Home From Conference

My excuse for not getting on top of posting anything on Monday is a general case of zombie-itis. That is, I met and chatted with so many wonderful people at RWA National Conference, that I practically feel like I’ve used up all my words. Trust me, about now, stringing a sentence together is HARD!

But, enough with complaining, because I LOVE conference (note the extra use of caps.) 😉 I got to some pretty great workshops, learned new things, and hope I can share some of what I learned by next week, when hopefully I’ll be a tiny bit more recovered.

More importantly, I met lots of terrific writers, experienced all sorts of new things, and made some new friends. I wanted to push myself this time to go out there and meet people, which even meant that I went to parties (I was out past 9pm, a big shocker for me these days!) 😉

And as I get home – perhaps you likewise have just returned from a conference or will be soon, here are a few things I like to keep in mind:

1) If you’ve collected business cards during the event, consider at the time jotting down a bit about the conversation and meeting at the time (especially if you’re notorious at forgetting names like I am.) Then, when you get home, drop that person a quick note, asking how their conference went, expressing your pleasure at meeting them, etc. You never know what kind of relationships you might build this way, and it’s worth a try.

2) If you’ve been lucky enough to meet with industry professionals who want to see your work, get it to them as soon as you can! (I’m aiming for the end of this week, since it’s conference season and summer, so their in-boxes will be full.) It’s also startling how few people actually send in the requested material – don’t be one of them!

3) Take a bit of time to absorb and breathe after all those workshops and experience, but make sure you look back at your notes and try to apply them, especially anything that really resonated with you.

4) Set some new goals, using next year’s conference (particularly if this is an annual event), or even the end of the year to keep yourself on track. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there?

5) Give others who attended the conference a tiny bit of a break if they don’t respond super quick, or get their blog posts up. They’re probably just as tired as you. 😉

Any tips you’d like to share? And next week, a new post, new knowledge (when my brain starts working again.)

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

New Year, New Knowledge: What will you learn this year?

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” – Max Depree

To me, knowledge is growth. Sometimes what we learn may be painful, sometimes it can shake us to our core and make us reassess everything, but that’s just a part of growing, of improving. So, as you work on setting your goals for success in 2013, have you likewise considered your educational goals?

For me, this is a new step, specifically looking at setting educational goals. But seeing as I now suddenly receive and ask for almost exclusively non-fiction books to add to my library, it seems my educational goals are alive and well without my asking. My goals will likewise primarily center around my writing: this year I want to improve the depth of emotion in my writing, go deeper into third person POV, and work on plotting, experimenting with different methods of pre-plotting and outlining to see if this makes rewrites go a bit smoother.

What about you? Have you got a hankering to learn something new? Is there something you’ve always wanted to know more about? There are so many options available to you, and I’m a HUGE fan of the public library, which is frequently a free or inexpensive tool to lead you to all kinds of knowledge, especially when they offer talks and workshops.

What about the internet? Classes and workshops offered through conferences, universities, colleges, and specific groups? Chances are that if you’re interested in something, someone else is too – and you just need to find them.

It’s an exciting prospect, deciding what you want to learn for the year. It’s practically like picking and choosing amongst the most delectable sweets. Choose according to your taste, your budget, but make sure you choose!

Imagine life without new knowledge, how limiting it would be. Why would you want to stay the same forever? If you don’t continue to learn, you’ll stagnate. One day you’ll wake up and realize the world has left you behind, or you’re stuck in a hole. Knowledge, learning something new, sets off new light-bulbs in your head. What kernel of a story will be hiding in even the dullest of history texts? What workshop will lead you to friends and experiences you couldn’t have imagined?

So, what will you learn this year? Does this knowledge play into the specific goals you’ve set for yourself this year? Or will new knowledge lead to pleasure and passion in your life? Do share!

Thanks for reading. Have a great week, happy writing, and here’s to learning something new this year, this week, and every day of your life.

Goal Setting for a New Year: 10 Steps to Easy, Achievable Goals

Welcome to 2013! Hooray, cheers, huzzah!

