Sometimes the hardest part is getting started.                       Image courtesy of Aaron Burden via Unsplash


June 11, 2021


If you haven’t yet joined me on Instagram for #FinishItFriday with Leslie, please do. Each week we’ll take 5-15 minutes to clear some mental real estate by finishing something that’s outstanding on our “to-do” lists.  It might be something on the “nags and drags” list that we can get off our plates quickly or it might be investing time in a passion project that we regularly put off.

This week, as a bonus boost, I’ve put together a list of 21 things you can do to get some momentum rolling on submissions to agents or editors if you’re a #writer or #illustrator. All of them can be done in 15 minutes or less and can create some traction toward getting the submission out the door. As my colleague Richard is fond of saying, “It won’t sell from the warehouse”.  It also won’t sell if you don’t submit it.

Which might you choose for your #FIFfifteen?


1. Set a timer for 2 minutes and list (off the top of your head) every agent or editor you’ve heard in presentations online, met at conferences or know otherwise. When done, go back and put a star by those you remember are interested in content related to your work. Put a ? by those you need to research.

2. Look at #MSWL for 5-15 minutes, researching categories, topics, agents or editors

3. Write the first three lines of a query or pitch for the manuscript you most want to sell

4. Spend 15 minutes trying to summarize your hook in 25 words or less

5. Do an internet search on loglines for famous movies and see what you can learn about hooks

6. #SCBWI members : Spend 15 minutes looking through THE BOOK at either articles about submission or researching agents, editors or publishing houses

7. Get on Twitter and check out the latest posts from 5 agents or editors you are considering querying

8. Pull out a manuscript you haven’t touched in awhile and just re-read it. Let any immediate edits/ revisions happen as you read… or simply refresh your memory of what you’ve got so far

9. Spend 5- 15minutes setting up your desk to make it easy to open the file/ open the document/ find the papers for your submission. Bonus: get up tomorrow and review what you’ve already got.

10. If you have a submission that’s ready to go, proofread it one last time and set up the email with attachments and schedule it to go out!

11. Establish goals for your next critique group meeting that are specific to submitting. What support do you need from others in order to get your submission out the door?

12. Write a big note to post on your computer with a motivating slogan such as, “It won’t sell from the hard drive!” Or “Done is better than perfect. Maybe even, “When you’ve taken it as far as you can go, you’ve critiqued it with others effectively, HIT SEND!”

13. Spend 5-15 minutes to create a spreadsheet to track your current and future submissions

14. An alternative to #13, spend 5-15 minutes learning about QueryTracker

15. (For the distractible among us) Write a priority list of which manuscripts you are going to prioritize for the next ____ (one week? 2 months? Other?) and then commit to getting #1 and its pitch/ query letter/ hook done before moving on to #2

16. Create your list of the top 5 agents or editors you want to query. Add links to their submission guidelines for easy reference.

17. If your work is non-fiction, is there an expert you need to reach to review any material or to answer any last questions before submitting? List what you need to know and who can answer it. Bonus if you include their contact information so that it’s easy to just pick up the phone or email them when you have your next 15 minute #Finish!T session

18. Make a list of what’s left to do on the most important submission before you can send it in. Break each step down into bite-sized chunks that feel motivating and manageable. Put the next step on your calendar.

19. Cheer yourself on for whatever you’ve submitted to date. Think about what strategies helped you get those out the door and how you can apply them now.

20. Set a “fake deadline” with another creative. Commit to getting your draft/ query/ pitch/ hook or full submission ready to show them by a certain date. Act like it’s a real, professional job deadline and schedule out time for when each piece will happen to meet the deadline.

21. Remind yourself that rejections are not personal rejections, or even rejections of your work or your passion. They are business decisions that most often have to do with business needs, timing, personal taste and more. If you’re feeling sensitive about submitting, get online and read about well established authors and their rejections (Harry Potter was rejected numerous times, for example). You could also research one craft-related subject. As comedian Steven Martin has suggested, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” No matter our existing successes, talents and skills, we can always get better. Focus on what you can control (your craft, your attitude and your belief in yourself and your work), take your best shot and keep on keeping on!

MOST IMPORTANTLY , VISUALIZE SUCCESS, TALK TO YOURSELF IN COMPASSIONATE, ENCOURAGING TONES & WORDS, AND ENJOY THE ACT OF CREATION. It’s an incredible gift to dance with our own creativity and the more we enjoy the music and the flow, the easier it is to find our groove.

Happy Creating!



January 11, 2020: Being where you are

It’s January, which is technically “winter” as a season, but the weather here seems to think otherwise. Every inch of our yard is covered in leaves as if Fall had just arrived. (A small sample is shown in the photo above).

“Fall” (in my current experience) is being labeled “Winter” by the date. It’s a great metaphor for the idea of being where you are. While in this case, it’s relatively easy to have it feel like Fall and call it Winter, it’s often not so easy to stay present to what is, especially when it contradicts our inner “shoulds”.  We feel a deep sense of discord when we don’t act the way we think we “should”, when we don’t achieve the results we want or when we haven’t reached some particular point in life that we think we “should” by now. There are times it seems almost impossible to pause the endless flow of our thoughts to engage fully in direct experience without feeling anxiety or desire in relation to thoughts of the present or future. We fear x, we want y. We seek pleasure and we hope to avoid pain. It’s a particular challenge to be in the moment when we are invested in a particular result, facing difficult emotional circumstances, or simply sitting at a juncture in our lives where uncertainty reigns.

It is, however, its own reward to engage with a moment-by-moment practice to simply and fully “be” with the infinite possibility and magnificence of now.

After all, as Mark Twain once suggested, “I have had many trouble in my life. Most of them never happened.”




Proceed as if success is inevitable
My daily mantra & favorite magnet from #quotable cards, shown here on a bed of hand-lettering experiments

August 11, 2019 :  Doing the work (as play)

Sometimes sitting down at the table is the hardest part of creating. While I’m never intimidated by a blank page, I can sometimes feel intimidated by my own expectations. The only solution I’ve found is to arrive at the work with a sense of play. This is admittedly much harder to do on deadline, but it’s incredibly freeing when I can go there. Liberated from the chains of perfection, expectation and result, I can enter into a dialogue with the materials or with my ideas … and simply be present to what unfolds.

When I can remember (and it’s a frequent re-remembering) that immersing myself in process always yields the best products, everything flows, the act of creating remains a joy and the results take care of themselves.

Whether life is what’s daunting me or whether it’s my own desire to achieve a particular creative result, this quote is a touchstone for quelling doubts and getting down to work.


#success #lettering #motivation #nodoubt #work #play #inspiration #quotablecards #calligraphy #process #art #practice #illustration #handlettering #pinks #reds



Handlettering of the word “word”

August 10, 2019: Words as containers for experience

Words are possibly the single most efficient human invention in history. A single word can evoke countless images in the mind.




What do you imagine for each?

Beach:  A glorious sunset over the water? Gritty sand in your swimsuit? Sand volleyball? Which beach? Which memories?

Dog: A bounding German Shepherd? A timid poodle? A sleeping Dalmatian? Whose dog? Which dog?

Apple: Crisp and fresh? Baked in pie? Green, yellow or red? On a tree? On your plate? On the teacher’s desk?

A single word can contain multitudes of memories and experiences. This is both the beauty and the limitation of language.

Sometimes, a word says it all.

Sometimes, effective communication requires more.


#words #handlettering #language #apple #dog #beach #blackandwhite #invention #experience #humankind #communication #conversation #relating #relationships #containers #memories