Monthly Archives: July 2015

Summer Writing Project Completed!

The Lake Projects eight-week summer writing project wrapped up last week, and it was a success! Some of our participants checked in for one last time with a final project statement. Here’s what they had to say:

Anne: I didn’t get what I wanted done this session mainly because life kept turning too chaotic for me to be able to write anything. I did get something written back in June but once July hit everything went down hill. (Anne wrote our week four guest post, and she did a lot of journaling, so, Anne, I think you did a great job)

Bev: I did pretty much finish my journal of my vacation (26 pp), did four blog posts on it, tweaked my query letter, and got potential agents in a spreadsheet.
My Big Picture goal is to get my memoir published, continue my letter writing, and start working on the next memoir from the 15 months I lived in Logan, UT, tentatively titled In the Shadow of the Temple. (Bev wrote our week six guest post; make sure to follow her blog, Fiacre’s Spade)

Laura: I didn’t reach my “big picture” goal (to finish a short story and start another), but I got a lot of work done on a story I started years ago, and I’m almost finished with the first draft. I wrote a lot of blog posts this summer, and that’s thanks to this group. On a whole, I feel great about the writing I did and I loved having a group to be accountable to. (Keep following the Lake Projects blog right here!)

Lisa: I can’t really remember what my big picture goal was for this summer session. I think I wanted to work on a few chapters of the children’s novel I’ve been wanting to start and I wanted to revise an old story. I never actually got to the story, but I did write the beginning of the novel that I’ve thinking about forever. That’s a pretty big accomplishment. I actually got words on paper and started fleshing out some characters. Wow. More importantly, I’m really excited to continue working on this, which is amazing. So, I’d consider this summer a success! Woo hoo! (Lisa wrote our week eight guest post. Good job, Lisa!)

Mike: I didn’t achieve my big picture goal from the start of the group, but I’m happy with the progress I made. It’s been a while since I tried to break up the writing process into manageable chunks (outlining, drafting, dividing-and-conquering on edits), and I was successful at those parts. I’ve also never tried to meld what I thought were two separate stories together and not let the seams show too much, and I think I’m closer to a finished product with that than I would have expected otherwise. The bonus was this past weekend, while cleaning out old files in preparation to pack up and put our house on the market, I found two pages of a draft version of one of the two stories with which I was working. I don’t remember writing them, but they actually function quite well within the revised version I have now (and provide dialogue and do a lot of connective work that I was missing), so I have even more material to edit together than I thought. I even have a possible new title, but I’ll hold off on sharing that till the draft is done, and I can make a careful decision on that. (That’s big progress! Read stories about Mike and his family’s experiences with Rett Syndrome on his blog, The Big Deal – Living With Rett)

Robert: I could only participate in the last week, but I exceeded my goal. I planned to write 2,000 words this week and I wrote 3,565. Yay! (Follow Robert’s progress on his writing blog, ROBBLOG)

I asked our group if they’d be interested in a shorter session, four weeks, beginning after the new year. I know that after the fall semester ends and the holidays wrap up, I’m going to want something to motivate me, and I thought others might feel the same way. And the writers are interested, so it will run! Mark your calendars and let me know if you’re interested in participating!

Coming Soon: Winter 2016 Online Writing Group, Monday January 4, 2016 – Saturday, January 30, 2016

Bosco is Five!

Our nephew Bosco is five years old today!

Bosco was born six weeks premature, and he was a wrinkly little Benjamin Button-looking baby:

He's so very small

He’s so very small

But he put on the pounds quickly and developed into a smiling little monkey butt:

We celebrated with Bo and his buddies on Saturday, and Paula had put together a race car extravaganza. The kids decorated their “cars”:

The racers decorate their cars.

The racers decorate their cars.

And then they lined up to race. These kids were not at all discouraged by the fact that it was 8,000 degrees outside with 125,000% humidity. They didn’t care; the race was on.

The racers line up.

The racers line up.