Okay, now time to put down the champagne flutes and get to work. It’s a new year, and that means goal-setting. Don’t moan and groan about it – what happened to all that cheering? Trust me. This will be WAY easier than living up to that new gym membership.

Step 1: Reflect. Reflect on the past year, on what you’ve accomplished, and what you still need to do. Knowing what you’re capable of and where you’ve been will be a big help in knowing where you want and need to go. But, don’t consider this limiting.

Step 2: Dream big. What do you want to achieve this year? What would make for a better, happier, more complete you? These can be new dreams or old ones. And the goals can be as big or small as you like – don’t compare yourself to anyone else. These are your dreams, your goals.

Step 3: Reality check. Not to dampen your enthusiasm, but step back and consider your goals. Is becoming an astronaut and flying to the moon an achievable goal for you this year? Did you complete all the necessary training last year? Consider what you achieved last year, and where you want to go. Some dreams and goals may be more long term than just over a year, and a realistic timeline will help you avoid disappointment.

Step 4: Research. Now you need to understand your dreams and goals. If you know a lot about them, than you may be able to skip this step. But if you’re going in blind, it wouldn’t hurt to do a bit of research, which will make the next step much easier.

Step 5: Break your individual goals into steps. So, you want to be a published author. What do you need to get there? First, you need to write a book of some variety (and the writing of that also has its own steps). Do you need an agent? You want steps which clearly show a progression towards your goal, statements that can be checked off as achieved or not, progressing logically from one to the next. This means they may be broken down into very tiny chunks, but that’s okay: that will help offer encouragement and signs of success later on.

Step 6: WRITE IT DOWN. I can’t emphasize this enough. Sure, you can think of all the goals you want, but will you remember them? What will hold you accountable? How will you remember what you’ve achieved or not?

Step 7: Plan for success and perseverance. You have your steps. Have you included all the things you need to do to succeed? When things get hard, how will you keep going? How will you celebrate your small victories and your big ones? Visualise and plan for successes, and prepare to avoid failure.

Step 8: Set a clear timeline. Try to be realistic with your dates as you pull out a calendar and write your goals down. A red circle on the calendar could be the push you need in that month to achieve success. Building in rewards and encouragement will keep you going when the going gets rough.

Step 9: Share with at least one other person. Perhaps this person has the same goals as you, perhaps they don’t. But putting your goals out there makes you accountable to more than just yourself – and could be a source of encouragement. Consider finding a partner or group to help you keep going, celebrating your successes, and all pushing for your dreams.

Step 10: Post and achieve. Put these goals somewhere you can see them and reference them throughout the year, as well as reflect on your achievements throughout and at the end of the year.

See? Not that hard … now I just better get to that myself. 🙂 Thanks for reading, and here’s to a great year for all of you.

Check the Sign-posts: How Far Have You Come? 10 Tips for Progress Measurement

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved checking the road signs telling you how far you are from wherever you’re going. Especially when it was a really long drive (here in Canada, most places are a “really long drive” … or maybe those are just my vacations), it’s a half-sign of success when the place you’re headed even shows up on the sign: it means a) you’re on the right road, and b) you can now steadily track sign-to-sign as you continue to get closer.

I think in the rest of our lives – especially as we move towards personal goals – we can do the same thing: check the sign-posts. The problem is that you have to create the signs before you can read them. So, here are my 10 Tips for Progress Measurement – customizable (hopefully) for whatever your goals are.

1. Start at the top. We may all “follow our own paths,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t peek at what someone else has done before us. Find someone(s) who have achieved the goals you want, and via either biographies or simple interviews, discover what steps they took, how they achieved these goals. Your journey may turn our differently, if may be harder or easier than theirs, but they will likely be able to offer tips and steps so you can start to make your “map” to success.

2. Do your homework. Next, start to find more generalized “steps” to what you want to achieve. Do you want to get your book published? What are the steps you need to take to accomplish that? Are their supplemental or added steps you may want to take (like workshops, better honing your craft, conferences, contests, etc)? The library, the internet, other people aiming for the same goal are good resources.

