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Danielle Donaldson blogs here. What I'm reading now. What I'm writing now. My various thoughts about romance novels, publishing and writing at large and the sexy stuff that comes to mind! 

Writing 25,493 Words in One Week

Danielle Donaldson

Last week, I set the intention of writing 3500 words a day while also living my normal life and completing all my other responsibilities. I ended up writing 25,493 words in one week while also going to the gym, two grocery store runs, multiple child activities including library story time, a hike, two soccer practices and a game, attending a wedding shower of a dear friend, cooking every meal at home, completing all weekly household chores, helping with homework and solo-parenting a good chunk of the time.

There were a few reasons that I wanted to do this:

1) 3500 words is enough to be really uncomfortable for me. Sitting down during my youngest kid’s nap time and writing 1000 words was pretty doable for me and because of that, I was getting complacent and honestly, a little bit bored with it. I wasn’t driven. I wasn’t trying.

2) I really, really wanted to go on a writer’s retreat. I kept day dreaming about the possibility of holing up in a cozy cabin and writing and writing as much as I could without interruption or listening to my kids play Roblox in the other room. I was feeling like I couldn’t write unless I was alone and that wasn’t conducive to living my life.

3) I haven’t felt like a “self” in a while. Being a stay-at-home parent means that all of my day revolves around other people. People that I love dearly, of course, but when I’m supplying most of their daily needs (eating, sleeping, bathing, butt wiping, homework help, cleaning up, etc), it’s incredibly easy to lose myself in the shuffle.

This is what I learned when I pushed myself this week:

1) Do not skip a day.

Tuesday was a busy day because I had to shuffle my two kids between multiple activities and do a grocery run. I only wrote 606 words that day. In an effort to not fall behind any more than I already had, on Wednesday, I wrote 6734 words to catch up. That’s a lot of words and the next day, my brain was mush. I pushed through but anything over 5000 words in a day and I’m gonna need to lay down for a nap.

2) Accountability and a Healthy Sense of Competition.

I belong to a Facebook group where we push and encourage each other to write every day so I was logging my word count every day in a personal spreadsheet and at the end of the week, I got to share my total word count. I wanted something to be impressive.

Also, I commented a lot on my other online writing groups everyday on what I wanted to accomplish and where I was. I blew up my own Twitter feed with updates. It might have been annoying to others, but it was the one thing that really kept me going. It’s amazing how quickly my competitive spirit kicks in if I alert other people of what I’m trying to accomplish.

3) I am capable of hard stuff.

I always felt like it would be unfair to take time and energy away from my kids to spend time on something that really only fed my own spirit. Just like my kids are having screen time while I write this post. THE GUILT! THE GUILT IS SO STRONG! But, my kids were totally fine. Every one still got to school on time, and to bed on time and ate food every day and were cleaned and showered. Somehow, the world kept on spinning while I also accomplished something that I am proud of.

4) That being said, I would definitely accomplish more if I lived on an island.

If this is what I can do while life is also happening all around me, I know that I could accomplish so much more while holed up in a room with snacks and good natural lighting. I love my family but little kids have a lot of little needs and wants and it’s really difficult to get into the flow while also being begged for some cheese or breaking up another fight about Legos.

5) Break it up.

The day went a lot more smoothly when I broke up the daily goal into smaller chunks. When I got 1000 words done early in the day and only needed 2500 later during nap time or after kiddo bed time, it was a lot easier. When I was staring down the mountain of the entire 3500 amount at 9 o’clock at night, it made me want to curl up in a ball and go right to sleep.

Overall

I did it! Sometimes it was like I was pulling the words out of the sticky mud on my mind, but sometimes they flew from my brain straight through my fingers and onto the page. Either day, I got them down.

From here on out, I think I need a more manageable daily goal, but not something that will make be feel too comfortable. For the next week, I’m going to shoot for 2000 words per day and adjust from there.

iOS Screen Time and Productivity

Danielle Donaldson

Recently, there was an iOS update for my iPhone and iPad that included a new feature of managing and tracking screen time. At first, I was completely annoyed. I already know how much time I waste on my phone every day. I already feel a lot of guilt about it, I didn’t need the very thing that I was addicted to constantly reminding me to stop being addicted to it. 

