Happy 2015!! Sneak up on those goals!

So it’s a brand new year all ready. Are you prepared?

First I always find it pays to look at the last year – while trying very hard to look at things in a positive manner, focusing on what was achieved and accomplished rather than just what wasn’t accomplished. 🙂

Then comes the new year, and for me, since I have rather mixed feelings about January and February (mostly like a post-holiday hang-over and that these are the long, dark months of winter). So, I’ve been “sneaking up” on my goals for the year. Since I know many people have rather mixed feelings about year-long goals and and setting resolutions, I thought I’d share how you, too, can sneak up on your goals. 🙂

Christmas and the holidays can be very stressful and full of excitement. And while it’s wonderful, exciting, and more glittery than any other time of the year, there’s also the inevitable let-down when all the pretty lights go out and we’re left in the dark of January and February. It can be easier to look at the negative in that kind of environment. If you’re not pleased with your progress (you know, since you’re looking at the negative), it can be really hard to see the bright possibility of a new year. Dark questions arise. What’s the point of writing (or whatever it is that you’re doing)? Why am I doing this anyway? Why shouldn’t I just quit and try something else?

Here’s the trick of the sneaking up: don’t treat the questions as rhetorical. Answer them. Yep, you heard me. Those questions that start to get you down? Answer them, with honesty and an open heart. Free-writing or a journal entry that no one else ever has to see is a great start (and it’s what worked for me.)

Yes, at first you may start out in the kind of tone better for a grumpy ogre. But keep writing. Keep opening yourself to the possibilities.

Why do I do this? Because I’m a writer, and that’s what I do. It isn’t all about the marketing, the sales, or becoming a bestseller. It’s about writing, creating a story, and hopefully sharing that story with readers. I continue to press onward in part because I’m more stubborn than is probably healthy, and because I want to send a positive example for my young daughter. What’s the point of writing what I write? Because I believe in it, and because I write the stories that I want to read – even if not everyone is going to love them (the subjectivity of the business), and even if it’s not what everyone else writes. Why shouldn’t I give up and try something else? Because I’m a writer, and it’s too much a part of me to just stop (besides, I did mention that more stubborn than healthy part, right?) 😉

As you find your truths by answering these questions, the goals often arise from them. Has one action not resulted in what you want? Well, maybe it’s time to switch tactics. Does something scare you? Maybe you should consider doing it anyway.

And in the end, while I have a few more specific goals, I also have some broader ideas that I want to bring into my life in 2015. I want to live bravely, pushing my own boundaries. I want to build in more fun into my life, for the sake of stress-relief and because hey, fun is good! 😉 And I want to act, reaching for my dreams instead of just dreaming about them.

Wishing you power, bravery, and fun in your 2015, along with whatever you work toward. All the best, thanks for reading, and I look forward to chatting throughout the year. 🙂

New Year Writing: Step 1

So it’s snowing here … again. But the sun is shining, and today I am determined to really get started on writing for the year. Yet I still want to be a bit gentle with myself.

Here’s what I plan to do today:

Play.

Yep, you heard me. But the difference is that I’m going to try and play with words. Over at Chuck Wendig’s thought-provoking blog, he offered up a challenge of the random story generator starting with a title … and then to write 1000 words about it. [Here’s the link if you want to play along.]

So, that’s my first step, and what may even amount to the beginning of a resolution: More play, and more actually trying things instead of just saying “when I get to it.” You see, I’ve looked at lots of this kind of challenge and exercise and even saved them for later … but I didn’t actually do anything with them. Not really. And now, look at that – my first 2014 resolution seems to have crept up on me despite my best efforts:

2014 Resolution #1: Make more time for playing with words, and actually do the challenges and experiment with words.

So, I better head off and actually get to that writing thing. 😉

What about you? Have you set a boatload of resolutions this year? Are you against resolutions? Or like me, are you just adjusting to this year a bit slower than usual?