3. Take time for honest self-assessment. Most long-term goals aren’t going to happen overnight (hence the “long” part). Are you really in it until the end? How badly do you want it? This may be the time to craft reasons to yourself why you’re undertaking this goal and why you must succeed that you can reflect on throughout the journey. (See my post on doing just that at: Remembering Why We Persevere: What are your reasons?

4. Write down your goal. This makes it easier to go back to. Articulate precisely and carefully what you want, how you want it, perhaps even a brief statement of how you intend to achieve this. Perhaps your overall goal (like getting published) is actually made up of smaller goals (write book, query agents, sign with an agent, query publishers, etc). The more you break it down, the easier it will be to assess how far you’ve come, and where you need to go.

5. Create your first draft “map” or business plan. You don’t need to have quite all the information yet and this “map” needs to be updated and change as the situation, nuances of your goal and knowledge change, and you learn more from others. Use the steps you’ve gleaned from steps 1 to 3 to create this first draft. Just write it all down – making it pretty and editing comes later.

6. Set a timeline. While it may be impossible to know just how long the journey will be, there are some things you can control. For example, how long are you going to give yourself? Be honest: are you willing to continue with this goal for potentially years into the future? That may be how long it will take. Or, is there a cut-off point? What “points” on your map can be given a timeline? For example, if you’re going to query agents, how many? Over what period? How many manuscripts will you create per year? That sort of thing. The more you ground your plan in actual time, the more it becomes ground into actuality.

7.  Refine your plan. Go back to your plan again, and look at the particular points; are any one of the goals on its own too large to simply accomplish? What steps will you need to accomplish each point? Make yourself as clear a map as: “turn right, turn left, straight ahead 3km, then right again, you’ve arrived.” Insert your timelines into these steps. Your “map” should be getting more refined. But remember, while it’s draft 1 or draft 50, it can remain flexible and you can update and change when you need to – just so long as it keeps guiding you in the direction you want to go.

8. Start on the path up the mountainside, towards your goal. Have you packed everything you need? Is your map clear and precise enough to keep you heading straight to the top? If not, go back to the previous steps again; there’s no shame in checking the map or deciding which points are important to watch out for. In fact, checking the map will keep you from getting lost. If you’re all ready, off you go! (See last week’s post on Mountain Climbing in a Fog for what I’m talking about with this mountain-business.)

9. Assess progress and the path ahead. Remember to look back and ahead at the sign-posts. It’s almost as easy to miss our progress as it is to under or overestimate what lays ahead. So, keep your “map” close, referring to it, checking off and celebrating what you’ve achieved while moving on to new points, all towards your overall goal. Watch out for and maintain your deadlines: you’re getting there, step by step. (For more on this, check out: Persevering and Goal Setting, Pts 1 and 2.)

10. Don’t give up. If you never give up, eventually you will succeed. This is something I firmly believe (and have to) and which can help your persevere. If you give up, you can NEVER succeed. If things seem unattainable, perhaps you need to reassess your plan again, and check back on the reasons you set out on this goal in the first place. Have the reasons changed? Has the end-goal changed? Have outside conditions changed? Alter and refine your plan to reflect any of these changes, and get back on that path: you’ll make it, and you’re so much closer to the top that you know!

So, that’s it: how to create your signposts. Does it work for you? Have I missed any steps?

Thank you, as always, for reading. Have a great week, and all the success in your mountain-climbing: I’ll see you at the top! 😉

What Are Your Reasons? : Remembering Why You Persevere

Maybe it’s the dull day, maybe it’s a lot of other things, but I’ve been feeling pretty down about my writing lately, which led me to go back to my list. I think most of us – no matter what goal we strive for and continue to fight to achieve – sometimes feel like the battle is all up hill for too long, and you’re somewhere near the bottom, stuck in the mud (or maybe that’s just me, who knows). Anyway, what helps – and the advice I’ve seen for most long-term goals whether weight-loss or publication dreams – is to make yourself a list of all the reasons you can’t quit. Or if you like, perhaps it’s a list of why you started on the path to your goal. Whatever the case, it becomes a list of why you can’t quit. If the quest for the same goal continues on for a very long time, I imagine some of the reasons may change, or perhaps no longer apply, but they’re still important.

