Shelley Widhalm

Archive for April, 2020|Monthly archive page

To-Do Lists During These Times (it takes a shift in approach)

In Adjust and Readjust, COVID-19, COVID-19 Response, To-Do Lists, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Tips on April 26, 2020 at 11:00 am

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Don’t let staying at home make you feel caged in–instead readjust and pivot with a great To-Do list to accomplish your tasks.

I figured that with the slowdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, I would become super efficient at my To-Do list.

I figured more time meant more tasks done.

What’s actually happening is that I’m sleeping in and taking more breaks during the day. I’m stressed and anxious about the news, what’s next and what all this means at a personal and global level.

In other words, I’m not accomplishing all of my goals. I want to traditionally publish one book. I want to self-publish two others. I want to regain my freelancing work. I want to be safe and happy.

Readjusting and Pivoting

What I’m actually doing during my stay-at-home time is readjusting and pivoting.

Once coronavirus first struck, I went through the stages of grief from shock to acceptance. I was shocked at the frantic, overstocking behaviors in the grocery store (I work part-time in one as part of the whole gig economy thing). I watched mask wearing go from 10 percent to 75 percent. And I saw the store’s max of 206 people result in lines out the door with everyone six feet apart.

This now is the new normal, and in the middle of all of this, I looked at my To-Do list, thinking, how do I start?

This is where the pivoting comes in. I have to find new work in new ways. I have to redo my marketing materials to fit this time, innovating in how I appeal to the customer. I have to rethink my writing, moving from taking the work as it comes to going out and finding it. And I have to think of my creative writing as a business with a mission or purpose and business and marketing plans.

In other words, I’m readjusting my goals yet not accomplishing any of them, because I’m caught in the middle. And that’s what this coronavirus pandemic feels like. Every day the world changes. What’s closed? What’s open? Put on a mask? Take off the mask? Stay at home or be safer at home? Flux and fluctuation. Change and difference. I can’t keep up.

What are your responses to the pandemic? What’s on your To-Do list that you want to accomplish but because of the flux you can’t start?

Working Through a To-Do List

Here are some ways to work through a To-Do list, whether for writing, editing or other tasks:

  • Write it out in a mess.
  • Organize the mess.
  • Break up the mess into steps.
  • Do the steps one at a time.
  • Give yourself credit for each step.
  • Celebrate the credit with some pretend.

For instance, since we can’t go out to a restaurant, sit in a coffee shop or go on a shopping trip, take the experience home. Use your imagination to create the noise and busyness around you, and set up your table by the window, looking out at whatever seems beautiful. Readjust and pivot, going inward to make what’s outward more bearable.

Taking my own advice, I’m going to create a master plan of each step involved in self-publishing, using my resources—books and in-person (before coronarvirus) and Zoom classes—to list the steps. I felt overwhelmed (and still do), but the To-Do list will make it something to carry out from one task to the next, step by step. It’s a way to get out of the middle and the confusion, the uncertainty and the mental mess. The result, I hope, will be a clear direction, plus some acceptance and, soon, a reason to celebrate.

Why Good Writing Still Matters (and crappy writing loses readers)

In Editing, Editing Advice, Editing as Part of Writing, Editing Tips, Writing, Writing Advice, Writing Tips on April 19, 2020 at 11:00 am

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Achieving good writing is easier than trying to line up ducks on a snowy, winter day. And here in Colorado, winter extends into spring!

I started reading an article about a topic where I had the opposite opinion of the writer, and after slogging through the first paragraph, I figured I’d get the message in the second paragraph.

Quite frankly, I wanted to learn something and maybe even change my opinion or alter it in some way, since I try to be open-minded.

Stopping in the Middle

I skimmed to the halfway point, then stopped reading, because the writer never got to the point. I’m busy, even stuck indoors during the stay-at-home executive order for the state of Colorado (and other states). I just don’t have the patience for poorly written content—and I’m not alone.

In our fast-paced, fake news, article- and blog-heavy society, we don’t spend the time reading as if studying for a final or needing to absorb the content. It’s click and move on.

Achieving Good Writing

Good writing needs to get to the point right away (this excludes fiction and poetry that’s more about atmosphere and storytelling with the time and space to build plot, character and description). It needs to make apparent the theme or main topic of the subject, covering what you want to say in one to three sentences.