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a fan-tabulous week. 🙂

Starting the New Year … Slowly

I’ve been having a bit of a hard time getting into the swing of 2014. Fatigue from a very busy December (are there such things as quiet Decembers?), coupled with long dark days as we enter January leaves me feeling a bit burned out. So, I’m trying something a bit different. Instead of chastising myself for not being productive enough and cracking the whip, I’m allowing myself a bit of breathing room and easing more slowly into the year.

Here’s the plan:

  1. Take a bit of time to actually have fun. This is something that I’m not very good at (coupled with relaxing especially), so I’ve been allowing myself to indulge my imagination, especially with other activities, like miniatures.
  2. Remember to play. It can be easy to forget that the reason I’m a writer is because I genuinely love writing … which is not how it’s feeling right now. So, I want to allow myself to play and not limit my own creativity. Yes, letting my imagination out of the box might be scary, but it might (hopefully) lead to some fantastic new arenas.
  3. Craft and research books. Christmas brought me some lovely new craft and writing books, like The Writer’s Lab and Wonderbook, which I’m finally ready to look at and start experimenting. Again, hoping to open up some creative pathways and get the writing juices going (in a less gross fashion as that description suggests!)
  4. Give myself permission to extend my holiday a bit, and take some of the pressure off. Yes, I’m starting back at writing, but I’m also trying not to push myself quite as strenuously as I often do at this time of year because, frankly, I don’t think I can. So yes, as you can tell by things like this blog post appearing on Wednesday rather than Monday, things are more loosey-goosey than I favor, but c’est la vie for now.

So what about you? Are you diving into 2014 full of enthusiasm? Or taking things a bit slower? Any advice and wisdom to share? 🙂

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a fabulous day – and that winter starts to ease off a bit! Happy New Year, and all the best to everyone out there.

Taking Stock of the Year

So you’ve survived yet another year. YAY! Glad you’re still with us. 😉

And at this time of year, it’s only suitable to start to look back and consider the year. Remember those goals you were supposed to write down at the beginning of the year? Yep, those ones. Go drag them out now, hmm? I’ll wait.

(waiting. Tapping fingers. Playing with iPad.)

Back? Excellent. Now, take a deep breath, close your eyes for a minute, and start to read back over your goals. DO NOT jump to your first conclusion of “gee, I didn’t get this done … or this … or this.”

Instead, check off the things you DID achieve. There are at least one or two in there, right? Maybe expand on it a little, going over how you achieved it, maybe padding the achievement a bit. Did you only get one book written? Yes, but this was exceptional circumstances, and it’s now the best book you’ve ever written, with blood and tears,  a steep learning curve, and the potential for bleeding fingers. Did you achieve some of those bigger goals? Woohoo! Celebrate and be happy (though you were celebrating those things at the time, right?)

Now it’s time to start a new list. Write down what you DID achieve this year. If you want to stick to career only goals, or if you want to branch out to all areas of your life, write it down. Did you learn a new language? Paint your house? Do something you’ve always wanted to do? Maybe celebrated a milestone, or completely changed your life with a new child, a marriage, a move, etc.

Now add this to the original list. And take stock. It’s strange to see an entire year summed up that way, and it’s very easy to forget some of the things we have achieved, especially if we’re focused on the negative or perhaps mired in a bad mood at the time we look at the list. And while it can be easy to say it was a “bad” year, or “hard,” guess what buttercup? Most years are. Because that’s how life is, and it’s why our victories seem all the sweeter. So remember gratitude and the wonderful things you’ve experienced this year, and all that life has brought you. And then get ready, set, go, because a new year is about to come, and it’s ripe with potential and waiting for you with all the best intentions.

Happy New Year to you, and may 2014 be a fantastic one! 🙂

Thanks for reading, and see you in the new year.

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.

Time to Reflect on the Past Year: Or, Where the heck did 2012 go?!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I swear, someone stole at least a month out from under me in the past year. It seemed like it was just June, and now suddenly we’re saying farewell to another year. Yikes!

