What I’m Loving This Summer

Despite being born and raised in New England, and spending my first 33 years residing in the northeast, I’m a warm-weather girl, through and through. As you can imagine, I’m not happy about the speed with which this summer has passed, or the fact that Labor Day is next weekend.

The silver lining is it stays warm late into the year here in Charlotte. Last year, we were lounging at the pool the first weekend of October, searching for local fall festivals. And these recent (awesome) discoveries will help ease the seasonal transition, too.

Ommwriter
OmmwriterI must thank blogger Jeff Goins for promoting this tool during his webinar earlier this week. This simple software makes writing more fun, offering music and various backgrounds to serve as your inspirational backdrop. My favorite part: the keyboard sound effect options. As I write, I hear the clickety-clack of a typewriter, and the nerd in me is over the moon. If you’re an easy distracted person, this may not be the software for you, but if you can enjoy, then move on from the bells and whistles, I highly recommend Ommwriter. The best part? You choose what you pay for it!

 

Photo: iTunes store

Photo: iTunes store

All the Social Ladies podcast
I recently stumbled upon this podcast, and it’s become my inspirational companion on walks and drives. In each show, host Carrie Kerpen, CEO of Likeable, interviews a woman who is kicking serious social media butt personally and/or professionally. She’s interviewed some major influencers, including Sarah Evans of Sevans Strategy and Nicole D’Alonzo of TASTEdaily. I love the conversational, ladies-over-coffee nature of the roughly 20-minute interviews, and the guests’ energy, positivity and courage inspire me to take risks and generally bring it every day at the office.

 

Photo: Essie.com

Photo: Essie.com

Essie Fall 2014 Collection
I love color on my nails, but working in a corporate environment, I’ve felt pretty limited with my options. With each trip to the nail salon, I gaze longingly at the bright colors, only to select the neutral pale pink… again. But at Ulta last week, I spotted Essie’s fall collection, and my hope returned. The collection consists of simple, yet striking, options like a deep red and inky cobalt blue along with a variety of muted neutrals blended with more daring hues – Take it Outside is a gorgeous taupe with pink undertones, and The Perfect Cover Up is a gray with hints of teal. I can’t wait to try them out and switch up my mani.

So what are you loving during these last days of summer? Share below or DM me @bakinginpumps. I’m always looking for new things to try, and if I love ‘em, too, I’ll share and happily promote your blog or website.

3 killer storytelling techniques from AMC’s “The Walking Dead”

the-walking-dead-onlineWith the season 5 premiere in just three months, I thought it’d be fun to share this article I wrote. While I discuss my career or work issues often on this blog, this is the first time I’m actually sharing some of it. It doesn’t fit with the topics I usually write about, but I know many of you have blogs of your own and am hoping you may find some inspiration. If not, hey, it’s about “The Walking Dead”. That’s fun enough, right? 

This post first appeared on Cursive Content’s blog last week. I used to work with the insanely talented ladies of Cursive Content, and it was wonderful to team up again. If you are a writer, blogger, marketer – or just interested in learning more about all of the above, check out their blog. But first, read this!

I have the entire “The Walking Dead: Season 4“ in my DVR queue, courtesy of the 4th of July weekend marathon on AMC, and it’s eating me alive (pun intended). My husband and I recently started watching on Netflix, and have had way too many binge-viewing sessions over the past few weeks than I care to admit.

As I gazed longingly at my queue this weekend, wishing I had a free hour to sneak in just one episode, it occurred to me that the reason I am obsessed with this show is its incredible storytelling.

The storyline elements that make the show so popular (it’s the #1 show on TV among 18- to 49-year-olds) are the same as those that draw people to your content and drive business. To get your audience to tune in regularly, makes sure your content accomplishes these three goals.

1. Create tension

Simply put, nail biters draw people in. If the characters on “The Walking Dead” think they’re safe, but the camera pans out to show hordes of “walkers” heading in their direction, my eyes will remain glued to the screen.

Create this tension and sense of urgency in your content to capture your audience’s attention, too. Focus on current and potential barriers to your audience’s success, using your customer and industry knowledge as well as your own perspective to set the scene. 

2. Introduce your cast of characters

A sheriff who’s a dead shot, a veterinarian with a wealth of first aid skills, a former pizza deliveryman who moves swiftly – these are just a few of the characters whose specific skill-sets have saved themselves and fellow survivors time and again.

Bring your story to life through the voices, perspectives and insights of your “characters” – those employees who have helped shape your business and, in turn, craft your story. In doing so, you’ll demonstrate the strengths of each employee, and how they uniquely position your company to “rescue” your audience.