Once the races were over, it was time for snacks, made by the amazing Paula, and Duck, Duck, Goose, led by the amazing Grandma:

Can you deal with how cute these are? I can't. I'm freaking out right now.

Can you deal with how cute these are? I can’t. I’m freaking out right now.

Duck Duck Goose 2

The chase is on!

The chase is on!

Trevor and I want to wish Bo a very happy fifth birthday. One day soon he’ll be reading and writing, and then he’ll be driving and voting, and then he’ll be going to college and probably traveling the planet doing good works and hopefully not still calling people ‘poopy-butts.’ But, it’s possible he might still be.

Happy birthday, Bosco!

Time to Get Lost

Group member Lisa is a colleague of mine in the MCC English Department and my office-mate on campus. In addition to being an excellent tea-drinking pal, Lisa co-advises the campus creative writing club with me, she is a fellow super-fan of The Walking Dead, and she’s a talented writer and has been published in The Florida Review, Black Warrior Review, and Mid-American Review.

When Lisa isn’t teaching, raising her three smart and gorgeous kids, or watching The Walking Dead, she’s finding “micro-moments” to write. Here’s how she does it.

This is a guest post from Lisa Crizer, a member of this summer’s Online Writing Group:

Lisa and Eli

I grew up in a loud family, to say the least. We discussed everything, and to the outsider I’m sure our conversations seemed like complete chaos. We watched a lot of TV, too. I’m completely comfortable with the dull background hum of daytime programming.

I like my surroundings loud and lively. I treasure the laughter and giggles that usually fill our rooms. I’m even learning to decipher the screams and squeals of the ever more frequent arguments between my girls. We are living life, with all of its sticky hands, mosquito bites, and nerve-sizzling mayhem.

Lately, however, days filled with hours of swimming and running around in the sun have led to late summer bedtimes. I love seeing my kids passed out in the corner of the couch, faces dirty from a day of fun. But, these later bedtimes have a sinister side effect — less time for me.

Our oldest daughter used to put herself to bed at 7:30. She still does. For years, my husband and I were spoiled with three hours each night all to ourselves. We were time-rich fools binge watching series on Netflix, having adult conversation, and doing crazy things like going to Target alone. Two children later and we are in a completely different boat; a completely different rickety old canoe in a deep, tumultuous ocean of constant companionship.

I never dreamt I’d seek out quiet; envy people dining alone at a restaurant, walking solo on the bike trail, or even just driving alone in their car listening to the radio. This summer has reminded me how important it is, as a writer, to have some solitude; time to think, make up scenarios, plan out conversations, flesh out characters.

So, what can I do? How can I rediscover this time and allow my mind to wander?

I wish I knew. I wish I had some great, disciplined plan where I would wake up every day a few hours before the kids and write. But, I don’t.

What I do have are “micro-moments”. Those precious instances where the TV is off, or the kids fall asleep in the car and I can finally turn off the Care Bears DVD. Or, the afternoon I’d been looking forward to for years, when I took my oldest to the bookstore and she read while I worked.

These “micro-moments” are hard to plan, and sometimes even hard to recognize. But right now they’re all I’ve got and I’m working hard not to waste them scrolling through my Facebook feed. If I can learn to appreciate these bits of calm, and string together all of these tiny specks of quiet time, I might just be able to get lost again once in a while.

We can all find these moments — we just have to look for them. Thanks, Lisa, for the reminder!

Week Eight: Online Writing Group

It’s the eighth and final week of the Summer 2015 Online Writing Group!

This is our last week of the Lake Projects Online Writing Group!

