Checking In

We’ve been pursuing our writing goals, our writing dreams, for three months now, and it’s time for a check-in. What goals did you set for yourself at the beginning of January? How close are you to achieving them? What is working for you? What are you struggling with?

Until now, we’ve been looking at things we need to do, to change, goals we need to set, to have success as writers. Next week, we’re going to shift focus to being more actively productive as writers. There will still be some of that internal stuff, because most often it is that internal stuff that keeps us from being productive, but it won’t be our main focus.

If you’d like to further explore any of the issues we’ve talked about in this blog, or what we will be talking about, if you’d like to have a personalized plan and one-on-one guidance from me, head on over to my page on coaching, and sign up for your Complimentary Discovery Session! Let’s chat, and see if coaching is the right step, the next step, for you.

Not quite ready to take the plunge into coaching? Sign up for my e-newsletter and you will receive the quick guide “10 Keys to Perseverance”. Each monthly newsletter contains an additional article or two each month. Need another reason to sign up? Each month in 2016, one of my newsletter subscribers who also comments on my blog, receives a $10 gift card for their favorite bookstore.

I’m going to have some more exciting news for you in the next few weeks. I can let you know that some of it involves the workshops I offer, making them accessible to all, and easy to use any time.

In the meantime, I’m teaching Blueprint for Writing Success Starting Monday, April 4, over at SavvyAuthors.com. Check out the Course Page Here. It’s a steal of a deal! I hope to see you there!

And now I’m going to comment on my own Check-in!

I set the goal of having my novel edited by the end of March. I am very close to having the second draft done. I need to work hard the next few days to get there, but I think I’ll make it. If not by the end of the day on Thursday, for sure by the end of the weekend. It’s still not where I wanted it to be. The second half needs a lot of work, but I think once this draft is done, the worst of it is over, and then it is the fine-tuning and adding the finesse. I want it done by the end of April. So yes, some success, but there have been some struggles. Some of those struggles I’ve shared with you. It is with these kinds of struggles that I have to revisit my goals, revise them as needed, make the changes I am in control of, and carry on.

What goals did you set for yourself at the beginning of January? How close are you to achieving them? What is working for you? What are you struggling with?

Let it go

“It was a bad writing day yesterday. Today isn’t going to be any better.”

“You didn’t write yesterday. Don’t bother writing today.”

If I were a betting person, I’d wager you’ve thought those above statements plenty of times before. They are two of the favourite things our Inner Saboteur likes to say to us.

The Saboteur doesn’t just stop there. The Saboteur elaborates, tells us how we’re terrible writers because of those bad days; that we should quit; that we aren’t real writers. The exact words may vary, but the message is the same.

Picking ourselves up after these smack-downs is not easy. What is easy, is giving in to the not writing, the belief that you aren’t good enough, that you shouldn’t bother Giving in isn’t going to get us to completing our goals.

There is only one way we can pick ourselves up and move forward, and that’s to write.

I am very aware of how difficult that is. It does’t have to be. Here are a few ways to make it easier:

  1. Every day is a new day. Scarlett O’Hara’s known for saying “Tomorrow is another day.” If it helps, tell that to yourself when you go to bed after a bad or non-writing day. When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself, “Today is another day.” What happened yesterday no longer matters.
  2. Set it aside. Not the writing, but whatever happened the day before to stop you from writing. I mention this a fair bit, but it’s worth repeating. Pull out a journal or open up a file on your computer. Write down you doubts, your worries, what your Inner Saboteur is telling you. Set the journal aside, shut the file. If you need more drastic measures, delete the file or rip out the page and tear it up.
  3. Revisit your goals. Remind yourself of what you want, why you want it, and what you will do to get it. Remind yourself that watching TV or surfing the internet isn’t going to get you there, writing will.
  4. Revisit your daily goals. Are they realistic? Do they fit into your daily schedule? Our lives change over time. Add words, remove words, shift your writing time. Make adjustments as necessary.
  5. Reward yourself. Last week we talked about how anticipating a reward helps make an action a habit. Reinforce that anticipation. Give yourself that reward at the end of the day’s writing session. Give yourself that reward after each writing session for the first twenty-one days.
  6. Believe in yourself. Believe that you can do this. You can write.

What will you do today, to pick yourself up, and write?

Creating Deadlines that Matter

Unless you’re one of the lucky ones with a publishing contract, or in a writing course with submission deadlines that if missed will cost you money, it can be difficult to set and stick to deadlines. Why? Because we don’t really have anything really at stake.