Yet, this is also NaNoWriMo month and distractions from writing my novel are abound. I need to reign in my phone use and had to do it quickly.  

From the Screen Time feature, I could tell that I wasting hours and I mean hours scrolling through social media needlessly. But, I could also set myself limits on that usage. So, I buckled down and set week day limits of 2 hours on all social media apps including Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. All of the apps where I could lose myself in doing nothing productive.  

And since then, I have written every single day and met my word count goals. *insert self high five here*  

If you are like me and lack most self-control around device usage. It might be helpful for you take a look at this feature on your device. Even if it makes you feel like you’re grounding yourself from fun, you might surprise yourself and not even miss it. 

Image from my iPad which I don’t actually use that often. Trust me. You don’t want to see how often I use my phone ;)  

Image from my iPad which I don’t actually use that often. Trust me. You don’t want to see how often I use my phone ;)  

Scheduling Self-Care: Taking Time to Take Care of Yourself

Danielle Donaldson

This self-care series was supposed to be posted in September. Obviously, that didn't happen. So, things tend to get pushed to the bottom of my to-do list especially self-care. Here are some tips to make sure that you fit in your self-care into your busy day. 

Schedule it 

Write it down. Whether you jot it down in your Bullet Journal or Passion Planner or a post-it note on your mirror. Writing it down give you a physical reminder to do it. It also give you a sense of accomplishment that you completed it. 

Accountability Partner

Tell your spouse or partner that you are planning on doing more for yourself or that you need ten minutes to mediate at the end of the day. In my online parenting group, we have a daily self-care check in where we share what we did for self-care that day. It's a great way to get ideas of various forms of self-care and also check-in when we have something to share. 

Habit Tracker

If you haven't delved into the world of BuJo (aka bullet journaling) let me stop you before you travel down that productivity wormhole that you will never escape from. If you have, you are probably already familiar with the concept of a habit tracker. Or basically a place that you track if you have drank enough water for the day or did your daily affirmations or went to the gym. It helps to have a visual reminder of things you intended on completing. 

Think Small

Every piece of self-care doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. It can be as simple as using your favorite hand cream or reading a library book or making yourself your favorite meal. Low expectations usually mean that you have a much more manageable goal.  

 

How are you taking care of yourself lately? Shout out in the comments.  

Why "Don't Give Up!" Is a Total Crock of Crap

Danielle Donaldson

I'm an eternal optimist...when it comes to other people. I really do believe that people are trying their best, doing great jobs, and everyone is just killing it in their own special ways. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to extend that same grace and compassion towards myself. It's something that I'm working on. I need to work on being my own best friend. I need to tell myself the same things that I would tell my best friend or even a stranger on the street. Trust me, I'm working on it.  

Lately, my almost 9 month old son refuses to breastfeed. Part of it is always being on the go and he'd rather cruise around the room playing than sit down and nurse quietly for a few minutes. Part of it is that he's eating more solid foods and my supply has lowered. Part of it is his teeth which has made nursing a little cringe-worthy since he's been using me as a human chew toy. The other night, while I was trying to wrestle him into a bedtime nursing session, he bit me. He broke the skin. It wasn't pretty. Because of the injury, I've been pumping to try and keep my supply but it's pitiful and frustrating and puts me on the verge of tears. 

Now, if my friend came up to me and told me this, I would rub her on the back and gently say that she's tried her best. And as long as her baby is happy and healthy, she is doing a great job. I would pour her a hot cup of coffee and talk it out. Because this is happening to myself, my internal dialogue resembles more of a Miss Trunchbull than a Miss Honey. (Matilda reference, what's up?!)  

"Just try something different" 

"Don't give up"  

"Try again."  

"Your baby needs you."  

"This is natural, dammit!"  

"Don't give up! Never give up, Never surrender!!!"  

