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January 8, 2013
While discussing goals with several writer friends, I found myself becoming depressed. We were analyzing how 2012 had gone. Each person shared their goals for the past year and how they had succeeded or failed.
Until I heard the other reports, I had been happy with most of my year. While I hadn’t yet completed a couple of novels I’d started, I had written a couple of proposals, and one of them got the “nod” from an editor. (Proposals take me a while, with their sample chapters and market plans.) A revision for a book I sold in 2011, which I expected to take about two weeks, took the last three months of 2012 to complete instead.
Check the Numbers
Here’s where the depression part came in. Several friends said something like this: “In 2012 I wrote a six-book series for X Publisher, plus three books in another ongoing series for Publisher Y.”
After hearing that, I didn’t want to share that my completed projects were so meager. And yet, I had put in more writing hours this year than in many years (and I’m not counting the blogging or critique letters for private critiques.) Was I getting slower? Was I burning out? I didn’t feel like it, but I sure wasn’t producing books at the speed these other writers had.
For me—and for many of you—it’s all in the numbers.
Then I remembered something. Several years ago I had what looked like my most productive year. I wrote three books in a series for an educational publisher, then two mysteries for a different educational publisher. A five-book year!
But the whole truth was that the three books were all written in a week and totaled only about 750 words each. The mysteries were early chapter books that were less than 2,000 words each. That’s only about 6,000 words altogether! And it was less than two months’ writing time. Still, I could truthfully say I wrote and sold five books that year.
In 2012, though, I wrote two proposals. One got nixed fairly early, and one got the go-ahead. I’ve been working on that novel, and each revision has changed it substantially. It will still take months to finish it. And the revision I did this fall and just turned in (for the book sold in 2011) grew into a longer book when I added the additional material my editor wanted. (It’s a much better book now.) But the numbers? The “revision” included major changes to the 36,000 words I had written, plus an additional 21,000 words of original material. This 57,000-word revision took me much longer—and was more challenging—than the five books I wrote several years ago.
Am I knocking educational writing or short books? NO! Not in the slightest. The value of the writing is NOT in the length. I’m just suggesting that you ask about the numbers. Before your writer’s ego shrinks any further when someone talks about their multiple book successes, ask them how long the books were. (While there are a few full-time writers who produce long books several times per year, they are few and far between.)
Part of the Writing Life
And if you like to write long books, get used to this. It will happen throughout your career. I generally sell one or two books per year, depending on length. But except for that one year, I don’t write short material other than this blog.
Writers aren’t telling you they wrote and sold six books last year to put you down or make you feel small. They are telling the truth. (It wasn’t until someone commented to me that I must not have seen my family that whole year that I realized the misperception on their part.) But if it makes your writer’s self-esteem take a plunge, ask (nicely) how long the books were. Add up the numbers. (Some middle-grade novels are 50,000 words, but many middle-grade series books are 15,000 words or less.) You may realize that despite appearances, you’ve written much more than that last year. So don’t compare apples and oranges.
Better Yet, Don’t Compare At All
We were each given stories and material to write, either fiction or nonfiction. We each have a unique voice and a unique “take” on the world. No one else can write your stories—or my stories. And if the stories you are given to write are longer or take more thought, your “production” quotas will look lower to others. Find a way to be okay with this, or it will plague you throughout your career.
I hope your 2012 was a successful writing year, but be careful how you measure success.
Just curious: how will you measure success in 2013? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
January 4, 2013
[This article is reprinted by permission. See credits at the end.]
It’s traditional at the beginning of the year to define what you’d like to achieve in the coming twelve months.
That’s a good thing and I highly recommend it. This week I’ll be writing my own annual plan for the coming year.
However, I’d like to point out an area where just about everybody uses fuzzy thinking in their planning.
We don’t control our future entirely.
Some things we can control, of course. But some we just can’t. It’s crucial to know the difference.
If you’re looking for an agent, you have complete control over how many queries you send out. But you can’t force an agent to agree to represent you. All you can do is make yourself an attractive client, send out those pesky queries, and hope that one of the agents sees how brilliant you are.
