There’s nothing I love as much as a discovery that changes my game: a product, service, technique, pastime, retailer, website, or exercise that makes my day to day life better. Sometimes, these these “discoveries” are not new at all, but have been around for years or even centuries before they hit my radar. But once they do, and my life improves, the former PR girl in me likes to spread the word. This past year, I’ve made some pretty awesome discoveries that have increased my productivity and creativity, smoothed out a wrinkle in my
brow life, and just made me feel stronger, happier, and more relaxed. So, of course, I want to share!
Here are my Game Changers of 2011…and the game they changed:
The Writing Game
Self-Publishing. Lots of game-changers in our industry, but nothing that can touch the tsunami of change known as “indie publishing.” Obviously, this topic merits a blog post or five, but I would be remiss if I didn’t list this in my game-changers of the year. Just four weeks ago, I released my first self-published title, entering that brave new world with much optimism and trepidation. Wow. WOW!! WOWOWOWOW!! I am absolutely thrilled with the decision, the response, the sales, and the potential. The game isn’t just changed; the rules have been scrapped and rewritten. I’ve learned so much already and have lots of insights on the topic, but the number one change in this game is….control. For the first time in ten years and thirty books, I have it. And I like it. A lot.
The Fast Draft. I’ve blogged about this before, but I must include this writing reformation in my game-changer lists. After taking a class with Fast Draft Czarina Candace Havens, I wrote 65,000 words in about four weeks. Here’s a little post script: when I went back to revise, I wrote 65,000 new words in the next four weeks. That may just be my sucky process, but I’d still do it all over again on the next book. The first fast draft was pre-writing, and a way for me to see the glaring errors in the big picture. The next draft was a little smoother. I’ll keep you posted after revisions, but all in all, I would say the decision to write a “discovery draft” changed my process enough to change my game.
Writer’s Camp. This year, I made yet another change to my writing routine that was every bit as big as the discovery draft — I started writing on a regular basis with a group of writers. A year ago I would have laughed out loud if you told me I could sit around a table with three close writer friends for six hours and do anything except eat, drink, and discuss Ryan Gosling. Well, to be honest, we do eat, drink, and talk about hot guys at what has informally become called our Writer’s Camp. But, mostly we write. All day long. We do it in the library and at each other’s homes, starting around ten and finishing around five…with some jaw-dropping word counts by day’s end. There are some rules and regs, but mostly there is respect for what we are all there to do: write. On breaks we brainstorm each other’s problems, we share ideas, we encourage, we police, we (mostly) stay off the internet, and enjoy an amazing creative synergy. It isn’t unusual to hit two, three, or four thousand words a day EACH at Writer’s Camp. If you have a group of trusted friends and want to try Writer’s Camp, set some ground rules and get together. You might be surprised what happens – I was.
The Health & Beauty Game
Argan Oil. This is definitely my favorite new “cosmetic” of the year. I first heard about this Moroccan grown oil from my post office clerk because where else would I get beauty advice? When I asked her the secret to her gorgeous skin and hair, she wrote down these words and swore they’d change my life: argan oil. Okay, the oil didn’t change my life, but it definitely added some shine to my hair and glow to my skin, and I feel like I’m helping a good cause: if you use 100% “Ethically Sourced” Moroccan Argan Oil made by the women’s cooperatives of Morocco, every purchase contributes to the protection of the Berber tribes that live in the Argan forest. I like the pure oil (in very light doses) but have also discovered a popular hair product line called Moroccanoil at my salon and find that a little less “intense” than the pure oil but really fantastic for styling.
Shellac manicures. AKA The Perfect RWA Conference Manicure. This treatment is not fake, acrylic, or a faux lengthener of any kind, but a cross between gel nails and traditional nail polish. Applied exactly like normal nail polish, shellac is dried under a UV light and lasts a rock solid two weeks without chipping. The treatment (Shellac is a brand name, but most salons are offering some version of this now) costs about $30, but it lasts five times longer than regular polish. Perfect for vacation or the all-important conference mani.