3. Save the day

On “The Walking Dead,” Sheriff Rick’s group of survivors is tough – possibly the toughest group out there battling the dead– and others in need of protection have begged to join.

Your content should clearly communicate the approach and solutions you offer and why your business is the best – or perhaps the only one – to address those threats.

Consistently incorporate these three elements into your content, and you’ll establish your business as a go-to authority with a unique perspective and solutions. Like Sheriff Rick, you’ll be the one your audience turns to for consultation – or the next time they need to be rescued.

4 ways writing is like working out (and the best writing tips I’ve heard/read/seen)

writing-exerciseAlong with working out, writing is one my biggest de-stressors and one of my chief sources of happiness. And like exercising, when I haven’t done it in a while, I start to feel twitchy. I often have to force myself to do it. Then, once I have, I’m happy as a clam and wondering why I don’t do it more often.

Last month, I started attending a bi-weekly memoir writing class. I love it. The class is small (only six people), so there is a lot of one-on-one attention and opportunities for sharing my work and receiving valuable feedback. Most importantly, the class has re-ignited my writing spark and filled my head with story ideas.

In class last week, my teacher shared some writing tips, and I realized they weren’t all that different from advice I’ve received around starting – and sticking to – an exercise regimen.

1. You just have to do it
My writing teacher kicks off each class with a free writing exercise. She provides a passage for us to read, then we write for 10 minutes about whatever comes to mind. There are two rules: you can’t stop writing and no editing. What results appears to be a stream-of-consciousness mess at first, but if you take a closer look, you can usually find a gem – a great idea, the germ of a longer story, or something you want to explore more.

The same goes with establishing an exercise habit. You just have to start. You may not know what types of movement you enjoy most, or what will yield the best results for reaching your goals, but starting will get you on the path to finding out.

2. The first draft will be crappy
In Bird by Bird, author Anne Lamott writes (and I love her even more for it), “Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts… There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go – but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”

Likewise, your first workout will likely straight up suck. Your muscles will ache. You may have to cut it short because your lungs feel like they’re on fire. You might find that your running speed isn’t anywhere in the vicinity of what it used to be, or that you can’t lift half the weight you once could. Don’t banish your workout gear to the back of your closet. The second workout will be better, and the third, even better than that.

3. You have to switch things up
To become a stronger writer, you have to step out of your comfort zone. Try writing in a different voice or on a different platform, read a book outside of your typical genre, or do a writing exercise that challenges you to think in a new way.

On the exercise front, you have to do the same. If you do the same workout over and over, your body will get used to it and will consume less energy. Challenging your muscles and stamina in new ways will allow you to continually achieve new PRs – and see major results.

4. It’s quality, not quantity, that matters
One of my favorite bloggers, Jeff Goins, writes, “History remembers our words not for how much we said, but for the weight of what we said. Take the Gettysburg Address, for example. One of the most famous speeches in American history, this brief oration delivered by the sixteenth president clocks in at just under five minutes… Great communicators present their points in the most concise and challenging way possible.” One powerful sentence goes a much longer way than a paragraph of sentences that skip around the point.

In the fitness world, we’re hearing more and more about fast workouts – the seven-minute workout and Dr. Oz’s highly publicized 20-minute workout, to name just a couple. Research has found that a short blast of intense exercise can rev up your metabolism for the entire day, more so than a longer, slow and steady workout. I put this theory to the test this week with treadmill workouts featuring major spikes in speed and incline. Ten minutes into my 20-minute workout tonight, I was sweating more than I ever have during my typical 40-minute power walk.

Do you have any great writing and/or exercise tips to share? Did I forget any key similarities? Let me know!

(Image via)

My smaller 2013 un-resolutions

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Photo: Oriental Trading

Happy early New Year, everyone! Being highly superstitious, I never wish a happy early anything – heck, I won’t even change my calendar until the new month or year arrives. But I’m soooo ready to say goodbye to 2012 and welcome 2013 with open arms.

This year has been tough. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that main challenges included the passing of a grandmother, the unexpected – nay, completely blindsiding – passing of my cousin and the murder of a childhood friend. Dealing with so much, along with adjusting to my promotion at work, meant less running, minimal writing and, ultimately, more stress and sad days and a nice 20-pound weight gain.

Needless to say, I didn’t achieve most of my un-resolutions for the year:

1. Run a half-marathon.

Um, nope. But I did begin yoga again after a year-long hiatus and have fallen back in love with it.