What we need are two different words, one for goals that we can control, and one for goals that we can’t. As far as I know, we don’t have those words. We could make some up, but I don’t think that’s necessary.
Instead, let’s just define a “Goal” (with a capital letter) to be something we have control over, and let’s define a “Target” to be something we only have partial control over.
- “I will write 10,000 words every week” is a Goal.
- “I will become the best writer in my critique group” is a Target.
- “I will attend one major writing conference this year” is a Goal.
- “I will get two editors at conferences to request manuscripts” is a Target.
- “I will send out 20 queries to agents in March” is a Goal.
- “I will sign with an agent by July” is a Target.
Goals are good. Targets are also good. But they’re not the same thing.
You can make a list of Goals for the year that is 100% achievable. At the end of the year, if you haven’t reached all those Goals, then you have a right to hold yourself accountable.
You can make a list of Targets for the year, but you just can’t assume they’re achievable. It’s OK if they’re a bit of a stretch. It’s OK to aim for a spectacular year and end up with a merely great year. (For some people, the only way to achieve their best is to shoot for the impossible.)
But it’s a mistake to confuse Goals with Targets. That only sets you up for self-flagellation at the end of the year, if you don’t reach all your Targets.
An important point is that Targets usually depend on Goals. So set your Targets first. Then figure out what Goals you must meet in order to make your Targets as likely as possible.
Steps to Make This Work
Let’s see how that works out in practice. Suppose one of your Targets is “I want to sign with a major agent this year.”
If you’re a first-time novelist, then you probably can’t get an agent unless your manuscript is complete and polished. You also can’t get an agent unless you pitch to at least one (and probably several).
So here are five reasonable Goals you can set in support of your Target:
- I will complete my manuscript by the end of March.
- I will hire a professional freelance editor to evaluate my manuscript, with a deadline to get the evaluation back to me by the end of June.
- I will polish my manuscript to the best of my ability by the end of August.
- I will send out a minimum of 10 queries to suitable agents in September.
- I will attend a writing conference in September or October and pitch my work to two suitable agents.
Now if you hit all five of these Goals, there is no guarantee that you’ll sign with an agent. But the odds of signing with an agent are vastly higher if you achieve all five of these Goals than if you achieve none of them.
Targets depend on Goals. But Goals don’t guarantee Targets.
Here is a five-minute exercise that you can do right now to create a reasonable set of Targets and Goals:
What are your Targets for the coming year? A good Target is concrete, objective, and difficult. But it’s not necessarily achievable. There is a part that depends on other people.
For each Target, set one or more Goals that depend on you alone. Goals should be concrete, objective, difficult, and ACHIEVABLE.
Do you have any other Goals for the coming year (besides the ones you need to reach your Targets)?
Write down all your Targets and your Goals and post them above your workspace. Make it clear which Targets depend on which Goals.
Look at your Targets and Goals every day before you start work. If you need to revise your Goals throughout the year, that’s OK. It’s fine to be flexible. If a great opportunity comes up during the year, change your Targets and Goals to include it.
A year from now, review your Goals first and then your Targets:
- Did you hit all of your Goals? If not, then figure out why. You may not have given yourself enough time. Or you may need to improve your work habits. Or it may be that your writing has a lower priority than other things in your life.
- Did you hit any of your Targets? If not, was it because you failed to achieve the required Goals, or was it outside of your control?
Planning your year doesn’t need to be complicated. But it does need to be clear. You control your destiny with your Goals. You don’t completely control it with your Targets.
Knowing that can help you keep your head straight on the long, long road to publication.
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 32,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.
January 1, 2013
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Remember that our “31 Minutes for 31 Days” challenge starts today! Get the new year off to a great start.
You’re well on your way to achieving your major 2013 goals at this point, and you’ve probably begun several new good writing habits to support your future writing career. This is great!
You don’t want to be a quick flash that’s here today and gone tomorrow though. You want the changes to last. You want to continue to grow as a writer and build your career. But…you know yourself. The good writing habits never seem to last.
