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!

Just Watch Me

I’m stubborn. If someone makes a suggestion to me or asks something of me, often my first response is “No.”

On the positive side, my stubbornness is called persistence. I refuse to quit. I won’t give up, or give in. There’s a saying something like persistence is more important than talent. So I figure I’ll keep submitting and someday I’ll have outlasted all the other writers.

I’ve always been that way.

I will never forget when one of my teachers kindly informed me that I wasn’t going to ever be as good as one of his other students Needless to say, I was stunned and hurt, but I was also royally teed off. I remember marching home that day thinking, “What does he know? I’ll show him!”

This attitude has come in handy when facing my writing fears.

I fear I won’t complete my novel. I fear that it won’t be good enough. I fear that I will fail, that I am a failure. I have a choice.

I have a choice. I can adopt these fears and let them control me, let them stop me from writing. I did this for a long time. I still do, sometimes. They are at the heart of it all on the days I procrastinate. OR, I can face these fears, acknowledge them, use them to push me, but saying to them, “Just Watch Me!”

Fear: “You’ll never finish.”

Me: “Then I’ll write until I do. Justt watch me!”

Fear: “You’re not good enough.”

Me: “Then I’ll keep learning and practicing and growing until I am. Just watch me!”

Fear: “You are a failure.”

Me: “Then I’ll work harder, submit more, until I succeed. Just watch me!”

Fear: “You’re a fake.”

Me: “Am I? Then I’ll have to just fake it until I make it! I’ll just have to keep on writing and working at it to mee the standards others already believe I’ve set. Just watch me!”

You too have a choice. You can allow your fears to slow you down, to stop you, or you can embrace them, use them to push you in the direction you want to go.

Join the conversation! What are your writing fears? How can you use them to push you forward?

 

 

The Struggle Is Real

Struggle PuppyI was going to have a completely different post this week, a continuation of the theme of change or about embracing our fears. I may post that next week.

I needed to change my post. If this is a journey we’re doing together, then I need to be honest with you. So here goes:

I’ve been struggling. I’ve been struggling a lot the last few weeks. Sure I have good writing days and not so good writing days. We all have those, and that’s OK.

But most days, i feel like a fraud.

I feel like a fraud because those nasty self-doubts I coach writers to work through, have been rearing their ugly heads. A lot.

Things like: It’s never going to happen, no one wants to read this, it’s terrible writing, I’m a terrible writer, I’m a failure, a complete and utter failure.

I don’t believe that my doubts are different or any stronger than anyone else’s.

They are my doubts, and I have been giving in to them. For that, I am ashamed and a fraud.

Except that I’m not.

I do take my own advice, and find ways to argue back against my inner saboteur, but I still give in.

That doesn’t make me a fair or a fraud. It makes me human.

It makes me a human, with depression. It’s not something I’m ashamed of. I struggled for many years before I even knew I had depression. Getting medical and psychological help for it has been a tremendous help. But that help doesn’t mean it will ever really go away. The depression may fade for a time, but it does come back, and when it does, I struggle, and I struggle a lot.

When I struggle with depression, I do my best to get words on the page. Often I have to be satisfied with a sentence or two, or the placement of a period. Most days I pick up my pen and paper or turn on my computer and stare at it for hours with no clue how to proceed, with too much noise in my head to form any kind of clear thought.

I know enough on the worst of days to be gentle with myself. To understand that I simply don’t have the energy or the mental fortitude to write anything that day and that if I take it easy today, tomorrow should be better. Often times it is.

I’ve been gentle with myself. I took it easy. I make myself write. I tell my inner saboteur to shut up. And the next day, I have to be gentle again. I tell myself that I’m drafting and that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I need to be patient with myself and the whole writing process. It’s the same stuff I coach my clients on. I pick up my pen, turn my computer on, and I try again, until it gets easier.

So what’s my point? My point is that I’ve been struggling.

My point is to tell you so that if you’re struggling, you know you’re not alone.

So here’s to better and brighter writing days.

Stories of Perseverance

I have been thinking a lot about what makes it so difficult for us to sit down and write. Why are we so willing to give in to our Inner Saboteur, even when we know that’s what we’re doing?

A lot of times it comes down to the thought “Why bother?”

Let’s face it, being a writer is hard. As soon as you tell family or friends you’re writing, they expect your short story or novel to appear in print within a month because that’s what happens on TV. They also expect you to be the next J.K. Rowling, raking in the billions.

They don’t understand, and they don’t see, the hours spent alone at the computer trying to figure out the perfect wording for the sentence, the hours agonizing over description, or dialogue. They don’t see the years of languishing in the slush pile. They don’t get that it can take years to land an agent, and longer still to get a book contract. They don’t see your $5 – $10,000 advance, 15% of which goes to your agent.

But we, as writers, know what it is to slog through rejection after rejection. We all face the changing publishing industry.

We love to share our ‘terrible rejection’ stories when we’re together. But we rarely celebrate successes. I suspect it is because we hear about someone getting the book contract or story sale and think “why couldn’t it be me?” or we think “Probably happened for them right away. Hack!”

The truth of it is, success comes in different ways for all of us. We all want that Sally Field winning the Oscar moment of “You really like me. You really like me!”  We should be celebrating each other’s successes, and think “It can happen to me too.”

I have asked a number of authors who have experienced their own success, to tell their stories of perseverance, what they went through to get to that success. This doesn’t necessarily mean their stories end there. Some will go on to bigger and better things, others will not.

And that’s OK.

What is important is that they believed in themselves and their writing enough to push through the tough times, the slush, the wondering “Why Bother?”

Let their stories inspire you to do the same!

Happy Writing!