Here are Everyone’s Week Eight Updates & New Goals:

  • Anne: I am hoping for this week to have a good amount of research done in my journal. I am not sure if I will be able to make my eight week goal, as life has seriously been blocking the way lately. I am hoping to have something done by the end of the week.
  • Anuar: No update
  • Bev: I got twelve pages or so written about my vacation last week. For this week, I am going to send query letters to agents. Really! I mean it! At least four. Swear to God! (You will do it, Bev!)
  • Bonnie: No update
  • Curt: No update
  • DonnaNo update
  • Laura: I must finish my short story this week; I must, and I will!
  • Lisa: I’m hoping to write two pages this week!
  • MaryI didn’t write anything for two weeks because of some personal things, so for our last week I want to write a blog post about that.
  • Mary MargaretNo update
  • Matthew: No update
  • Mike: I made more progress on the first half of the draft version of the story but didn’t finish it. I still need to work on some of the connecting scenes and dialogue to get things coherently to the final scene of the story, which will be my goal for this week.
  • Robert: Been back from Hong Kong for a week, getting the jet lag out. Haven’t done any writing — we’ve had guests with us until today. I hope for this next week to get 2,000 words written. (Welcome back, Robert!)
  • Samantha: No update
  • Steve: No update

 Check back Wednesday for a guest post from Lisa!


In an effort to do something with the next two hours of my life that doesn’t involve getting anxious about tonight’s performance of God of Carnage, I’ve decided to give you all a mash-up of the random little dodads that have been happening in and around Camp Crystal Lake.

A few weeks ago, I posted about our trip to Maine for our friends’ wedding. There were a couple of mini-adventures that weren’t directly wedding-related, so I didn’t include them. But here, in our miscellany post, they’re perfect!

Cristen and Jayson took us to the Glen Cove Motel for a spectacular photo shoot:

Glen Cove Motel 1

Trevor and Jayson

Glen Cove Motel 2

Jayson and Cristen

Cristen and Laura

Cristen and Laura

So, it’s clear that I look good as a lobster and that I will pursue this as my next career.

We also went to the Maine State Prison gift shop. The products — beautiful woodwork and leather goods — are crafted by the inmates. The detail in everything from the wooden salad bowls to the model ships is meticulous, and the prices are reasonable. If we’d had more room in our suitcases, we’d have gotten a lot more. We picked up a couple of gifts for friends and family, and of course, something for ourselves:

Maine State Prison Travel Mug

While we were in Maine, I figured out the likelihood that we’d be able to sneak over to Bangor for an afternoon drive past the house of my favorite writer, Stephen King. Roadside America lists his house as an attraction (weird, right?) and I really, really, really, really (really) wanted to go check it out.

His house has a cobweb gate! A cobweb gate! (Photo credit: Pixdaus)

But Trevor refused (why? why, Trevor, why??), and realistically, we didn’t have time (I guess that’s why [boo! (j.k. I love you, Trevor)]). So I guess that means we’ll have to book another vacation just to Bangor. From this vacation, I settled for a copy of Carrie that I snapped up from the Stone Soup Books in Camden.

Carrie Paperback

Is this book as good as stalking one of my literary heroes? No. But it’s a good book.

The rest of my haul from Stone Soup Books

The rest of my haul from Stone Soup Books

A couple weekends after we got back from Maine, our neighbors, Joe and Mary, invited us to go boating with them at a quarry they hang out in Cary (the town over from Camp Crystal Lake). They go to the quarry to water ski, BBQ, sit on the beach, and enjoy life. We very thankfully joined them and had a great time.

Quary Horses

These are the horses that hang out by the quarry.


Quarry Beach

The quarry has a nice sandy beach

Quarry swimming raft

We absolutely jumped off of this diving board.

When we got home, we (read: Trevor) built a fire on the porch. It had been a moderate day and the night was clear and cool. We stared at the fire for a few hours before going to bed. It was great.

Summer Fire

On the Fourth of July we went to the Lakeside Fest in Crystal Lake. We drank some beer, ate some ice cream, and watched a lot of teenagers put their lives in the hands of this death machine:

Lakeside Fest Zipper


Trevor assembled our planter, and I got our miniature garden going a couple of days ago:

Raised Garden

And last night we had dinner with my old roommate, Jenn, and her husband Jeremy. Jenn and Jeremy live in Seattle and are visiting for the weekend; I have performances tonight, Saturday, and Sunday, so I was so happy they were able to meet us for dinner the night they flew in. I haven’t seen them in years and years, but we picked up right where we left off and had a great time while stuffing ourselves with Thai food in our old Wicker Park neighborhood.

