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?

 

Your feedback greatly appreciated

Important Question: I’m preparing my Silencing Your Inner Saboteur workshop–complete with student forums, interactive classes, and coaching sessions. Would you prefer something like this before, during, or after NaNoWriMo?

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?

Guest Blogging and Workshops and Books, oh my!

This morning I am blogging over at Savvy Authors 

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on Identity and the writer. In the article I talk about why we so often question ourselves being “real” writers, what we can do about it, and the positive results we experience when we embrace our identity.

If you like what you read in that blog, or here, consider taking my course “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” which I will be teaching online through Savvy Authors, running June 9 – 29. See what others have said about the workshop on my workshops page here.

Still not sure? Why not download the first four chapters of my book “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” for FREE, just sign up for my mailing list on my home page here, which will, in the near future, news about upcoming releases, special offers, and more.

And finally, if you are interested in exploring the idea of having a coach to help you reach your writing goals, to push through the writer’s block, to be more productive, I offer a no-obligation complimentary session. It’s a great opportunity to see if coaching is right for you, and if we’d make a good partnership in your journey. Just fill out the form below and I will contact you within 24 hours. I’d love to have a chat with you!

 

Finding the Joy in Writing (Part 3)

Editing!

I’ve lost count of the number of writers who have said they loathe the editing process. I have a feeling a lot of this dislike for editing comes from our Inner Saboteur who continually ridicules us for not having perfect first drafts, convincing us that real writers don’t edit. Well, I hate to break it to you, but every writer edits their work. They may not enjoy it, but they do it.

I once read in a book on writing (I don’t remember which one, it was a long time ago), that said that no writer enjoys the editing process.

I do.

I love it.

There are times I enjoy it more than the first draft/creative exploration process of getting the words down on the page for the first time. And I know that I’m not the only one who enjoys editing. I have met a handful of other writers who love it too.

I want to share my thought process for drafting and editing, and the differences between the two. This isn’t the only way to enjoy editing.

The first draft: This is can include the outline, but essentially it is when we first have that enthusiasm for a story and get it onto the page. For me, this is very much an exploratory stage, getting to know the characters, the world, the plot, etc. This is when I get to immerse myself most in the story. It is new. It is shiney. It is mine. No one gets to see it yet. This is also usually a complete disaster with plot holes (even with outlining), and the most awkward sentences ever written. This is where I get to liberally spend my wordage expense account. I often find that as enjoyable as this stage is, it takes a lot out of me emotionally and mentally, in a very good way. This is often when I get that writer’s high as I’m writing. I get giddy after about an hour, and said giddiness can last a good 24 hours after. This is when I feel most productive as a writer because there are tangible results. An extra 1,000 or 2,000 words written.

Editing: I’m not talking specifically about fixing grammatical errors or typos here. I usually reserve that for the final polish. Editing for me often involves revising major chunks of the manuscript, filling in those plot holes, etc. The reason I love editing so much is simply this: when I edit, that’s when I get to develop and see the growth in my use of the craft of writing. This is where I get to play with the words, the sentences, to make each one say exactly what I want it to say in the most powerful way possible. Editing is where I get to really see the story take its true form, in all its beauty. This is where I get to take that rough piece of art and make it into a masterpiece. The structure, the core of it is all there. My creative self has done her job in coming up with a spectacular base. Now it is the true craftsman self that gets to truly bring it to life.

Did I always enjoy editing? Hardly. I have a few manuscripts in my drawer that are very polished first drafts. I thought that’s what editing was. But then I was challenged as I learned more about writing, to really dig and find the beauty in the story and bring it out. My first thought wasn’t that I didn’t like it (though I wan’t crazy about it), but that I wasn’t capable of it. It didn’t take long for me to discover I did have the tools to make my writing even better. When I realized that, I embraced the process.

What do you dislike about editing? What do you love about it?

CBC’s Four Rooms Redux

Last night (March 23, 2014) was my National Television Debut as I mentioned in my last blog post. I was lucky enough to appear on CBC’s Four Rooms. I was there attempting to sell my painting of Gollum by the actor Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.

Gollum by Andy Serkis

 

If you watched the broadcast of the show (Season 1, Episode 6), you will know now that I didn’t sell the painting.  And if you watched the broadcast, you only saw a minute of filming which in total was probably an hours worth of material. Even the sellers with more air time were cut way down.

So now I finally get to tell what really happened, and yes, there is some relevance as to why I’m posting this on my Coaching blog.

My first thought after seeing other episodes air and knowing that my segment was cut to one minute, was that I should have been more outrageous, made crazy demands or something, to get more air time, more exposure. But that would have defeated my purspose in being there, which wasn’t entirely to sell the painting. More on that in a bit. But I’m also a firm believer that as a writer and a coach, how I carry myself in every situation represents who I am. If I had been outragious or rude or made crazy demands, that would not have been a representation of me, who I am as a person, as a writer, and as a coach. And I want to be very clear here, I was never asked to be outragious. Well, they did want me to wear a costume, but I convinced them otherwise, and the producers agreed with me.