Change and Maintain
In order to keep going and growing as a writer, you need to do two things:
- Learn to recover from setbacks
- Get mentally tough for the long haul
First let’s talk about setbacks. They come in all shapes and sizes for writers. They can be mechanical (computer gets fried), emotional (a scathing review of your new book), or mental (burn-out from an accident, divorce, or unexpected big expense). Setbacks do just what they sound like: set you back.
However, too often (without a plan), we allow a simple setback to become a permanent writer’s block or stall. Setbacks are simply lapses in our upward spiral, or small break in our new successful routine, a momentary interruption on the way to our writing goal.
Warning: without tools in place to move beyond the setbacks, they can settle in permanently instead. Use setbacks as a signal that you need to get back to basics. Setbacks–or lapses–sometimes occur for no other reason than we’ve dropped our new routines. (We stopped writing before getting online, we stopped taking reward breaks and pushed on to exhaustion, we stopped sending new queries each week…)
Count each day of progress, and don’t be so hard on yourself. I used to make myself “start over” when trying to form a new habit, and it was more discouraging than helpful. For example, if my goal was to journal every morning, I’d count the days. Maybe I managed it five days in a row. Five! I felt successful! But if I missed Day 6 for any reason, I had to start over the next day at Day #1.
Maintaining: A Better Way
I don’t do that anymore. It doesn’t help. Now, if my goal is to develop a new habit, I still keep track, but I keep going after a lapse or setback instead of starting over. So if I were trying to develop a journaling habit, and journaled five days and then missed a day, I would begin again on Day #6.
I would count all successful days in a month, which motivates me to try to reach an even higher total number the next month. This works with words and pages written and other new writing habits you want to start.
In order to recover from setbacks, think ahead. Ask yourself what types of things might cause you to go off course or lapse in your goal efforts. Prepare ways to cope ahead of time and have your plans in place. (Sometimes that’s as simple as always traveling with a “writing bag” of paper, pens, a chapter to work on, a craft book to read, etc. so that you can always work, no matter what the delays.)
Coping plans have this basic structure (according to Neil Fiore’s Awaken Your Strongest Self):
“When __________ [potential distraction] occurs, I will say ______________ [inner dialogue] and I will do _______________ [corrective action].”
When my best friend calls to talk during my writing time, I will say to myself, I’m working and need to call her back at lunch time and I will let the answering machine pick up.
When company comes for a week, I will say to myself, It’s fine for me to take one hour each day to write, and I will close the door to my office (or bedroom) and write before breakfast for one hour.
Retrain Your Brain
Mental toughness–grit to persevere–is the other ingredient you’ll need if you want to maintain the changes you’ve made in your writing habits. Scientific studies have clearly shown that repeated affirmations and mental rehearsals create new neural pathways in the brain making success easier and eventually permanent.
Speaking daily affirmations aloud has been proven to help you “retrain your brain” into healthier lines of thinking. Make the affirmations to deal specifically with your own writing issues. For example:
- I am equal to any writing challenge.
- I love to write, and I never miss a day of writing!
- I get started with ease and keep going smoothly and fluidly.
- I take breaks every 90 minutes or so, using the break to refresh.
- I use visualizations of successful writing times to help build new habits and patterns.
- I love to study and then apply what I learn to developing my writing gift.
- My writing gift is unique and the expression of that gift is unique.
- I don’t need to be like any other writer.
- I never give up on my dreams.
I encourage you to make your own list of positive affirmations pertaining to any area of your life where you’d like to see change. (And yes, I use them myself, broken down into several categories: spiritual life, health, writing, children/grandchildren, and my marriage.) I guess I have a lot of areas where I want to rewire brain patterns!
Use the affirmations to help you make changes–and then cement those changes in place. It’s time we stopped yo-yoing up and down and created stable, permanent writing habits.
December 25, 2012
First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
If you’ve done your homework in Stages 1 and 2, you’re probably more excited about this action phase than you would normally be.
Why? You’re prepared. You’re motivated. You’ve taken obstacles into account already.
You’re primed for success.
As mentioned before, this stage includes several big steps:
- You must decide when, where and how to start.
- You must show up to start despite fears and self-doubts.
- You must focus on each (present) step, rather than focusing on the end (future) goal.