I thought today – since I was looking at it – I’d share my list, perhaps to inspire you to start one of your own. It’s easier than you think, since I’m only asking for ten reasons to start with (if you want to move up to twenty or fifty, bravo, and keep at it). But for now, let’s start with ten. If you’re in the down-swing of mud-slogging, than it may feel pretty hard coming up with any reasons not to quit. So, here’s how to anyway. Start with the title: Ten Reasons Why I Can’t Quit …. [insert your goal – mine was writing]. Then number the page 1 to 10. Then start filling in each number. Allow yourself the freedom of “stupid” or “obvious” reasons – especially for the first few. Just because they’re obvious doesn’t make them bad, and you can replace them later if you come up with something better. But, just fill in those 10. Okay, get started, I’ll wait ….

Okay, did you do it? Do you have your 10? Sign and date it on the bottom – it’s helpful sometimes to know when you last needed this list, and how current it is. Now either post or put it somewhere you can find and refer to easily. Especially on the hard days. And remember, not every day will be a hard day – there are always better ones ahead. And use your ten reasons to keep you strong, or at least keep you pushing along even on the days you are stuck in the mud at the bottom of the hill.

Here are my ten, completed just as I suggested you do yours.

Ten Reasons I Can’t Quit Writing

 

  1. Writing is a part of me. I wouldn’t feel complete or satisfied without it.
  2. Only those who don’t quit, who persevere, can succeed.
  3. It’s my dream to be published, to have readers other than just a close few.
  4. I want to make money doing what I love.
  5. I want to be an example to my children that you can follow your dreams and passion, and succeed: you don’t have to compromise.
  6. I want to be an example to my children of the merits of patience and perseverance (and that there is reward after all the hard parts.)
  7. I want to tell my stories, and I want my voice to be heard.
  8. I want to prove to myself and to those who have supported me that I can stick it out, I can be true to myself, AND I can succeed – and they can, too.
  9. My stories and my vision are unique, and deserve to be shared and showcased.
  10. I want to be one of the few. The few writers who persevere and succeed; the few people who follow their dreams and inner passion; the few people who don’t sell-out or compromise their lives.

–          S.C. Chalmers, August 14, 2011

What are your goals? What are your reasons? Is there a general theme to them? What does it say about you – I showed you mine, so what about you? Please comment below.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Personal Cheerleaders

You’d have to be a fool not to recognize that life is full of ups and downs – it’s so well-known, it’s practically cliché. Writing is the same way. Sometimes you’re hot, following your muse, an idea, whatever it is and writing up a storm. And other times, well, those other times you wonder if you’re just a hack, a pretender, you were a fool to ever think you could write, etc, etc.

Just like the rest of life, the ups and downs of writing are an emotional rollercoaster that leads you where it will, how it will. It’s up to you to find ways to deal with the down portions, and not give up. Something I find useful are personal cheerleaders.

Who are these people? They can be a lot of people, but in a truly low point, they’re your heroes who provide perspective, cheer, and hope. Think about when you were at a low point in life. How did you get out of it? Who was there? Who did you turn to for comfort? Maybe it’s your mom. Maybe it’s a friend or spouse. They are your personal cheerleader. Use them to help you feel better – they’ll want to help!

I have a very dear friend who isn’t a writer, and in many ways has a very different life than me. It’s been some time since she even looked at my writing, and she currently lives over a 1000km away. But she’s always there to lend a kind word, to offer suggestions I might not have thought of, or simply commiserate whether via email or phone. A conversation with her always makes me feel energized and more alive somehow, and I always hope in some small way I can return the favor.

Can’t think of a cheerleader of your own? I’m sure you do have your own cheer squad, you only need to recognize them. Or, even if you have a veritable platoon, it never hurts to store up resources. So, where can you find your very own cheerleaders?