Giving up isn't a failure. Surrending to the circumstances that life has given you is sometimes the smartest move. When we stress the importance of persistence over the value of self-preservation, we end up with dude-bros who don't know when to stop texting, when end up with mothers crying at their desks because they forget to turn on the crockpot, when end up with children who vomit because their science fair project didn't work out. If it's your book that is sagging in the middle, if it's a crappy relationship, if it's a day that just won't stop kicking your ass, it's okay. Put it down. If it's not servicing you any longer, put it down. It will be there for another time. It's going to be okay. 

Sometimes, we need to acknowledge our limitations. It's okay to feel defeated, maybe even cry a little, and then gather ourselves together and try again tomorrow or maybe just try something differently.  

Buck up, kiddo. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is a new chance.  

I'm not a stranger to struggle. I'm not one to look at a challenge and back down. I got married at 19. I hopped in a uHaul and drove 3000 miles away with my new husband. Once upon a time, I had a full school schedule, a full-time job and an internship. I had two babies without epidurals. I have enough confidence in myself that I know I can do a lot. I also know that I'm not a "quitter." 

But, I'm human. I only have some much mind space, emotional space, physical capabilities.  

So, today I'm licking my wounds, pouring a giant glass of wine and reminding myself that I always have tomorrow.  

So, self. Listen here: Be kind to yourself. Be your own best friend.  

 

Guilt: Because....Everything

Danielle Donaldson

I'm a mother to two small, rowdy, active boys. One is 4 years old, the other is almost 9 months old. I'm running around from son up to son down, everyday. I'm lucky enough to be able to stay home full-time with my children. I try my best with them. I get them to school on time. They have clean clothes and are fed. By all accounts, they are happy and healthy. So, what do I have to feel guilty about? I'm so glad you asked.

When I birthed my first child, I was also gifted with the heavy burden of a giant ol' suitcase full of guilt. 

Some things that I currently feel guilty for:  

- Not working out of the home and providing financially for my family  

- Thinking about working out of the home and taking time away from my children

- Wanting to spend any time away from my children

- That my mental health suffers if I spend all my time with my children

- The fact that my son eats peanut butter approximately 8 times a day

- The baby might have tried to eat dog food the other day

- The baby refused to nurse

- The baby bit me while I was trying to nurse him  

- I don't take my children out of the house enough  

- I don't give my children enough time to play at the house  

- I hover too much  

- I don't hover enough  

- I am too stern  

- I am too soft

- I am not emotionally available to both of them simultaneously all the time

- But they'll never learn to be independent

- They eat processed foods which will give them cancer probably

- But fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides that will give them cancer

- If they don't wear sunscreen, their skin will burn and they will get cancer

- But sunscreen gives them cancer   

I could go on. I mostly feel guilty for almost every. Single. Decision I make every single day in regards to my children. I feel like I'm doing too much and not enough at the same time. I could be doing something differently, or more, or better. And I feel like I'm constantly screwing them up. Like this one thing will be the thing that they tell their therapist in 20 years about me. "Yeah, one time, my mom said she would leave me at Target if I didn't hurry up and it totally freaked me out and now I'm constantly worried about abandonment in my relationships." Or "One time, my mom was on the phone and yelled at me to calm down and stop screaming like a banshee and that really made me feel like my voice doesn't need to be heard." Or "my mom let me eat tortilla chips and peanut butter because that's all I would eat for the entire 4th year of my life and that's why I have cancer." 

The problem with raising small humans is that there are no real-life progress reports. You don't know if you did a good job until they are adults and they don't end up on the Dr. Phil show complaining about you.  

Nobody cares that you made it through the 4th tantrum of the day without throwing a plate against the wall. Nobody cares that you managed to get to the grocery store with both children AND all the food you were supposed to buy. Nobody cares that you managed to get them bed at the same time before 9pm. Nobody cares but your children. They care. You are their world. You are the mentor, the guiding light, the beacon of adulthood. 

That's why we feel guilty. We feel guilty because our children deserve the best. They deserve for us to be operating at 100%. And when we inevitably fall short of perfection, we feel that guilt wash over us, because we love our children so much. 

So that guilt? The feeling in your gut as you lay down and sigh at the end of day is a good sign. It means you're doing your best and you still want more for your children and your family.

It means you're doing an awesome job.