Tools to Make my Life & Work Easier

As a writer, a shopper, a person, an independent contractor, etc., I use a variety of online tools to make my life easier.  Here is a list of the tools I used throughout my day.

I start my Toggl timer first thing in the morning when I start working.  I pulled up MindManager to look at an outline of an online course that I’m editing.

When I got a call from the office, I whipped out my LiveBinders to look at an itinerary for international travelers leaving at 9 o’clock tonight.  When my client wanted to collaborate on an article, was the ticket.

You get the picture.  Seriously, I used ALL of these today.  I am a terrible housekeeper, but I am productive writer and work-from-home kind of gal.

Internet tools make me be able to spread myself thinner than ever before!  (That’s sarcasm…not going to put in an “LOL.”)

So…you want to be a writer — Part III

Thick Skin 101

In Part II, I mentioned getting a thick skin. Let’s talk a moment about what having a thick skin involves for bloggers and writers.

I write newsletters for a client that reaches 300,000+ readers. I go months without hearing a single nasty remark about my articles, but it wasn’t always that way. I’ve had to take a few licks. Undoubtedly, in the future, if I continue to write for such large audiences, I will take thousands more.

Admit mistakes and fix them.

When I began writing professionally, I had grammar weaknesses; a couple of them are mentioned in Part II. A reader wrote my client and gave him a scathing earful about the “crap” I was writing. Fortunately, my content was excellent, but it needed polishing. I didn’t quit. I was making money with my writing, so I cut back on buying the cute glasses and designer handbags that my new writing career afforded me, and I invested some of that money in my future. I hired a knowledgeable proofreader who would slap my hands and tell me what was wrong with my punctuation and grammar.

This happened before was online and available for me to use. I still need my proofreader, but now I run articles through Grammarly before I hand it over to my proofreader.  When I get the proofed articles back from her, I run them through Grammarly once again — even my editor makes errors!

Don’t take it personally.

Be glad that someone is reading what you write! That’s huge. If you have readers, that’s a great accomplishment!

Also, know that there are people in this world who aren’t doing stuff. They are focused on criticizing stuff that other people do. Unfortunately, even those people may have something worthwhile to tell you, and they may be 100% accurate.

Don’t argue with your critic.

When you are assaulted by a critic (because you WILL be assaulted if you write), don’t argue. Thank that person for taking time to read your work and say you appreciate the feedback. Make a friend. Tell the critic that you can tell that he or she is a great editor, that the critic should probably be a writer, too!  Say that you might want to send him or her an occasional article to read for feedback. Critics love being experts. Stroke the critic’s ego. Never argue. Make a friend. 99% of the time, that critic will never give you another minute of trouble.

When you get slapped down, get back up.

Accept it–if you write, you’re going to be criticized. If you are going to be successful, you’ll need to get rid of your sensitive feelings and put on your big gal (or guy) pants. If you find yourself stinging from harsh criticism, you will probably be unmotivated to write again.

Do not give in.  Take the covers off of your head, get out of the bed, and tell yourself that you’ll just write one paragraph. Acknowledge that you don’t have to write like Hemingway, you just need to put a noun in front of a verb, and then you’ll fill in with adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, and so forth, until you have a few good sentences.

Make yourself write just one sentence. (Yes, you will need to MAKE yourself do this. It’s a huge bummer to be told your writing sucks.) Run it through Grammarly and write another one. Do that until you have four sentences cobbled together to make a full, comprehensive paragraph. Start the process over again until you have compiled an article or blog entry.

Writing isn’t glamorous work.

It’s not all about pouring your heart onto a page and hearing readers emote about how fantastic your words are. It takes time and effort to polish up your presentation. When you’re learning how to get paid to write, keep in mind that you’re first paid work will probably be plain ‘ol text like this. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, but it must be comprehensive.

Things to do while you are licking your wounds:

Sometimes it is hard to come back from having your ego knocked into the sewer. I can’t tell you enough how important that it is to  sit down at that keyboard and write something else. You might even write a funny article about making errors and getting called out on them.

In the meantime, sign up for Daphne Gray-Grant’s emailed newsletter. I have been reading her wonderfully succinct articles on writing for years. Visit her website at  She’s awesome. You won’t regret it.