However, not to worry. Because looking back at the year that was is a pretty wonderful thing. Oh, I heard that – the rolling of the eyes, the gnashing of the teeth. Seriously: looking back at the year and what you’ve accomplished IS a great thing, because it will help set you on the path for the coming year.

Okay. So, the first thing you need to do is get all the disappointment and fretting out of your system. Get rid of the “but I didn’t …” and “I was supposed to …” and “I still keep [insert bad habit here]” statements. Trust me, they echo pretty loudly in my head too at this time of the year, but they’re just distracting little devils who don’t want you to see the bigger picture – and that’s what you need to focus on.

If it helps, write them down. Keep it quick, no brooding. All you want to do is get it out of your head, and out of the way.

For me, I still remain unpublished, and un-agented. Time is always at a premium, I’m more out of shape than I care to mention, and I never accomplish as much as I think I should.

Okay. Done. Onto the next step. The important step.

What HAVE you accomplished? Remember at the beginning of the year when you dutifully wrote down all your goals and broke them down into manageable portions that could be easily identified as achieved or not?

Actually, I don’t remember that either. Last year, I didn’t really want to set goals, and only did it kind of accidentally since it appears to be stuck in my system. If you were a good boy or girl, and you have your written goals for 2012, go get them and start checking them off – see all you accomplished?

For the rest of us, I’ll have more on goal-setting for us in the next post. But for now, start writing down what you have accomplished. A few items will probably stand out in your head. Some may start out as negative devils again, so work on turning them around. I’ll offer one of my own examples.

– With the help of my CP and my own research, I discovered at least one massive flaw in my writing and particularly plotting. This led to self-doubt, and lots of teeth gnashing.

Okay, see the negativity? Here’s what I gained out of that negative experience this year.

-Finally found a CP worth their salt (possibly two of them!).

-Discovered and fixed a hole in my writing and plotting, improving overall quality.

-Continued to write despite set-backs, and have put into place new methods for productivity measurement, self-encouragement, and affirmation for the low points.

See? Easy. Now it’s your turn. I’ll wait.

Now how’s it looking? Hopefully, pretty positive. I know you accomplished a lot more than you think you have. And if you haven’t accomplished as much as you wanted, well, look at that! There’s a new year on the horizon, ripe with possibility, and it’s yours, if you have the courage to reach out and grab it.

Thanks for reading, and Happy 2013 to you all. See you in the new year!

Resistance is Futile! : Breaking Through Internal Resistance

As I’ve been getting back into the writing groove this year, I’ve found myself floundering a bit when I found I was unable to focus on any one thing or any one project. I think most of us can recognize that this is a kind of resistance we all face in our creativity, a resistance to create, to try something new, and sometimes, to continue on with work that we’ve already begun.

For me, I know that I’ve still been having quite mixed feelings about the new year, and about where it is I want to go, and where I think I’m headed (unfortunately, not the same place). And it’s also these sorts of thoughts that keep me from doing what’s the most important: writing. Because whether I’m the most successful at why I do, or still struggling to find my place, at all stages I’m useless unless I’m actually producing my product, which in this case is a new manuscript, new writing, new words.

So, I’m back to work, and deciding resistance is futile, because I won’t let it stop me. And you know what? Today, it really hasn’t been. Last night I forced myself to ignore all the voices in my head telling me I wasn’t writing the right thing, perhaps I should just abandon the projects I’m working on, nothing is what I want, it’s all too much work, etc, etc, etc. Instead, I thought of just one project and tried to identify: what is it that’s stopping me? Why have I been struggling with getting work done?

I realized that it was fear. Indeed, fear usually prevents us from doing what we want to do. And sure, it can be great when some part of our brain says “jump off the cliff” – since jumping off the cliff is risky, and so our fear protects us. Unfortunately, it also likes protecting us from things we need to do, and need to accept into our lives, like change, evolution. In my particular case, I decided that what I wanted to do was embrace my fear, and in fact, incorporate it into my writing, use it as a central theme and idea – and indeed, prove that it can and will be overcome.