Good writing has a lead in, just like a news article, with a short story or a compelling detail that peaks interest. The reader wants to learn more and reads the second paragraph, or in journalism speak, the graf.

Good writing also has structure, moving from one point to the next with enough details supporting each point but not overly describing or going off on a tangent, or off topic—this loses the reader.

And good writing has transitions, so that paragraphs flow from one to the next.

Losing Bad Writing

The article that annoyed me is lost. I won’t find it again, nor did I get the writer’s intended message, because I clicked and moved on. Good writing that flows moves the writer from point to point, keeping the reader within the text. The reader stays until the end. Start to finish, that’s what you want in article absorption.

Adjusting (albeit reluctantly) to COVID-19

In Adjust and Readjust, COVID-19, COVID-19 Response, Editing, Readjusting, Self-Isolation, Social Distancing, Writing on April 5, 2020 at 11:00 am

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Shelley Widhalm of Shell’s Ink Services works in the Murray’s Cheese Department at a Loveland, Colo., King Soopers store for her gig job. Here, she is handing out samples before Kroger temporarily discontinued food demonstrations and sampling in response to COVID-19.

At first I thought the media response to COVID-19 was an overreaction, and then as I read fake and real news, I changed my mind.

I also changed my patterns, though I had no choice with the March 26 executive order to stay-at-home issued in Colorado, where I live.

Not a Joke!

On April Fool’s Day, I went on a walk with my dog, Zoey, and I had a dream the night before—the word that came to mind as I walked in the nice sunshine was “readjust.” The night before, I cut and pasted my dream—I don’t recall the parts that I moved around, but I made changes, or adjustments, to the content. Changing my mind also was an adjustment as is editing—it adjusts a rough draft into polished writing.

On March 13, which was Friday the 13th, I significantly noticed the world was changing in response to coronavirus, though I’d already been reading the articles. That’s the day my gym closed for 13 days—now extended through the end of April. I cried and complained, because I couldn’t live without the gym, where I lifted heavy weights and ran.

Adjust and Readjust

But I adjusted, albeit slowly, and instead of running 30 minutes every other day amped it to 45 minutes a day with Saturdays off. I also brought out my weights set—don’t laugh!—of 5, 3 and 2 pounds, plus wrist weights of 1.5 pounds. I was in a lot of pain for one week—I have fibromyalgia and cope through daily exercise. I adjusted, at least physically, and saw my pain return to normal as I pretended I was at the gym and did the same exercises with tiny weights.

I also work at a grocery store for my gig job and literally felt shocked at the empty shelves starting in mid-March. The energy from the shoppers felt disjointed, chaotic and fearful. There was an increase in lack of manners, which then returned to caution and politeness with social distancing. And there was a scarcity in a weird list of things—yes, TP, but also potatoes, onions, bread, meat, cheese, yogurt, eggs, other paper products, and um, I don’t get this, bananas.

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The paper products aisle at a Loveland, Colo., King Soopers store is nearly empty March 13, which was Friday the 13th.

I began to store associate isolate, focusing on cleaning—I work in the cheese island—notice the word, “island.” That means I’m in a U-shaped section with tall counters and can focus on my task list, which I self-increased by adding the cleaning duties. I reacted out of fear of catching the virus, staying six feet away from customers, washing my hands for 20 seconds, avoiding touching my face and showering after work, plus separating my work clothes from my other things.

Avoid Self-Isolation

My other job is freelance writing and editing, and I used to work part of my day in a coffee shop. The state limited restaurants and coffee shops to to-go orders, so I isolated at home to do my work under the stay-at-home order. I thought I couldn’t live without a way to get out of the house and be in a busy, social environment, but I adjusted.

And now when it rains, I take out my inside running shoes, and I go for a run—inside. Yep, I make due.

Speaking of which, all the books that I have due at the library aren’t overdue, because, you guessed it, the library’s closed. But words haven’t been cut off—we still have ways to communicate—Zoom, email, text, the telephone. I even wave as I run by my neighbors from that six feet of distance.

Did I mention that I do editing? And that I have room in my schedule for one to two editing projects. I also do writing for individuals and businesses with the content adjusted perfectly to the message.