I think there will be a Part IV (and, a Part V…Part X…Part XXX). If this series continues, I will link the articles. You can find all of my articles on writing here.

Every article should have a purpose.  The purpose of this one is to encourage you to write.  I didn’t become a writer until I was close to 50.  I started getting paid well to write after I was 50.  I don’t care if you’re 15 or 105!  If you want to write, set up a blog and get after it.

So… you want to be a writer — Part II

The first thing you have to do is develop a thick skin and an earnest desire to become better at writing.

Proofread your work.

If you don’t have the money to hire a proofreader, there are a couple of tools online that you can use to help you learn. I use and Both of those do a fair job of proofreading.

Another great site is Grammar Girl. When you aren’t sure whether to use which or that, check with Grammar Girl.

Learn to use tools to check your spelling.

There is no excuse for misspelling words. There are any number of tools for proofreading your spelling. Spell checkers are included in your web browser. For instance, as I was writing this paragraph, I misspelled spell checkers!

Spell checkers

See the little gray line underneath the misspelled word “Spell checkers”? That means there may be a problem with it. Right clicking on the misspelled word told me that it needed to be fixed.

By golly, don’t put an apostrophe-S (like word’s) when it doesn’t belong!

Apostrophes mean possessive case; they don’t mean that you’re making a word singular. Word’s means that you’re talking about something that belongs to the word — it doesn’t mean more than one word.

The word’s spelling was difficult. (We are talking about the spelling belonging to the word.) If you want to talk about multiple words, just put an S on it and leave off the apostrophe.

Oh, and my goodness, know the difference between these (to name a few):

  • Your and You’re
  • Whose and Who’s
  • They’re, There, and Their
  • Advice and Advise
  • Moot and Mute

Review lists of commonly misspelled words.

Once upon a time I was a bona fide champion speller. For 20 years, however, I haven’t owned a dictionary and I’ve relied upon spell-checkers. I’ve also read terrible writing, misused, and misspelled words on the ‘net for those same years and internalized bad spelling habits. I don’t memorize every 100 Most Misspelled Words list, but I note that the words on those lists are pitfalls for writers.

Don’t be fancy.

Write simply. Challenge yourself to avoid long sentences. Make two sentences if a sentence takes too much concentration to read at first glance. Don’t use $50 words when a 25¢ word will do just as nicely.

Use singular and plural pronouns properly.

Incorrect: When someone hears something they feel is important, they should write it down.

Correct: When someone hears something he or she feels is important, he or she should write it down.

Avoid using passive voice too much.

Passive: We were told that we should not break rules.

Active: Charlie told us that we should not break the rules.

Sometimes passive voice is necessary, but using an active voice gives writing more punch and credibility. Passive voice is used by writers to avoid assigning responsibility. Try to give credit where credit is due as much as possible.

Move on to Part III, if you aren’t falling asleep, yet.

Here is Part I.

Every article should have a purpose.  The purpose of this one is to encourage you to write.  I didn’t become a writer until I was close to 50.  I started getting paid well to write after I was 50.  I don’t care if you’re 15 or 105!  If you want to write, set up a blog and get after it.

So…you want to be a writer – Part I

Oh…you think you are a writer?

You think you can entertain people with words?  Make money with it…a real living?

Well, my friend, first you need to become perfect at it.  You probably need to get a few special degrees in science writing, fiction writing, math writing, and animal husbandry writing, or you’ll never amount to anything.

I am saying that with a twinkle in my eye because I don’t mean any of that.

I am not a great writer, but I write daily and I make a good living at it.  I still work part-time at another job, but if I had to survive on what I make as a writer, I could do it easily.

I became a writing professional by writing about a topic I knew like I know the back of my hand.  I don’t have a college degree, I have no special training, but I decided to be a writer.  I started blogging about a niche topic. I wasn’t a good writer, but I kept at it.

Two acquaintances who didn’t have the guts to write blogs of their own, contacted me repeatedly to tell me they would gladly teach me how to write and they would edit my writing. I said “no thank you” and kept at it. I saw them for who they were…vampires who needed to suck the blood from someone they could look down upon.  They needed to put me in my place–how dare I make such a bold move without consulting them?  How dare I without professional writing experience (which both of them had) write a blog?