So, how are you projects coming this year? Is fear trying to hold you back? What fears do you have? How do you plan to combat them?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Happy 2012! : Goal-Setting and Reflection

So, are you a goal-setter, a year-in-review junkie, or a bit of both?

I’m usually a bit of both, but this year I’m not quite sure what I want my goals to be, probably because I’m being pretty hard on myself for not achieving all of the things I wanted to in 2011. I mean, I guess I did accomplish some things (had my first child; ensured that I, the child, and myself survived the first year; completed a terrible rough draft of a new WIP). And, as I received another rejection letter today, I also noted that last year I sent out 20 queries, which didn’t sound all that good when I’d promised myself to send out way more. However, it was far better than 8 in 2010 (which is downright shameful to me).

Okay, enough of my moaning. It’s a new year. A blank slate. Or in writing and creation terms, it’s a blank page and canvas. Time to either revise rough work from last year, or possibly start on something completely new and different. The whole year stands before us, and while we often face the end of the year desperately trying to finish up things, January is a time for new beginnings. Perhaps this is part of why I know that I’m at my most productive in the early months of the year. And part of the secret, I believe, is allowing myself the freedom to play.

Indeed, I know I’m mentioned before how important play is in the creative process, and indeed, in our lives from infancy to death (Here’s the link the past article here.) The problem, of course, is we become fixated on other things and seem to forget that play is not only fun, it increases productivity and output – a far cry from diminishing these things.

I’m considering playing with my creativity in a few ways, which I’ll share since who knows, maybe they’ll work for you too.

1 – Consider all the possibilities. Nothing is off limits. For me, I’m trying to decide what to start work on, what will get the benefit of this new year’s energy; an existing work? Sure, I could probably finish it, and it would be decent, undoubtedly. But with the revision notes and plans I have, I can probably plug away at that later. So what about something new? Something wild and different? What if it leads me down different pathes for the whole year? What if doing something I don’t usually do – like consider writing a smash-up kind of piece – might be the direction that helps my writing evolve in a new way?

2 – Let  loose, float, and go where the current takes you.  I know, sounds a bit wishy-washy, but I think of it like brainstorming. When you’re brainstorming an idea, you can’t restrict yourself, all inner editors have sealed lips, and everything is included, no matter how ridiculous or useless it may be. Because the thing is, if you say “no, that’s too ridiculous to write down, to consider,” you’ve closed yourself off to that possibility – and perhaps five or twenty more that are now too scared to rear their little heads. Instead, open yourself and your mind, follow the flow of energy. Do I really want to have aliens land smack down in the middle of a Regency ball (since this happens to be a stray thought in my head right now)? No, probably not, but I’ll write it down. And wait … what if someone FELT like an alien, or actually was an alien, but just not the space kind … See where the thoughts can lead? And they can’t go anywhere if you tamp them down in the first place.

3 – Be open to possibilities, and let your imagination soar, or My old friend ‘What if?’  I’ve been reading a lot about raising children, and they explain that toddlers around three-years-old or so believe anything is possible and have a hard time distinguishing between what’s real and what’s imaginary. So if they hear something like their father saying the boss just exploded today, they’re probably thinking it sounded messy, with a literal understanding of explosion. As writers, we need to remind ourselves to do the same, and to create worlds that help readers momentarily recapture the imaginary, to believe in the world we create. And sometimes we can do that by thinking about all the possibilities. What if the boss really did explode? What if unicorns really did exist?

4 – Work hard, work fast. I know, seems a little counter-intuitive to the playing, but the thing is, new year’s energy, just like the resolution to lose weight at the gym, can burn away quite quickly, which means we have to use as much of it as we have and stretch it as far as we can. Working with this kind of energy might last longer some years, shorter others, or might help snowball to carry you all the way through to the next year, but whatever the case, use it while you have it. When you’re working with this kind of new years energy, excitement, the hope and wonder of a new year, a blank slate, even a day may be wasting too much.

Best of luck, happy 2012, and thanks for reading.