Me and the amazing Jenn!

Me and the amazing Jenn!

And that’s all of our random news from Camp Crystal Lake!

Now, I’ve successfully focused on something other than my nerves about tonight’s show! We have three more shows, so you should absolutely come to see it. It’s cheap. It’s short. It’s been well reviewed. And it’s full of swear words!



You can make a reservation by calling 815-455-8746 or emailing Jay Geller at jgeller[at]mchenry[dot]edu.

Check back for more posts about the God of Carnage Family, Friends, and Fun weekend with the Power clan and our Glen Cove Motel friends Jayson and Cristen; and for posts from our final week of the Lake Projects Online Writing Group. See you soon!

Week Seven: Online Writing Group

It’s the seventh week of the Summer 2015 Online Writing Group!

We’ve got two weeks left in our online writing group! OH MY GOD!

We didn’t have a guest blogger this week, and a few of you got me posts after Sunday, so I’ve posted this a bit late. Are you disappointed? Too bad, suckers.

Here are Everyone’s Week Seven Updates & New Goals:

  • AnneMy goal for this week is going to be something simple: I want to go through my old journal entries and see if there is anything there to add to and improve. I have some things I wrote during my time at Columbia that I want to revisit as well. I’m going to be starting a new job this week so I’m going to have to rework my schedule a bit and see how the writing goes this week. As of right now, it’s up in the air and whatever happens this week, happens, writing wise I mean. (Hope the job is going well, Anne!)
  • Anuar: My goals for week seven are the same to add three more chapters to my book and I’m a bit behind but I’ll try to write more often over this last two weeks.
  • Bev: This week I’m going to keep a journal of my trip to the little cabin near the Boundary Waters north of Grand Marais, MN for another edition of Bev and Jane’s excellent adventures.
  • Bonnie: No update
  • Curt: No update
  • DonnaNo update
  • Laura: I want to get two more blog posts done this week — a short one about the play and a longer one about my favorite band that I’ve been thinking about for weeks now. I’ve also got an estimated four to six pages left on the story I’m writing, and I’d like to finish that this week.
  • LisaOkay, I’m going to say two pages. That’s all I’m shooting for.  🙂 (That’s enough, Lisa!)
  • Mary: No update
  • Mary MargaretNo update
  • Matthew: No update
  • Mike: I have the same objectives as last week (to flesh out the first half of the story draft), but not out of total slackerness. I wound up spending more time on the second half of the story and its climactic scene instead, so progress happened.
  • RobertNo update
  • Samantha: No update
  • Steve: No update

I couldn’t decide if I should use this week’s post as a list of links or a list of prompts, so you’re getting both!

The following is a list of links that, as writers and readers, you might find interesting:

And now, here’s your list of writing prompts (these are non-fiction, but you could like adapt them for fiction if you wanted to):

  • “Write a memoir about a job you have held. Show (and tell) why this job did not lead to a life-long career” (Burroway 250).
  • “Make a list of family mysteries or things you feel uncertain about in your family history. Interview someone in your family who might be willing to fill you in” (Roney 105).
  • Write about something that’s stuck in your craw — a graduate school professor of mine, Larry Heinemann (who is wonderful and everyone should read Paco’s Story [and every Chicagoan should read Cooler by the Lake]) gave me this assignment once, and whenever a student is stuck, I repeat it. What idea, moment, argument, or observation have you not been able to shake for the last few days or weeks? What’s stuck with you? Write about it. Now.
  • Write 250 – 500 words about your worst fear. It doesn’t have to be rational (I’m scared of sharks and have been known to get the terrors for a few seconds while in a swimming pool); it doesn’t have to exist (unicorns, vampires, narwhals [wait, narwhals exist, nevermind]). But why does it scare you?