2. Officially change my name (this may be tougher than running a half-marathon from what I hear!).

Check!

3. Take a creative writing class.

Sadly, this went on the backburner.

4. Eliminate my debt (my current payment plan will allow for this).

I’m two months away, then I’m throwing the biggest party for myself EVER.

5. Build up my savings account (I have a particular number in mind).

In progress, but not quite where I hoped it’d be.

In my ongoing quest for better balance, I’ve set some smaller goals for myself for 2013:

  1. Run a 10K
  2. Get my shoulder stand to a point where I’m calmly breathing while holding the pose (versus flailing my legs around as I try to stay up)
  3. Finally take that writing class, even if it’s just a one-day workshop, to kick start my creative writing
  4. Give myself 10 minutes when I get home from work each day to reconnect with my husband and review the day, giving him my undivided attention
  5. Learn to cook three new meals without filling the kitchen with smoke, yelling for my husband to help in a panic or giving up and ordering takeout
  6. Continue to build my savings account
  7. Remind myself every day of all I have to be grateful for
  8. Think “I should” less and “I could” more

Like last year, these are goals I’m excited to work toward rather than resolutions I feel like I have to (or should!) make. I’m looking forward to ringing in 2013. I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year. After all, it’s an odd-numbered year (they are always good ones!).

My married life begins

Rex, sleeping in front of the Christmas tree. I should take relaxation lessons from him!

Merry belated Christmas, all. I hope your holiday was as wonderful as mine. Mine consisted of two days of family, doggies, delicious food, vino, a new shoe cabinet (my husband fully supports my shoe addiction) and – most importantly – my husband himself.

Since returning from our honeymoon, our lives have been a whirlwind. First, there was Thanksgiving, then the need to buy a new car, followed by a much earlier second dog adoption than expected, capped off with the holiday rush. All great things, but we’ve been two ships passing in the night – not the happily ever after I hoped for.

As we drove home from our last holiday destination last night, I mentioned to Brendan that I felt like we could finally start our new life together, now that the holidays were over. As always, he knew exactly what I meant without my having to explain. He’d been thinking the same thing (I swear he put a chip in my brain when we started dating so that he could read my thoughts. We often say the same things at the same time. It’s freaky.).

I’m looking forward to getting back to running and yoga (I ate enough this holiday week to feed a small country), writing and laughing with the husband and puppies. Those small things are truly gifts to me every day.

June Cleaver? Um, no.

Photo: flickr.com/photos/evilerin/

Before you read the title of this blog, roll your eyes, declare this yet another example of how women are screwing themselves in their quest for equality and leave, let me explain. Baking in high heels is a serious balancing act in a few ways – it’s balancing home life and career, it’s multi-tasking, and it’s trying to do something that’s freakin’ difficult (and uncomfortable – I suspect June Cleaver had some nasty callouses on her feet from her high-heeled-housekeeping shenanigans).

I’m doing all of the above, as my husband pointed out to me the other night. I was in the four-inch heels I’d worn to work, running around the kitchen, making tartlets for Thanksgiving the following day (I love to bake, hate to cook). “Look at you, baking in heels,” he chuckled. And the blog name I’d been trying to come up with for a while presented itself. I’m constantly, metaphorically baking in high heels.

Some background on me:

In April 2010, I got engaged to the love of my life. A few months later, once my eyes re-adjusted after staring at my ring non-stop, I had a thought: getting married really means I’m an adult now. But an adult takes care of herself and does what’s best for her, right? If that’s the case, I’d say I’m a preteen or a teenager, at best.

In all material ways, I take care of myself. But in the spiritual and mental ways, I often put others first. I’m a grade-A people pleaser. I’ll often overwork myself in the office or take on too much in my personal life, often foregoing what I really need – a good workout, time to read a book or do something else I enjoy, a good conversation with a friend.

I had committed my life to my fiancé. And he deserves a happy, healthy wife who takes care of herself physically and emotionally. And, more importantly, I deserve those things. So I began making some major changes and detailed my journey in becoming a “real adult” and heading toward the aisle in my previous blog, Pre-Aisle Adventures.

Now, I’m blissfully wed and trying to learn how to balance my relationship with my career, friendships, writing, running and overall continued evolution. And I’m chronicling my adventures in this new blog.

From learning how to manage a shared budget and navigating name change paperwork to training for a half-marathon and juggling a heavy workload at the office, my plate is full, which means this blog will be, too! I hope you’ll subscribe and tag along on my adventures.