Upping Your Game: Self Assessment for Writers

Each year since 2010, I’ve conducted a personal review looking at aspects of my life from my creative career to my lifestyle. Several months ago, I decided that I need to up my writing game, so I also dug deep into my writing’s strengths and weaknesses. I think it’s worthwhile for writers to set aside a few hours to complete an honest, kind self-assessment of your writing to help you improve your writing.

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The Self-Quantified Writer

The quantified self movement of collecting personalized body data has exploded since its ‘genesis’ in 2007, with a FitBit on every wrist and services like 23 and me offering personalized genetic analysis. I’m a data fanatic who studied to become a scientist, and I’ve bought into personal analytics, with a FitBit of my own, food tracking on MyFitnessPal, a log of my reading on Goodreads, and time tracking on RescueTime. But why should data be limited to our bodies’ data? Why not apply self-tracking to our creative pursuits, too?

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DIY Lawn Replacement: Plant Success Report

Front yard in three planting beds

Front yard in three planting beds, September 2015

When I was selecting plants for my front yard, I had a challenging time guessing which plants would do well, especially the natives. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of info out there about which native plants take well to PNW Puget Lowlands gardens (or maybe I was looking in the wrong spots).

I planted between May and July 2015, shopping at multiple nurseries to get everything (and still couldn’t find everything I’d picked out), so I’m reporting back on how the plants I chose did after an extremely hot and dry summer. I think I had higher-than-normal mortality due to the drought, rabbits, and mistakenly thinking one section of my yard was much shadier than reality.

I’ve divided the blend of native, drought-tolerant, and wildlife-friendly plants into categories: favorites, doing well, surprises, meh, dying, dead, and scrapped.

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The Saga of a Puget Sound DIY Native & Pollinator Garden Lawn Replacement

Planting plan for my lawn replacement, featuring native, pollinator-friendly, and drought-tolerant plants.

Planting plan for my lawn replacement, featuring native, pollinator-friendly, and drought-tolerant plants.

Over the past two years, I’ve dreamed of replacing my lawn with a native, drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly garden. As with all major projects, it didn’t go precisely as planned. I’m sharing my successes and misadventures so others in the Puget Lowlands who are considering replacing their lawns with a habitat garden can avoid repeating my mistakes.

I’ll update this post with links as I go.

Phase One: Planning

  • Layout Design
  • Plant Selection

Phase Two: Preparation

  • Removing the Lawn
  • Soil Testing & Amendment
sod cutting lawn

Sod cutting the lawn.

Phase Three: Installation

  • Plant shopping
  • Plant layout & planting
  • Lighting & hardscape

Phase Four: Survival

Phase Five: Future!

  • Replanting
  • Incorporating bulbs
  • Adding more mulch & fixing the soaker hoses

Giving Back to My Bioregion

But people aren’t the only ones we have to thank for our successes. Our community provides, our planet provides. To me, it makes sense for decisions about resources to be made at a bioregional scale, not just a state-wide scale. And why stop at resources – I think of my fellow Cascadians as comrades in decision-making and management, bound by geography and place.

As a homeowner, I appreciate Kirkland’s natural areas and wildlife, from the frogs chorusing in the pond across the street to the many parks that forward-thinking citizens of the past preserved. As a hiker and nature-lover, I benefit from the advocacy and hard work of hiking, outdoor, and recreation groups that fight to preserve and improve access to trails and maintain them.

Donations of cash obviously help local organizations, but there are more involved ways to give back, not just pay it back. What can I do to give back at home? There are tiers of “home” I try to consider: my house, my community, my bioregion.

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