Okay, got enough? Now, get to writing! Next week is our last week; we’ll have one more list of goals, a guest post from Lisa, and more amazing content to keep you procrastinating long into the wee hours of the morning!

*Burroway, Janet. Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. 3rd Ed. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2011. Print.

Roney, Lisa. Serious Daring: Creative Writing in Four Genres. New York: Oxford, 2015. Print.

*Burroway is a writer whose textbook I use in my creative writing class and whose textbook I used when I was an undergraduate learning the craft. Her approach is practical and straightforward, and I recommend reading her book for useful tips and an excellent anthology of poetry, prose, and drama.

Summer of the Play

Since we’ve been in Crystal Lake (it was two years last month), I’ve nicknamed our summers. Our first summer was The Summer of the Move, and didn’t really count as summer since we got out here in late June and spent the following two months unpacking, settling in, and trying to avoid the 18,000,000 mosquitoes that had made our backyard their home.

Our first picture in front of our first house!

Our first picture in front of our first house!

Last summer was The Summer of the Screenplay, because I worked on a horror screenplay with a former student of mine. I am 99.9% sure that it will ever be made (or read by anyone, ever), but it was a weird and interesting experience and now I can say that I’ve written a screenplay. A good screenplay? Well, let’s just move on.

Roo oversees the writing process

Roo oversees the screenplay writing process

This summer has been The Summer of the Play because this summer I’ve been rehearsing for a play that opened last night. (Do you notice how amazing my nicknames are? I am the most creative person you know!) The play is God of Carnage, and I wrote about it a bit last week. Here are my castmates and me, posing like happy, well-adjusted people:

Me and my GOC castmates

Me and my GOC castmates (Photo Credit: Brian Bieschke Photography)

And here we are, being…not happy:

Although we’re four of the angriest, saddest, most frustrated people on stage, we’ve been having a hell of a lot of fun backstage.

A dressing room selfie with me and the amazing Shannon Mayhall

A dressing room selfie with me and the amazing Shannon Mayhall

Our sound technician Paul and assistant stage director/"Monica"/clafouti server Danielle

Our sound technician Paul and assistant stage director/”Monica”/clafouti server Danielle

Maggie comes in to give Patrick a haircut before final dress

Maggie comes in to give Patrick a haircut before final dress

And our comfortable, relaxed, and frequently silly backstage energy fed us last night, for the opening night of the show. Our ninety-seat black box theater space had an audience of about sixty, and let me tell you, they were terrific. They laughed and cringed and reacted visibly and audibly. It was a wonderful relief. I’d forgotten how funny this play is — our director and crew have sat through it about a dozen times; we’re used to them, and during tech early this week they were much more concerned about lights, sound cues, and costuming than they were about laughing at us. But having a room full of strangers laugh where you want them to (and laugh where you don’t expect them to) was new, fresh, and fantastic.

One of the audience members was Bill Geheren (a.k.a. Sir William), co-host of the 2 Dudes and The Duchess radio show on Huntley Community Radio, where we appeared last week to promote the play. And post-play, while some of the cast came to Camp Crystal Lake to eat, drink, and debrief about the performance, Sir William was writing a generous and flattering review of the show. It was lovely of him and we are grateful for his support.

Sir William, setting it all up

Sir William, setting it all up

Sir William (Bill Geheren), The Duchess (Kate Curtin), and Franklin/Alan (Patrick Thompson)

Sir William (Bill Geheren), The Duchess (Kate Curtin), and Franklin/Alan (Patrick Thompson)

Patrick, Bill, Kate, and Me, at Huntley Community Radio station

Patrick, Bill, Kate, and Me, at Huntley Community Radio station

Trevor is coming to the show tonight with Mom and Dad Bork (he might try to sneak Roo in, too…). I told them to get to the theater early enough to enjoy a piece of clafouti, which will be served for the first twenty minutes that the house is open.

Apples and pears? Apples and Pears!!!!!!!!!