This is the exciting stage because you’re past making excuses and procrastinating and giving in to the fear of change. You’re done rehearsing and experimenting. It’s now time to take action. You take steps on the path that leads to your goal. Note that shift in focus. The daily path is now more important than the end goal. So find ways to make each successful step enjoyable.
Create Action Plans
An action plan is exactly what it sounds like–a written plan to take concrete action steps to perform a behavior that leads to accomplishing your end goal. An action plan involves when you will do something, where you will do it, and how you will do it.
Run this when-where-how scenario through your mind for each step of your action plan. Be detailed. It doesn’t have to take a long time, but this mental rehearsal is immensely helpful. The more detailed the mental rehearsal, the higher the probability that you will actually initiate the behavior.
To help you create action plans, ask yourself these questions:
- When do you want to start working on your goal? (day and time)
- Where will you start? (time and place)
- What specific action step will you take at this time?
- How will you keep this commitment?
Time to Show Up
Fear and self-doubt can raise their ugly heads when you least expect it. Even when you’re primed and eager to start, fear and anxiety can give you pause.
There are many ways to deal with fears and self-doubts. How you choose to deal with them is probably an individual thing. Here are some of the ways we’ve discussed dealing with fears.
I also keep several books on my shelf such Ralph Keyes’ two books on fear (The Courage to Write and The Writer’s Book of Hope) and The Now Habit by Neil Fiore on conquering procrastination.
Focus on the Present Step
Focusing on your end goal as motivation to get started causes two problems. First, the end goal (e.g. finish a novel) can just look overwhelming. You want to quit before you start!
The solution? “Focus on what you can do rather than what is out of your control,” says Neil Fiore of Awaken Your Strongest Self. “Switch from thoughts about the goal, which is in the future and is usually overwhelming, to thoughts about what you can do in the present.”
Second, the reward is so far in the future that we feel tired just thinking about waiting that long. A reward many months in the future isn’t much motivation to stick with the writing today.
One solution is making sure you have rewards lined up for every 15- or 30-minute block of time you work on your goal. Publishing a book a year from now won’t get me writing today, but a reward of watching a favorite movie today if I write ten new pages is much more likely to get my fingers to the keyboard.
Take small steps. Reward yourself (with something healthy) for every step you take in direction of your goal. Be your own cheerleader. Each small step will get you warmed up and moving, then help you build momentum.
NOTE: Don’t stop here. On New Year’s Day we’ll discuss the final stage–learning to recover from setbacks and maintain momentum.
December 18, 2012
Okay, we’re ready for Stage 2: Committing to Change. This is not taking action yet. Instead, this stage involves:
1) Planning the necessary steps
2) Building up your motivation
3) Considering possible distractions and/or discouraging things that might cause a setback
The change you make at this point is to shift from “passively wishing to achieve your goal to actively committing to make it happen.” (Neil Fiore in Awaken Your Strongest Self.) If you did the work in Stage 1 (thinking through the risks and benefits, plus evaluating your personal abilities), you should have fairly realistic expectations of what does–and doesn’t–work for you at your particular stage of life.
Time to Experiment
Before you plan the necessary steps to succeed in making permanent changes as a writer, you’ll want to take time to experiment in small ways. See what you like and don’t like. See what works for you–and what doesn’t.
- Try writing for 15 minutes upon awakening or right after your morning coffee.
- Stay offline until 10:00 a.m. for three days.
- Try writing at the library during two lunch hours this week.
- Read a writing blog before you get on Facebook or Twitter.
Record your thoughts and feelings when you introduce these writing changes. How do you feel? What works and what doesn’t? You can’t fail at this stage. You are only gathering information.
Some of these changes you’ll love and find so easy! Others you won’t find helpful at all. But as you succeed with certain writing changes (writing 15 minutes each evening while supper cooks, reading 5 pages per day of a writing book), your motivation will rise. You’ll feel more like a writer automatically.
During this stage you also need to think through strategies for dealing with obstacles, distractions and setbacks. One of the most effective (and fun!) ways to do this is using what athletes call “mental rehearsals.” They imagine how they’ll handle challenges at each step along the way. [NOTE: This is not just wishful thinking. Current books on brain chemistry show incredible studies and brain x-rays, revealing changes made in the brain after "mental rehearsals."]