Perhaps a pitch session at a conference/convention you’re attending is coming up, or your critique group has it’s monthly submission deadline approaching and you want something ready for it, and you’re writing and editing furiously to make those deadlines. But there’s always that voice in the back of your mind, the voice of your Inner Saboteur, reminding you that if you miss it, it’s OK. You can alwasy submit to your writer’s group next month. You don’t have to pitch at the conference, you can always submit to the agent/editor any time, you’ll just socialize with them at the conference, it will make a better impression anyway.

Without concrete deadlines, we can take our sweet time in completing our wiritng projects. We can always find things to edit and change, and it will never, ever, be good enough to submit.

Here are 2 simple ways to create deadlines that matter:

  1. Have an accountability buddy with an ultimate reward you BOTH want. Give yourselves a three-month deadline to finish a draft or finish editing a manuscript. If you BOTH achieve that goal in the time alotted, you BOTH get a reward, such as a hotel stay at a local convention. Make it something that you wouldn’t normally spend on yourself, and something that will make an event far more enjoyable. It has to be something you both want. It works, because you will find that while it is easy and OK to disappoint yourself by not having your work completed in a given time-frame, you don’t want to disappoint your friend. You are counting on EACH OTHER.  Does it have to be a hotel stay? No, but it should be bigger than a meal out or a movie.
  2. Plan ahead. Look for grants, contests, scholarships, or other submission deadlines. They all have specific windows of opporuntiy. Be aware of what those submission windows are well in advance, mark them in your calendar and work towards them. If you miss them, not only do you have to wait another year before you can try again, you may also be missing out on a financial opportunity. So just like the publishing contract or the writing course deadlines, missing out on these deadlines could cost you money.

Contact your local writer’s organization, or national writer’s associations like the Romance Writers of America, or Horror Writers of America, visit www.savvyauthors.com, and check out the websites of any conventions you plan on attending in the next year. See what they have planned, if there any pitch sessions, or if they have any grant or scholarships coming up. Mark it in your calendar and break down all that you have to do to be ready for that deadline. Find an accountability buddy, and go for it.  Make that deadline matter to you.

Join the conversation! What will you be working towards over the next few months? I have two submission periods: the first is due by March 31, and the other is June 15. A lot of work to do! Better get to it!

Putting Yourself First

Priorities

 

In Martha Stout’s book “The Sociopath Next Door“, she opens up her introduction with the following: “Imagine–if you can–not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members.”

I remember reading that and thinking, “What’s the problem? That would be heavenly!” No, I don’t really want to be a sociopath without a conscience, not caring what happens to others, willing to walk-over and destroy everyone around me to get what I want.

I do think there is some merit to taking time for yourself and what you care about, without the guilt of always being concerned about others to the point where you put everyone else’s needs before your own.

In a way that’s a controversial thought, in a way it isn’t. Certainly Oprah started the “Me” movement decades ago, which is all about looking after what “I” need, what “I” want, so what I’m saying isn’t new. At the same time, there is still so much pressure, so much guilt put on us, especially on women, still, to look after everyone else, to put our needs second, that when someone calls, asks for help, asks a favour, we are supposed to, we are required to, drop what we’re doing to respond.

In the workshops I lead, this question comes up all the time: How can I put myself first? I often think there is an expectation that I will have a pat answer, a trick or tip on how to make other people respect boundaries or to not need so much. I always respond with another question:

Why do think you are unworthy of being first?

Conversely, What makes you worthy of being first?

Why shouldn’t you be first?

I know, I know, society makes us feel guilty if we make ourselves a priority. And that guilt is not easy to dispel. So let’s take that guilt into account as we work this out.

Think about the time you spend writing, looking after yourself and your needs. What do you get out of that time? More energy? Happiness? Experience? You’ve learned something new? You’re healthier? What else?

Take all that you have gained and think about how much that helps you grow as a person. When we grow as people, when we are happier, healthier, more knowledgeable, we have more to offer those around us, those who depend on us.

So, no, I’m not saying you should put yourself first always and to not care about the well-being of others all the time. I’m saying to do it enough that you can grow as a person, be happy with who you are, and have more to offer.

We’ve all heard it: If you don’t look after yourself, no one will. It’s true. Have you heard this? If we don’t put ourselves first, we are teaching others that we are not worthy of being first. Others treat us the way we teach them to treat us.

Join the conversation! What makes you worthy of being first? What do you gain from putting yourself first, looking after your needs, your goals? What will you commit to doing this week to put yourself and your goals first?