  • Look close to home first. Literally or figuratively, what I mean is look for those who cheer you up whenever you’re down anyway. Again, this may be family or friends. They may be identified by the fact that just talking to them energizes you or can make your day.
  • Look a bit further out. Maybe there’s someone you don’t contact frequently, possibly an acquaintance or co-worker, but like the familial cheerleaders, this person makes you feel good when you talk to them. Maybe you should think about recruiting them, or just making time for coffee and a chat, even an email.
  • Look professionally. Especially for writers, this may be someone who you’re in contact with professionally who helps provide perspective. Maybe it’s not just your work that’s slow in selling, but the market. If there are problems, how can they be solved, and what directions should you look to? Instead of pointless negativity, get to work with constructive criticism.
  • Look to your elders. Perspective often helps us all, and who better to provide it than someone who’s been there, done that. For writers, this may not necessarily be someone who’s older than you in years, but merely in experience of the market. Chances are good they – or someone they know – has been where you are, and they can help provide perspective about what’s really worth worrying about, and what’s just a typical writer mini-meltdown.
  • Look abroad. Finally, look a bit further abroad for cheerleaders. The internet has made this much easier for many of us – especially those who aren’t in major urban centers. Find like-minded folks or join writers groups online, especially those with a on focus encouragement and positivity. Sometimes a quick post to them gets floods of positive energy back, even from hundreds of miles away.

So, found your cheerleader yet? Keep looking until you do – these folks are priceless. Please, tell me about your cheerleader, how you found them, or why you need to keep looking.

Staying Positive and Persevering: Goal-setting for a New Year (Part 1)

Another year has come and gone, which happens faster and faster all the time it seems. As you reflect back on 2010, on what you’ve accomplished and what goals you want to set for 2011, it can be easy to get mired in what you haven’t done / seen / accomplished rather than on what you have.

I’m here to help avoid all that nonsense in a two-part blog on reflecting back on the past year, and getting ready for the new one.

All right. First off, where are those resolutions you set way back last January? Did you write them down? Here’s a basic in any kind of goal-setting: write your goals down. Sure, some folks suggest you need to share your goals with others, be open about it, perhaps post publically, etc, etc. I don’t go that far. I just figure it helps if you write them down (more reliable than your memory too – and far less selective).  That way, you have something you can actually look back on. So, look back at those old resolutions / goals. Gleefully check off any you have achieved – yay for you! Here’s the dangerous part: it can be really easy to see lots you haven’t achieved just yet. There are some which quite possibly still can’t be checked off, even if they’ve been there more than one year. Let those pass for the moment, and try not to let it eat you up – we’ll get back to them, I promise.

Okay, so you’ve checked off all that you’ve achieved, had a bit of a celebration if you’ve checked off plenty. Congrats! Now it’s time to test your memory – and your positive attitude. Now you need to consider: what have I accomplished this year which isn’t on the list? For example, did you set the goal to complete one entirely new manuscript this year, but you actually wrote two? Just because they weren’t on the original list doesn’t mean they’re not important. Look over those additional accomplishments and add them onto your list, giving yourself a few more “checkmarks” for achievement (and a bit more celebration – yay!).

I know. Staying positive at this point can be hard (just like thinking of what you’ve achieved when you can only see what you haven’t). There are still those special goals which remain unattained. Take heart. Have you made steps towards them? Was it possibly too big of a goal for just this year, or dependent on many more factors than you can control yourself? If this is still an important goal for you, can you think of what possibly held you back? And in just the same objective light, what has brought you forward from where you were last year? What steps towards achieving the larger goal have you achieved? How many new words have you written this year? Have you made contacts which will help you next year? Have you learned new marketing or writing strategies which could help you market your writing and your author brand? What do you know and have you done that brings you closer to your end or larger goals than you were last year?

Finally, pull back and consider the year and your goals objectively – as though you were someone else, either stranger or friend. Did you achieve every goal? Maybe not. But were there some great achievements? Have you made progress towards long-term goals? If it’s not good enough, why? Who says? How could things have been different? It’s very easy to say “I should have done this, this, and this” but at the time, were there other more pressing concerns? Are there legitimate reasons for why goals weren’t achieved? How will things be different next year? What different steps can you take? What goals could you set and achieve?

Enough reflection on the past year. It’s over, it’s done. Accept “it is as it is” without rancor or guilt, be proud of what you have accomplished, and move on. It’s a new year already – a new year full of possibility. Next week: setting goals for next year.