Envisioning how you will handle writing distractions (toddlers wanting to be entertained, friends calling to chat, school vacations) and setbacks (an editor rejects your novel after two revisions, computer crashes) helps you build stamina or mental toughness.
Use mental movies to confront each setback or distraction. Instead of your usual reaction (chocolate, TV, surfing the ‘Net), clearly envision yourself sitting tight, working methodically through your writing problem, piling up a stack of new pages, and keeping to your deadline with ease.
Not all interruptions and distractions happen to us. Be aware that you often seek out distractions as well. In order to escape writing blocks or manuscripts that just aren’t working well, we often attempt to escape the anxiety or boredom or agitation by looking for distractions.
Are You Ready?
The final part of Stage 2 is actually committing to the change. Take time to think and journal about the strength of your commitment. If you want to succeed–and make the success permanent–it needs to be more than a wish. It needs to be a strong intention.
So, what do you intend to do? What change(s) in your writing life do you intend to make? Now is the time to commit.
December 11, 2012
(If you haven’t already, read the overview, The Dynamics of Change.)
You want to make changes in your writing life that will last?
Let’s start at the beginning, with Stage 1: Making Up Your Mind. As I said last time, this stage involves several things, including the following:
- feeling the pain that prompts you to change
- evaluating the risks and benefits of the goals you have in mind
- evaluating your current ability
In this stage, you do not make any changes. Not yet. As tempting as it is, do not jump in and “just do it!” Remember how far your willpower has taken you in the past–and wait.
Resist the temptation to cycle through another try–>fail–>try harder–>fail–>discouragement episode. Instead, lay the necessary groundwork to make permanent changes.
The Pain of Not Changing
Wanting to make a change–but never making it–is exhausting. It hangs over our heads, constantly reminding us of some incompleted task. When you really feel the pain of not changing, you’re on your way to making up your mind. (And if you’re willing to live with the pain of not realizing your writing dreams, that’s your choice as well.)
Actively and colorfully imagine staying the same the next five years. Imagine that it’s 2018. You’re still trying to implement the “write daily” habit, you’re still trying to finish that novel, you’re still too afraid to talk to agents or editors at writer’s conferences, and you’re still unpublished. When writers’ block hits–or simply a normal writer’s frustration–you still reach for doughnuts or a cigarette or settle in for an hour of mindless TV.
It’s 2018, and nothing has changed–except you have gained fifteen pounds, you’re still stuck in a day job you hate, your baby is in kindergarten, (and you never did get to work from home), or your military spouse has moved the family again (and you still don’t have a career that can move with you.)
Write out the “future” scenario in vivid color based on nothing changing. A clear image of future pain strengthens our determination to face our current fears about changing.
Risks and Benefits of the Change
Explore (either on your own or with a friend/counselor) the benefits of making the short- and long-term writing changes you are considering. Follow the changes five years into your future and see the benefits of having written steadily for five years, submitting steadily for five years, getting five years’ worth of critiques, etc.
The risks? Most of them have to do with facing your writing fears. For a week (two is better) observe yourself and your thoughts when you sit down to write (or when you avoid it.) You’re not trying to change here–just observe your reactions when trying to write.
Do you feel anxiety? What do you think? (“Who am I kidding? I can’t do this!”) What do you do? (Write half a paragraph, then reach for chocolate?) The risk is being honest with yourself, which is necessary if you’re going to honestly evaluate your current ability…
Current State of Affairs
After spending a couple of weeks observing your writing habits, you may have uncovered a few issues to address (procrastination, feeling isolated, self-doubt, self-sabotage, fears of failure or success, etc.) Maybe you just lack motivation; whatever the issue(s), this is the time to work on them.
How you deal with them (and a combination of solutions usually works best) will vary from writer to writer. Some ways to motivate yourself and work on various writing fears include:
- counseling or career coaching
- reading self-help books for writers like Ralph Keyes’ The Courage to Write
- reading inspiring books for writers like Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul
Remember, all this thinking and journaling and dreaming is still Stage One. You haven’t committed to making any changes yet. You’re still making up your mind. You’re thinking things through thoroughly.