But I do wish I had been given more air time because there is a great story behind that painting. Two stories. So here they are now.

Story 1: From August 2005 to August 2006, I had the most amazing opportunity. I spent a year in Belfast, Northern Ireland volunteering at WAVE Trauma Centre. Due to the expansion of the European Union and the paramilitary ceasefires in Northern Ireland, government funding was being cut to WAVE. They were on the verge of closing within a year or two and their incredible services for survivors of the trauma from the conflict in Northern Ireland, both Catholic and Protestant, would end. We were contacted by a local businessman, John Andrews, and his friends, who wanted to help us fundraise. What started out as a black tie banquet fundraiser, turned into a Gala Ball, Art Exhibit and Art Auction. The art was supplied by members of WAVE, local artists, famous artists like Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. Then patron of WAVE James Nesbitt and his agents became involved. They asked many of their clients to paint a canvas for us to auction. We had canvases from Joan Rivers, Jude Law, and John Hurt, among others, including the one above from Andy Serkis. My part in all of this was to organize the paintings, enter them into the catalogue, basically do a lot of the administrative end of it. I also got to help out at the art auction. But of course I had to have the painting by Andy Serkis. What Lord of the Rings fan wouldn’t? The art auction alone raised more money than any fundraiser had in Northern Ireland. The Gala Ball equalled funds raised. And I am ever so proud to hae been a part of an event that has kept WAVE open. I will never forget my time at WAVE. I loved everyone I worked with and all those who participated in our services. They were absolutely amazing people and they made much more of an impact on my life than I ever could have on theirs. One further note on WAVE before I move on to story 2. One of the groups they work with are the Families of the Disappeared. American media has tended towards the glamourization of the Irish Repoublican Army for their freedom fighting. But visit the website for the Families of the Disappeared. Any group who does this to their own people, never mind what they did to Protestants, are not to be glamourized. And fear not, I am not taking sides here. The Loyalist paramilitaries are just as bad.

Story 2: As I mentioned last week, I refer to my Inner Saboteur as Gollum and this painting has become my representation of my Inner Saboteur being captured and silenced, he has no control over me. If I’d had the rights to it, I would have used this as the cover to my book Silencing Your Inner Saboteur. As a writer, my productivity had increased since I’ve had the painting up and have used it to symbolize the silencing of my inner saboteur. Filming of Four Rooms took place in August 2014. I’ve had the painting down since then, and my productivity has tripled since then. The question is, do I put it back up? I’m planning on hanging it back up this week. It will be an interesting psychological experiment which I may touch on in future workshops.

And now back to a few more thoughts on the show. My producer Jackie was fantastic. She made me feel like a star. She’d hand me water while I waited to go on set and when it was time to film, she’d take it from me. Getting my hair and makeup done was awesome. Reshmi Nair was fantastic. We had a great conversation before I met the buyers, about the painting, and the stories behind it. While the buyers were harsh at first, when I met with them one on one, they were great. We had good conversations, even laughed a little. I knew going in that they were the wrong people to try and sell the painting to, but it was an adventure, a once in a lifetime opportunity that I had to take.

I am so happy I did it. I had a blast. I’m always up for an adventure and this was a great one to have. And now there is another story to add to the painting: As seen on CBC’s Four Rooms!

My National Television Debut

Here in Canada, our National Broadcaster is airing a new show “Four Rooms” based on the UK version. It is kind of like Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank meets Let’s Make a Deal. If you have something unique you would like to sell, there are 4 buyers. First you see one buyer, they make an offer, if you accept, you’re done. If you don’t accept, you can’t go back to that room if that is the highest offer in the day.

I decided to audition this past spring with my painting of Gollum by Andy Serkis.

Gollum by Andy SerkisI

If you’ve read “Silencing Your Inner Saboteur” or taken my workshop of the same name, you’ve heard me speak of this painting as the representation of my Inner Saboteur being captured and silenced.

I know what you’re thinking. If it means so much to me, why would I want to sell it? It wasn’t an easy decision. I’m still technically under a gag order until after the episode airs on Sunday evening, so watch the show Sunday evening at 8 pm Central (If you’re in Canada) or at www.cbc.ca/fourrooms. I’ll post next week about what aired, and the behind the scenes, and my thought process going into it and after.

But I can tell you this: that as a writer, I love adventure and new experiences, and this was an opporutnity I coudn’t pass up.

I’d love to hear your comments on the episode this Sunday. You can leave your comments below, or join me on facebook or twitter at @sherry_peters.