 

Just Do It!

day light in room through open door on stairs towards field on black background

We’ve all had times like these, where we talk with our friends about how we can’t find the time to write, and we just want to write but it’s so hard, and we hate our jobs because we want to write, but we never actually do any writing. The same happens when it comes to making changes to our routines. We can talk about changing and taking action all we want, but until we actually make those changes, nothing is going to be different.

I hate that rut, and I have a feeling you do too. Now is the time we take practical steps, we implement the changes we want, and we make our writing happen.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to make a list, to write down what you’re doing now in terms of writing, and where you would like to be. I asked you what the difference between the two was, and what needed to change for you to get to where you wanted to be. If you haven’t done it already, do it now.

I want you to be detailed. List the tasks and activities you do on a regular basis. This includes things like: coffee with a friend every week; house cleaning every Saturday, driving the kids to music lessons and hockey practice, going to the gym, shovelling the driveway/yard work, visiting parents, time with the nieces and nephews, helping the kids with homework, meal prep, watching The Good Wife and Blacklist. Write down all of it.

Beside each of the activities you list, mark off which ones you enjoy and which ones you don’t. Chances are, the activities you don’t enjoy, are the ones that are necessary to the survival of you and your family, such as work, cleaning, cooking, etc. However, of those activities, are there any of them you can delegate to someone else? Are the absolutely necessary that they get done as frequently as you do them?

For example: are your kids old enough to take on some of the household chores? What about your spouse/partner/roommate? Can they take over some of the duties? Are you in a position to hire a cleaning person to come in once a month to help out? What about the neighbours kids? Can you pay them to clean your driveway and do the yard work?

Is there a way you can use these activities to your advantage? If you’re taking your kids to music lessons or sporting practice, rather than gossiping with the other parents, can you use that time to write?

I have found that in order to make the changes necessary, it is important to start with one thing at a time, then add on. So start with one activity, the one easiest for you to eliminate, reduce, or delegate. I’ve done this by eliminating my specialty cable channels to reduce my TV watching time, though this still needs work; hired a cleaner to come in once a month to reduce the amount of time I spend cleaning because I hate it and take forever to do it; and I use my slow-cooker to make larger meals for left-overs. I also live in a Condo so while I’m not a fan of the maintenance fees, I don’t have to worry about snow removal or lawn-care.

So right now, I’m going to make a deal with you, a committment: I almost always write with the TV on, but I am far more productive without it. My promise to you, is that I’m going to watch less TV. A lot less TV. I’ll reduce the number of shows I record, and give myself at least 3 hours of writing time an evening without the TV on.

What is one activity you can eliminate, reduce, or delegate? Let me know in the comments, and we will hold each other accountable!

The Inevitability of Change

Change is inevitable

One of the first principles of coaching is that change is inevitable. Change can be painful, it can be challenging, and it can be refreshing. Without change, there can be no growth.

Often we fear the word change, because it suggests the unknown. Far too often we would rather stay with what is familiar, than move on to something we know nothing about, assuming some kind of danger lurks around the corner. Without change, we remain in the rut we are in, unhappy, unfulfilled.

Look a the list you made last week, of how much writing you’re actually doing, compared to what you’d like to be doing? What did you say needed to change in your life to make that happen?

The first thing that needs to change, is our mindset. We need to accept that change is necessary for our goals to be met. When you are ready, when you accept this mindset, then you are ready to move on, to grow, and to achieve.

Once you’ve accepted that change is necessary, then you will be more open to determining what changes need to be made. You will recognize what activities need to be dropped or reduced, what you can delegate to others, and how you will alter your work-space.

Recognize that in acknowledging that things need to change, this will not always be an easy road. There will be times along the way when sacrifices are made that will affect you, and potentially cause some discomfort with family and friends, especially should you decide to spend less time with them. There will be times when you would rather stay for that extra beer, or watch the game, fall back into the same routine you have now because it is easier, and familiar. But will it get you to where you want to go?

Rather than seeing these changes as all sacrifice and doom and gloom, look forward to them. See them as finally the chance to work on what you want to do. See them as necessary self-care, putting yourself and your goals first. See them as stepping into who you are meant to be, into that better life you want, finding that happiness and fulfillment you want.

When you take care of yourself, put yourself first for a little bit each day, you will be happier. When you are happier, you will be more willing to interact with family and friends, you will be better equipped to take care of their needs.

What is holding you back from accepting change? What can you do to accept change? Join in the conversation!