And you’re giving yourself the best possible chance to succeed–permanently.
I’m curious. Do you find this thinking stage comforting? Threatening? Discouraging? Encouraging? Share your thoughts!
December 4, 2012
Are you thinking about your 2013 writing goals yet?
Did you know that 75% of New Year’s Resolutions (or goals) are abandoned by the end of the first week? There’s a reason for that.
I spend much time on the blog encouraging you to make changes and deal with feelings that are holding you back. So I thought it might help as we head into a new year to do a short series on the dynamics of change–or how to make permanent changes.
How do we make changes that stick? How can you be one of those 25% who keeps on keepin’ on and accomplishes his or her writing goals?
Change in Stages
One mistake we make is thinking that change happens as an act of will only. (e.g. “Starting today, I will write from 9 to 10 a.m.”) If our willpower and determination are strong, we’ll write at 9 a.m. today. If it’s very strong, we’ll make it a week. If you are extraordinarily iron-willed, you might make it the necessary 21-30 days proven to make it a habit.
Most writers won’t be able to do it.
Why? Because accomplishing permanent change–the critical step to meeting any of your writing goals–is more than choosing and acting on willpower. If you want to achieve your goals, you need to understand the dynamics of change. You must understand what changes habits–the rules of the game, so to speak.
Making Change Doable
All of the habits we’ve talked about in the past–dividing goals into very small do-able slices, rewarding yourself frequently, etc.–are important. They are tools in the process of change.
However, we need to understand the process of change, the steps every successful person goes through who makes desired changes. (It applies to relationship changes and health changes as well, but we’ll be concentrating on career/writing changes.) Understanding the stages doesn’t make change easy, but “it makes it predictable, understandable, and doable,” says Neil Fiore, Ph.D., author of the The NOW Habit.
Change takes place in four main stages, according to numerous government and university studies. Skipping any of the four stages lowers your odds drastically of making permanent changes that lead to sucessful meeting of goals.
Here are the four stages of change that I will talk about in the following four blog posts. Understanding–and implementing–these consecutive steps is critical for most people’s success in achieving goals and permanent change.
Stages of Change
- Stage 1: Making Up Your Mind (the precommitment stage). This stage will involve feeling the pain that prompts you to want to change, evaluating risks and benefits of the goal you have in mind, and evaluating your current ability.
- Stage 2: Committing to Change. This stage involves planning the necessary steps, building up your motivation, and considering possible distractions and things that might happen to discourage you or cause a setback.
- Stage 3: Taking Action. This stage includes several big steps. You must decide when, where and how to start; you must show up to start despite fears and self-doubts; then you must focus on each step.
- Stage 4: Maintaining Long-Term Success. This is your ultimate aim if you want writing to be a career. It will involve learning to recover from setbacks and getting mentally tough for the long haul.
(For a thorough discussion beyond the blog posts, see Chapters 11-14 of Neil Fiore’s Awaken Your Strongest Self.)
So…that’s the plan for the next few Tuesday blog posts. Do not despair if you’ve struggled with meeting your writing goals in the past. Help–and hope for permanent change–is on the way.
The “Stage 4″ article will be posted on New Year’s Day–just in time for those New Year’s Resolutions!
November 27, 2012
With only a month before the new year, writing goals are on my mind. Yesterday I reviewed my 2012 list of goals to see if I’d accomplished what I set out to do last year.
I’d finished a few projects on my list–like revisions of books sold the year before and some marketing things.
Still…my “first loves”–the three unfinished novels–hadn’t progressed much at all.
What were my downfalls? I could identify two big ones that plagued me probably four days out of five: (1) most days I didn’t do my novel writing first, and (2) I spent way too much time on the Internet.
First, what pre-empted my novel writing? A variety of things: email, blogging, paid critiques, dishes, studying, babysitting sweet grandkids, work-for-hire writing, and exercising.
