a while.

  • Method Squirt & Mop in Eucalyptus Mint - This is one of my favorite cleaning products of all time. I hate mopping, but our entire downstairs is hardwood now, so I have to mop at least once and while. This makes it easy! No bucket, no heavy mop. I usually just wrap a towel around my usual Swiffer and spray this, then mop over. Easy as pie.

  • Swiffer Dusters - the best dusting device out there. I use the heavy duty ones, but the regular ones work great as well.

  • Swiffer Heavy Duty - since we have a large inside dog, we need to use a Swiffer a lot. I have found that a Swiffer is much more effective than vacuuming hardwood floors. The heavy duty ones pick up a ton of dog hair and make it so, so easy.

  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser - We have hard water, so our sinks and showers often need extra scrubbing. Magic erasers are really the only thing that works without me having to break my back.

  • Scrub Daddy Sponge Daddy - These are the best spongers ever made. I don’t like the classic smiley Scrub Daddies. These ones are sponges with a scrub on the other side. I seriously love them.

That’s it! That’s my tried-and-true, every day arsenal, not including basics like laundry detergent, a vacuum, rags… you know, basic stuff.

4. Keeping It Clean

Once you’re done with your deep clean, here’s the thing: it is possible to keep it mostly clean. Here are a few of my tips

Establish a schedule throughout the week.

Every day, I try to do little things to keep my house clean. Daily, I wipe down my kitchen counters, wash dishes, and empty the dish strainer (put the dishes away, basically), as well as clean my living room and wipe down the bathroom sinks. Every weekend, I vacuum upstairs, Swiffer downstairs, vacuum the rugs, and run the dishwasher and do laundry.

Little cleaning, often, is more effective than waiting weeks to deep clean.

That bit about the schedule? Doing little cleaning tasks every week will keep deep cleans from being stressful, awful affairs. Cleaning toilets once a week, wiping down the shower when you get out, wiping down your appliances, and cleaning your fridge once a month means you won’t have a monster growing somewhere waiting for your next deep clean.

Find storage solutions that work for you.

I hate prescriptive storage blog posts; what works for me and my closets won’t necessarily work for you and your closets. My recommendation is to assess what you need to store in each closet, then find a solution for you. I typically buy all my organization stuff at the Dollar Store; no, it won’t be as cute as something from elsewhere, but ultimately, it’s not about how cute it is… it’s about it working in your space. Plus, it’s a closet; no one is even looking in there!

Decorate your space.

Having your space look exactly how you want it goes a long way towards you feeling proud about it. So, decorate! Really focus on making the space yours, even if it’s not trendy or what you see on Pinterest. As long as you love it, that’s what matters.

5. Download my cleaning checklist.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a place to start with cleaning, I’ve made a handy-dandy checklist for a few major rooms in your house. Click below to download!