Until you try, you’ll never know

Through Accepting Limints

 

The other day I was telling a friend that the soundtrack to the musical “Wicked” was the soundtrack to my life. It may or may not be a bit of an exaggeration, but two lines in particular resonate the most with me: “I’m through accepting limits, ’cause someone says they’re so. Some things I cannot change, but ’til I try, I’ll never know.”

Back in the summer of 2004, I took a trip to New York City. I saw the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the American Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim, went to the top of the Empire State Building, and so much more. It was a fantastic week. I also went to see “Wicked” on Broadway, with much of the original cast, including the incredible Idina Menzel. (brag, brag, brag).

This wasn’t just a random trip to New York. While it was a trip I’d always wanted to make, I had decided to go to New York because I didn’t get in to the Odyssey Writing Workshop. I’d made the waiting list, but not in to the actual workshop. I’d thought that was it, whatever, I’ll cheer myself up with a great vacation.

I’d been in a rough place for some time. I was nearing (if I wasn’t already) clinical burn-out at my job, I had no social life to speak of, and my writing was just not happening. I was tired of it. I was tired of being tired, and of failing to live the life I wanted to live, because I was doing what was expected of me. To say I felt stuck was an understatement. I needed to get out. Hearing those lines “Some things I cannot change, but ’til I try, I’ll never know,” stuck with me. I could relate. I needed to at least give change an honest try.

I gave myself 1 year to make things happen; to change my job, and to take my writing more seriously.

A few months later, I was given the opportunity to work in Northern Ireland for a year. It was a dream come true. As I was preparing for Northern Ireland, I received a reminder of the application deadline for Odyssey. I hadn’t intended to apply again, but since I was already leaving my job, I decided “why not?” I could just leave work a few weeks earlier than planned. That summer, I got into Odyssey.

Big changes were happening. They were happening because I was committed to making them happen. They didn’t come easy. Sacrifices had to be made. I had to sell my condo to be able to afford to go. I had to give up my pet bunny, I had to leave my family, in particular my young nieces and nephew whom I adore.

Last week I asked you how committed you were to achieving your writing goals. It can be easy to say your 100% committed, that you’ll spend every waking minute on your goals, or to writing 1 word a day, every day. But unless something changes in your daily routine to make that time, it doesn’t matter how committed you are, it still isn’t going to happen.

What needs to change in your life, to make it possible for you to follow-through with your commitment? What needs to change so you can achieve your goals?

How much are you writing now? How much would you like to be writing? What is the difference between the two? What needs to change to get to where you want to be?

I’m going to throw in a caveat here. We’d all like to quit our day jobs and write full-time. Unless that is truly financially feasible for you right now, let’s assume that it isn’t and it won’t be for a few years. So think about what needs to change without quitting work.

I’d love to hear where you’re at and where you’d like to be. Join the conversation!

 

Commitment-phobic?

Commitment

At the end of each coaching session, clients are asked to come up with action steps that will help them accomplish the goals they set during the session. After the action steps have been stated, the client is asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10, how committed they are to carrying through with the actions. If the coaching session has been a good one, the client is generally pretty keen and committed. The actual carry-through is a different matter.

I know.

I’ve been through these sessions, and I feel that level of commitment. I have a clear plan, the steps aren’t big, they’re doable. I also know my own laziness. I can be perfectly committed, and then I hang up the call, and then I go to my kitchen to get a drink and I get distracted, and often times, that commitment dissipates. It’s like it never existed.

The problem is that solid commitment is necessary to achieve our goals.

To a certain extent, that wavering of commitment is on me. In part, it is the responsibility of the coach to make sure the client truly wants the end result and is willing to do what it takes to get there. If that commitment isn’t there, then the coach didn’t ask the right questions to elicit the goal and actions that resonate strongest with the client, to make sure it is something the client really wants.

When the goals and actions coincide with what the client truly wants, they will do anything to get there, and great things are accomplished.

Last week I asked you what your writing goals are. I asked you to dream big and I asked you to make them specific.

Now I’m going to ask you how badly you want to achieve them.

Are they someday I hope to get their dreams? Or are they something you want so bad you can taste it, to not get there will devastate you?

I’m a huge sports fan. One of the things that amazes me about athletes, is their commitment. When we get to see them, it is at a competition of some kind, where they’re showing off their skills and abilities. And the best ones are exhilarating to watch..

What we don’t see, are the hours and hours of time they put in at the gym lifting weights and doing cardio, and the hours of training, perhaps practicing one particular move over and over and over again. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. I can barely stand half an hour on a treadmill. But they do it. Day after day, hours each day, because they know it is only the hard work they put in, that will get them to their goal.