Second, how did I use up my precious writing time on the Internet? In a variety of ways: junk email, reading newsletters and blogs, checking weather, studying vacation sites in England, reading Facebook posts, checking my bank balances, paying bills, reading too many horror stories on CNN, and tweaking my website.
Every one of those things was a not-very-cleverly-disguised way of not working on my novels.
Different Writing Goals in 2013
So…I’m thinking seriously of trying something new for my 2013 goal setting. I will make a short list of fiction book projects I want to finish. And then I will give myself only two “must do” things for each day in 2013: (1) work on my current novel first, and (2) stay off the Internet till noon.
If I can do these two things consistently, I suspect it will make a huge impact on accomplishing next year’s writing goals.
I think I will start NOW and do it for the remainder of 2012 and see how it impacts
- my writing output
- my enjoyment of writing
- and my overall emotional satisfaction with life.
I’m guessing that the impact will be huge.
How about you? What do you see as your biggest stumbling blocks to actually getting the writing done?
November 13, 2012
First, take an honest look at what you’ve accomplished in 2012, both in your writing skills and your writing business (marketing).
With that answer in front of you (in writing), answer this: how will you get from where you are to where you want to be?
Get It In Writing
In “writing life” workshops, I’ve used an exercise to help you get to where you want to be. I recommend buying a spiral notebook for these exercises. You want a place to keep your notes and ideas about your goals.
Allow yourself two or three hours to work on these three exercises. Do them alone, or with your writing group. I work on something similar every December as I think ahead to the coming year.
1) Honestly assess where you are in your writing and illustrating career. Consider and answer these questions in writing.
- How many hours per week do you actually practice your craft? (Use a timer.)
- How many books/stories/articles do you read in an average month (of the type you want to write)?
- How many queries per month do you send out, if you’re a nonfiction writer?
- Do you have a daily writing practice of some kind, such as journaling or writing exercises from a list of prompts?
2) Visualize (and write down in great detail) your ideal writing life. Describe a perfect writing routine, the physical writing environment of your dreams, your image of wonderful family support, etc. We all have an ideal image in our minds of the perfect writing life. Write it down. (Mine involves such things as porch swings, hot chocolate, journaling, and reading Jane Austen on breaks.)
3) List three things you would attempt to write if you knew you could not fail. Image yourself in your ideal writing life. There are no risks here, no rejections, no bad reviews or bad writing days. If you knew everything you’d write would sell, what kind of writing would bring you satisfaction and fulfillment? Dream bigger than you’ve ever allowed yourself to dream before.
An old adage says “plan your work, and work your plan.” That’s especially appropriate for goal-setting. Don’t wait until New Year’s Day to get goals. Plan for success in 2013 NOW.
[P.S. If this post sounded familiar, it is. I've got some kind of bug, so this is a repeat from two years ago. It's still good advice for this time of year! I follow this plan yearly, and each year my writing life is getting closer to my dream described in Step 2. It works!]
July 10, 2012
“Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
I’ve been re-reading James Scott Bell’s excellent book The Art of War for Writers, and he says that “the biggest mental obstacle–in writing, in war, in life itself–is fear.”
I would agree 100%.
How do we fear writing?
Let me count the ways… Bell mentions several kinds of fear that plague writers. Do you find yourself in this list? Do you have additional fears?
- not being good enough
- not getting published
- getting published but not selling
- getting published once but never again
- getting stomped by critics
- getting stomped by family members
- wasting your time
The Quality of Fearlessness
Bell wrote about the young Teddy Roosevelt who was a sick, frail, fearful child–and what changed him into the fearless leader of history. Basically, he learned the old adage of “fake it till you make it” or “act as if.” Bell says that fearful writers become fearless writers in the same way.
Sure, you will set goals and get prepared. And (if you’re like me) you’ll pray for help. But in the end you will need to act as if you’re a successful, fearless writer until (over time) your feelings catch up with your behavior and you actually become one.
When fear in some form hits you today, what immediate action step could you take in the face of that fear? How would a professional, successful writer deal with that fear?
What is one way you can channel that fear into energy for your writing?
Be fearless today and, as battle buddies, share one tip you’ve used successfully to win the war on the many fears of writing.Newer Posts »