If you have already run into naysayers or critics like these, shake them off.  You’re hearing from them because they are weak little people who want to become part of your writing experience rather than finding experiences of their own.  I’ll bet my critics thought I’d never make it–undoubtedly I wouldn’t have if I had let them get into my head.

If you want to be a professional writer, set up a blog and be a writer who plans to become a professional writer.  Writers with a desire to earn money for writing write! Those who don’t have the desire, the guts, or the wherewithal to put daily effort into it, criticize those who do.  Ignore those people.  Just write.

After I wrote for a few years and started my own newsletter, it paid off.  The phone rang.  The caller had already sent me five emails that I ignored because I thought it was a hoax.  He wanted a writer who wrote heartfelt how-to articles like I wrote them on my blog.

I told the caller that I would write a few articles for him, but I wouldn’t make it a habit. We agreed on a price and he paid me more than we agreed upon. The more I demonstrated my dependability and eagerness to improve, the more I was paid.  Here I am, going on seven years later, writing for 40 hours a week and making a nice living doing it. I pay an editor who also tutors me to write.  Through the years, I’ve become pretty decent at what I do. I write something daily and it either goes to a client or on a blog that is monetized by affiliate links or Google ads.

If you want to be a writer who gets paid for writing, start a blog about a topic you know well.  Write about it daily.

When I first started writing professionally, I remember someone telling me that there were only so many articles that one could write about the topic that gave me a place in the professional writer category.  However, if you have the heart of a writer and you have a topic you are interested in and on which you enjoy being an expert, you can write five pages articles around the minutia of your niche topics.

A gal (or a guy) who has a writer’s heart can romp through three single-spaced pages focusing on something as mundane as how to pick the color of thread to replace a button.  Once upon a time, such wordiness would not have been considered good writing, but in today’s world, content has replaced cotton as king. Stringing words together pays well if you are prolific at producing word strings!

Read Part II.

Every article should have a purpose.  The purpose of this one is to encourage you to write.  I didn’t become a writer until I was close to 50.  I started getting paid well to write after I was 50.  I don’t care if you’re 15 or 105!  If you want to write, set up a blog and get after it.

I’ve been working on this blog for some time…

Writers write.  They cannot help it. Writers who are age 50+ may find (like me) that they are becoming less diplomatic in real life and creeping toward being outrageously honest.   I say things now that I would have never said five years ago.  Sometimes, blogging about those kinds of things help.  Unfortunately, being 50+, widowed, and still sort of needing to work at a job where I have medical insurance to cover my retinal problems doesn’t give me the freedom to blog quite as openly as I would like.  (But, I am planning on hastening that day, baby!)

Nonetheless, throughout my day I make notes on things that tick me off or tickle my funny bone.

I am always making notes.  I do not record things that will help me be a better person or that will be useful for income tax time. No, that would make sense.  I record things that make me smile or frown…actually, I try not to frown, but I do record things that would make me frown if I wasn’t worried about wrinkles.

Here’s an unhelpful twist on my notetaking.  I am over 50 and I am also postmenopausal, which is the same as saying “I am attention deficit.”  I was attention deficit before I was postmenopausal, so I am doubly cursed with attention deficiency.  For me, the bad news is that I can seldom find my notes.  For those who provide fodder for my blogging, the good news is that I can seldom find my notes.

But, on occasion, I do remember what I want to write and I have been writing entries and entry ideas for some time.  Now that I have set up my blog, I will start compiling them.  It may appear as though I blogged fifty entries in one day, that I took half a bottle of my meds and compiled words into entries at the speed of light.  Not so.  I just have a lot of material lying around.

I carry little books with blank graph paper pages around with me at work.  I jot things down in them.  If I am lucky, I do not lose the book and have to reach in the drawer for a fresh one the next day.

The very best way for me to make notes is on my Samsung Note 3.  I don’t lose my phone.  I pull the little stylus out and up pops a place to make a quick note.  If I can ready my typically messy ADHD  handwriting later, I have been successful!