So here’s my athlete-envy analogy: writers are athletes too. Our glory event, competition, is when our writing gets published, when we get to do a reading. That’s the exciting part, where people get to see our talent and skill.

The time we spend at the keyboard or putting pen to paper, writing those words down, are the same as the hours athletes spend in the gym. The hours we spend editing, perfecting our words, are the same as the hours athletes take perfecting each maneuver.

I think we can all agree, that most of the time, sitting down and writing isn’t fun. We love writing, we love telling stories, but it would be so much easier doing something else: going out with friends, going to a movie, especially having a nap. OK, maybe that last one is just me. I wonder about athletes. How much do they enjoy running on a track or pumping iron and all the other training they have to do? I am sure there are days they want to just stay home or go out with friends. But they don’t. They go to work. Because to not go in to the gym means they are farther from their goal.

So how much do you want it? Are you willing to push through the unpleasantness of the drudgery of writing? Are you willing to push through to find the enjoyment in the work?

I am. I am committed to editing this novel, making it the best it can be. I am committed to getting this novel done and out the door. And I am committed to working on it every day, in every spare moment.

Are you with me?

Make it so!

Happy New Year!

Join me on a goal-achieving adventure this year!

Believe it or not, I’m not big on new year’s resolutions. Why? They tend to be impossibly big, vague, and requiring a drastic change with little to no preparation before-hand.

That doesn’t mean I don’t make any plans or goals for the new year, and I expect you’re the same way. Why don’t we accomplish them together?

Over the next several months, on this blog, I’m going to walk through what needs to be done to achieve our goals. I want you to be a big part of this community. Comment on the posts, participate in the challenges, let me know what is working for you, and what isn’t working for you. With your participation, you will help keep me accountable, and I promise to do the same for you.

To start this adventure, let’s talk about our goals for the year.

Setting goals is one thing. To actually achieve them—to put in the work, to make the time—is a different beast. You’ve probably heard the saying that knowledge is power. Perhaps you’ve also heard that using that knowledge is the real power. I’ve talked more than enough about setting achievable and exceedable goals. You can see yourself the achievable goal of writing one word a day, but if you do nothing different to make that happen, then even that one word a day goal isn’t achievable.

The first thing we need to do to make sure we can accomplish our goals, is to make them specific. Remember my problem with new year’s resolutions being too vague? We don’t want that. We want to be as specific as possible. But like resolutions, make them big. I want us to push ourselves this year. We don’t have to worry about them being too drastic a change, because we have all year to accomplish them.

Aim high.

What are your writing goals for this year?

I’ve got an ambitious year planned. I have a first draft of a novel written that I need to have fully edited and out the door, hopefully in March, or June at the latest. I also want to outline, draft, and edit a second novel by the end of December. And my stretch goal is to outline a couple more novels.

Now it’s your turn. Share your goals in the comments. Telling others what your goals are is a great start to keeping each other accountable and making those goals happen.

Let’s make this year OUR most successful year yet!

Ending the Overwhelm

The instantaneous consumerism of the internet  is overloading authors with pressure to be more and more prolific. It is no longer considered prolific to be publishing a book a year.

The rapidly changing publishing industry is creating havoc. Traditionally published authors aren’t certain they’ll have a future in it, and indie authors are scrambling to produce enough to find and sustain an audience. One of the buzzwords that authors talk about is “diversification.” This means not only writing novels and short stories, but writing for video games, other new media projects, television, movies, the stage, finding speaking engagements, and writing news articles.

I think diversification is great, if you can do it. But what happens if you try to do it all? I’m reminded of a saying, that someone trying to do it all is a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” My interpretation of that saying is that in trying to do it all, you are spreading yourself too thin, and not mastering the one or two areas where you can truly polish your skills and excel at it.

Become a master.

  1. Think about what kind of writing career you truly want. Do you want a long-lasting career? Or do you want to make a bucket-load of money right now? Where do you want to be in 20 years from now?
  2. What is the fundamental value behind that career choice?  Is it pride in self and your work? Is it acceptance? Is it leaving a financial legacy for your family?
  3. Look at all the potential projects on your desk that you think you need to do to diversify and make some money. Which of those projects speak to what you value about your writing career? Which ones show off your greatest skills and talent as a writer?
  4. Pick the one or two other projects that will advance your career and your legacy.

Once you set these projects as your writing priorities, you will have more energy, motivation, and focus on what you need to do. And when you have that energy and focus, you will become a master of your writing career.

What do you want your writing career to be? What projects are getting in the way?