The Around The House Game
Sam’s Club. Yeah, that Sam’s. Sam Walton’s Sam’s. This game changer comes from my husband, the shopper and cook of the family. And the money saver! We were bona fide Sam’s Snobs until Rich became a hard core smoker — the barbeque kind, not the nicotine kind — and learned that certain cuts of meat are only available at Sam’s. It’s a good half hour haul to get there, but, yowzer, is it worth it! The savings are huge…but so are the quantities. My garage is now a little like a warehouse, but if you do the math (I don’t, but he does) we are saving about 35% (in many cases, more) on the things we use the most: paper goods, detergent, office supplies, snacks, bottled water (although my Brita filter almost made this list, so the bottled water consumption is down). Most of you know that my husband is a gourmand, and has crazy high standards for food quality. The meat, baked goods, and even the produce at our Sam’s exceeds those standards, so we are card-carrying members of the Club. Basically, you name it, you can buy it at Sam’s — electronics, food, appliances, games, cars (yes, cars). I bet you could even get your argan oil there…if you’re willing to buy three cases.
Flavored Sea Salt. I’m no expert in the kitchen, but I’m a great eater! A few years ago, my husband introduced me to Kosher salt and sea salt, and I loved the crunch of slightly larger granules and intense flavor. And then I discovered flavored sea salt and haven’t eaten a thing without it in ages! You can make these at home, but…come on. This is me. I love Fusion brand especially those that have the hot or smoky spices, like chipotle or thai ginger. This might not be a game changer, but it definitely set my taste buds in a new direction this year.
Skype. The College Student’s Mother’s Best Friend. Need I say more? I’d tried this video computer connection before, but when College Boy took off for the wilds of university life, the Sunday Skype morphed into the highlight of our week. This is definitely the most underutilized tool on my computer, and one of the most fun. Now I’m using Skype to brainstorm with writer friends, visit book groups around the country, and catch up with my siblings on the other coast. Easy for even a computer novice, Skype is free and fabulous.
The Me-Time Game
The Kindle. Or Nook, or any ereader! I’m not even going to lie — embracing the ereader has created a 360 change in my life. I thought I was a diehard paper girl, one who loved nothing more than the feel of the book, the smell of the pages, the ease of flipping through to the next love scene. My family got me a Kindle last Christmas and while I was happy, I seriously doubted I’d use it much. Today, you’d have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. I’m a bed reader and the Kindle has been a godsend for a person who 1) sleeps with someone who wants the light OFF (I use the lighted Kindle case) or 2) can’t get comfortable with a heavy book or 3) is a newspaper junkie and likes to (quietly) read late at night. Speaking strictly as a reader and not a writer, the ereader has been the most significant change in my reading life since I discovered romance novels.
The Bachelor/Bacherlorette. I know it’s been on for ten years, but this is the first year I discovered the utter joy of junk food for the brain known as The Bachelor and/or The Bachelorette. How could I have missed this Number One Guilty Pleasure? This season’s Bachelorette entertained on so many levels, it’s difficult to pinpoint just why I love this show some much. The show definitely gives me scads of material for future books, offers me excellent “teaching moments” for my teenage daughter (certain contestants are affectionately known as “What Not To Date”), and manages to shock and entertain me week after week. The new season started last night – feel free to discuss in the comments! (Ahem, Jenna! All I can say is thank you for showing my daughter that most important dating lesson: drunk and desperate women are not attractive.)
Church. (Yeah, I put this under The Bachelor, but I realize that’s not where it belongs. This one is truly last and not least.) So, talk about a game-changer that’s been around for centuries! This past year, my daughter told me that the first place she wanted to drive herself when she got a license was…church. Yeah, color me surprised and ashamed that we’d transferred out of the parochial school system and somehow left behind the church that came with it. Of course I offered to take her, having felt for some time that my life could use a dose of spirituality. We did a little research and found a church not five minutes from our home, and decided to give this new experience a try. Suffice it to say (and it will have to suffice, since we don’t talk religion or politics on this blog) this wasn’t a game-changing move, it was a life-changing one. I certainly did need some more spirituality, and finding it has grounded me in more ways than I can or will describe, giving me a new community and a fresh perspective on life. All I will say is if you happen to feel a little tap on your heart, it might not be a bad idea to open the door.
So what changed your game this past year? Make any fabulous discoveries — new products or killer apps or healthy ideas that put a bounce in your step, joy in your heart, power in your muse, laughter in your voice, a glow on your face, or just a few more hours in the day?
Please share! One commenter will win a copy of Space In His Heart, my latest release and a book that has truly changed the game for me. (Ebook or print version – winner’s choice!)
Happy New Year, everyone!! May your game be changed for the better in 2012!