Staying Positive and Persevering: Goal-setting for a New Year (Part 2)

Last week we looked over last year’s goals, and there was plenty of rehashing the past and reflection. Hopefully, you remembered to stay positive and focus on what you HAVE achieved rather than what might still need a bit more time or effort. But, enough of all that. It’s a new year, a blank slate, and today, we’re setting new writing career goals which you WILL achieve.

So, goal setting for the new year. Yes, some of those unaccomplished goals may still be fresh in your mind, and if they’re still important enough to you, then they belong on this new list. But, let’s consider them a bit more closely. Say something like “get published this year.” That’s a big goal, especially dependent on where you are in your career (have you completed a manuscript? Do you have an agent? Have you been querying? Etc).  For something like “getting published” there are also factors you can’t control (trends, the subjectivity of the publishing world, the economy or cutting back in new books and authors, etc). So, break the large goal down into smaller chunks you CAN control. I love sub-lists, so perhaps have something like:

Goal #1: Finally get published this year.

A)  Send out 3 new queries to potential agents a month this year.

a.   Research and continue to update a list of at least 25 agents so new submissions can continue to go out with each rejection.

B)  Research potential publishers and editors.

C)  Send out at least 4 queries or pitches to publishing houses which best suit my manuscript.

D) Attend at least one conference and pitch my writing to agents and editors.

E)   ….

Get the idea? That means next year, even if you can’t check off the big goal “get published” you might be able to check off lots of what you’ve done which has brought you closer to what you want to achieve. Putting items on the list which are relatively easy to achieve isn’t cheating: they are necessary steps. But, they’re often what you do but don’t consider “worthy” enough to write down or list. Why not? They’ll help you achieve larger goals, plus it will make you feel better when looking back next year and remind you of what you have done. Think small, break things down into steps or stages, manageable chunks. The above fictional goal setting is relatively random, but could you use and customize it for your needs? This method of goal setting not only provides you with more easily achievable mini-goals to check off as accomplishments later, but it’s also a kind of plan which can lead you towards accomplishing the bigger goals. How do you complete a manuscript? One word at a time. Remember, a 100K manuscript is 100 days of 100 words, shorter still if you demand higher word counts per day.

Next, consider what you were able to do in the year previous, and don’t be afraid to push yourself. Last year did you have a daily word count you had to achieve? What about upping it by 1000 words or whatever seems reasonable to you? How many manuscripts did you complete? Could you complete at least one more in the same time period? How do you measure productivity or achievements? How can this kind of measurement be incorporated into your goal-setting? You might not be able to control the economy, an editor having a bad day the day your query comes across their desk, whatever: but you can control what and how much you’re writing, and how much and how you’re trying to get your work out into the marketplace. Even better, now you not only have goals, but the smaller goals necessary to achieve the bigger one also give you the start of a plan of action: you’re on your way to success.

Finally, after you’ve reflected on last year’s goals and set some new ones, there’s just one step left: start off the year with a positive attitude. Keep in mind what you have accomplished, how far you’ve come, how you’ve changed and what new adventures and opportunities await in the new year. Sure, there are things you didn’t achieve, but it’s a new year, a clean slate, and this year will be THE year. This year will be YOUR year.

Okay, so to make this all the easier for you, I’ve broken things down into three easy-to-remember steps.

Step 1 – Reflect what you accomplished the past year. What did you achieve? What can you be proud of? For the things you haven’t achieved quite yet, are these goals still important to you? Have you taken positive steps towards achieving larger goals? (See the earlier blog post for further detail).

Step 2 – Set goals for the new year. Be specific with your goals, and break large goals down into achievable elements you can control.

Step 3 – Leave last year behind, good or bad, since it’s done with now. This is a new year, a new start, which could be completely different. Start the new year off with a positive, hopeful attitude and the thirst for success. You’ll find it.

Was this helpful to you? I wish you all the best in the new year – and achieving success with your goals. Please, share how this helped, how you set goals, or even your goals themselves below in the comments section. Happy 2011!