Apples and pears? Apples and Pears!!!!!!!!!

Danielle in the kitchen

Danielle in the kitchen, serving up clafouti

If you’re looking for something to do tonight or next weekend, come out to Camp Crystal Lake to see the show. It’s only eighty minutes and you’ll get to see me do things you have likely never seen me do before. Yes. You’re intrigued. So make a reservation now.


Just Us Chickens

Group member Beverly, a colleague of mine in MCC’s Biology Department, has written her first book — an epistolary memoir called Seven Bridges to Mandan — and is in the process of looking for an agent.

In her time “off” from teaching, fine tuning her manuscript, and writing her blog, Fiacre’s Spade, Bev farms her land and raises chickens. It’s an interesting life — and one that produces farm-fresh eggs that she generously gives to her friends (thanks for the delicious eggs, Bev!). It’s also a life that can be mined for lessons. Here are some of the things Bev has learned, about writing and about life, from her feathered farm friends.

This is a guest post from Beverly Dow, a member of this summer’s Online Writing Group:

Gracie, a silver crested hen

Gracie, a silver crested hen

In the three years that we have had chickens, I have discovered that they are wonderful, Zen-like creatures that have a lot to teach us about writing and living. Here are four points of chicken advice.

1. Be present in the moment. A chicken pomodoro is two minutes, tops. But in their brief attention span, they are totally focused. There is no past and no future. There is only now. When writing, set aside a short time, and don’t let anything distract you.

2. Regard every good thing as the best thing that has ever happened. Scratch grains, carrot peels, worms on a rainy morning—best thing ever! I have a “chicken moment” with chocolate every day after lunch. Presumably we are all in this group because we love writing. Make your writing time the best thing ever.

3. Deal with aggravations directly and get over it. Chickens really do have chicken fights. Two face off, run straight at each other, and collide. It’s hilarious! I have no idea how they decide who wins, but it is all over in seconds. You can’t write if your mind is on the last quibble you had with your spouse. Move on. (Note: I am terrible at this one.)

4. If you get broody, chill.

Anna Vic brooding

Anna Vic, brooding

The primordial chicken had to incubate (brood) eggs. Her belly gets warmer, and her brain tells her to sit in the nest and get all pissy if disturbed. Broodiness has not been completely bred out of modern hens. We cure a broody hen by putting her in an elevated cage to cool her belly and disrupt the broody hormone cycle. So take a time out and stop obsessing. Have some chocolate. Get back to writing. It’s the best thing ever!

These are some really wise chickens! Or, at least their farmer is a wise woman who is a fan of writing and chocolate. Either way, take the chicken’s advice and get to work, writers!

Week Six: Online Writing Group

It’s the sixth week of the Summer 2015 Online Writing Group!

We’ve got three weeks left in our online writing group, so celebrate with your leftover Fourth of July fireworks and then get down to business!

A few of you didn’t get your week six goals to me, so you’re getting a holiday Patriot Pass (I just made that up). Feel free to share your week’s goals in the comments section or send me something today (Monday) and I will include it with Bev’s guest post on Tuesday!

Patriot Pass

Here are Everyone’s Week Six Updates & New Goals:

  • Anne: This week I’m hoping to catch up on some much needed journaling as well as continuing my research from several weeks ago. I’m to the point where I need to do some serious historical research to find inspiration to continue to write what I began years ago. I feel like doing this historical research will help me because I love history, so it will be like a muse for me to continue several of my stories that I have put on the back burner for the past few years. Also, I have really been getting into the Folktale genre lately and I hope to try and write a short, original Folktale by the end of the week. 
  • Anuar: No update: Patriot Pass
  • Bev: Last week, I wrote the guest blog post and two of my own blog posts (read Bev’s blog, Fiacre’s Spade), worked on my story of the wedding in Sugar Land, TX that I attended in April, and found several promising leads on agents. This week, I will do two more blog posts, finish the wedding story, and read the first three pages of my memoir to be sure it really pops, since at least one agent only wants the first three pages. I will also update my query letter.
  • Bonnie: No update: Patriot Pass
  • Curt: No update: Patriot Pass
  • DonnaNo update: Patriot Pass
  • Laura: I wrote a couple of blog posts last week and added four new pages to my short story, so I feel good. This week I’ll finish the story’s last scene and do at least one blog post (this one doesn’t count).
  • Lisa: I’m back! I hope to do about five pages this week. Fingers crossed.
  • Mary: I successfully updated again! After a rocky start, this seems to be keeping me on track. For this week I will update again and I’m going to shoot for two this time. Go big or go home. Or something. (Go BIG, Mary!)
  • Mary MargaretNo update: Patriot Pass
  • Matthew: No update: Patriot Pass
  • Mike: My objectives for this week are to complete the draft of the first half of the story. I made good progress with the second half of the story (actually writing a few pages of it, rather than just outlining it) last week, and now I want to flesh out the missing parts in that first half.
  • RobertNo update: Patriot Pass
  • Samantha: No update: Patriot Pass
  • SteveI’m still writing my paper on Mendelssohn. Got to page 31, and switched from 12 point to 11 point font, so I still have room to finish my 25-30 page assignment. HA! (Good trick, Steve!)

If you took a Patriot Pass last week and want to get back on track, I have a couple of ideas to cut down on computer/Internet/social networking distractions.

I know that Facebook, for me, is a time waster. I could scroll through for hours, looking at friends’ pictures, following goofy clickbait links to goofy articles about celebrity make-up habits and adorable baby animals. And then I look up and realize that the sun has set, the dog needs to be fed, and I haven’t gotten out of my pajamas all day long. It’s kind of depressing.

Twitter has a similar effect on me, but many of the accounts I follow are news sources or book blogs, so at least I feel like the time I spend following links and reading articles are keeping me in the loop for what’s going on in the world. Not so with Facebook; so I deleted the Facebook app on my phone and allow myself to access the site only when I’m on my computer. This cut down on my Facebook time significantly and made me feel better about my media consumption.

But, when I’m on my computer at home, the Internet is right there: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Flavorwire, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. So, how do I control myself? If I’m working on a short story, it’s easy because all I need open is a Word document. But if I’m writing a blog post, I’m on WordPress, and just opening up my Internet browser is a slippery slope (case in point: I started this post at 8 a.m. today and have so far been distracted by my blog’s WordPress analytics, my Goodreads updates page, GIFs from the U.S. women’s soccer team World Cup finals, and, of course, Facebook. It’s currently 2:16 p.m. That’s a lot of wasted time.

So let’s acknowledge that the Internet, while a brilliant tool when used responsibly, is also the devil’s screwdriver. Or the devil’s television. Or something made by the devil, I don’t know. Here are two tools designed to beat the devil and his wonderful, wonderful GIFs:

Self Control

Self Control is a free software developed by Charlie Stigler and is designed to keep you from the websites and applications that are most distracting to you.

Once you download Self Control, you’re able to import or add each website you want to block to a “Blacklist”. These sites will be unavailable to you during a timed session, which you set yourself. Once you have your list completed, you set your timer and won’t be able to access any of the sites on your “Blacklist” until the timer runs down. It’s easy and it’s effective.

Self Control sliding timer

Self Control sliding timer


ZenWriter is a text editing software from Beenokle that gives the user a full screen text window — with limited formatting options — and a few options for background images and music. I love the idea of writing in a full screen window; if you can’t see your applications and alerts, you won’t be bothered by them. I haven’t been able to try ZenWriter because it’s a Windows application and I have a Mac. If you give the free trial a shot, though, let me know how you find it.

And if you want to keep it simple and not spend a dime, just make your Word document Full Screen. It’s simple to get into: View – Enter Full Screen; and just hit “Escape” to get out of it. Here’s a short video to walk you through (warning: this video is very exciting):

But before you do anything, please watch this video of foxes jumping on a trampoline. Then get to work!