How to Revitalize Your New Year’s Resolution

2016-01-27 roads, mountains, journeyThe first week of January saw a flurry of blog posts all across the Internet on the same topic: New Year’s Resolutions. Lots of people are thinking about what they want out of the year to come. For us authors, we’re thinking about how many books we want to finish – and how many we want to sell. Maybe some of us have even turned out an official Production Schedule to keep on track.

Me? I have many personal and business-related bad habits I want – NEED – to kick. Those of you following the blog know I suck at time management! I fail at this over and over again, too.

When we miss our goals, it’s easy to get discouraged and conclude that we don’t have it in us after all to do the things we want to do. But is that true?

2016-01-27 How to Revitalize Your New Years Resolution

New Day’s Resolutions

2016-01-27 sunrise, sunset, mountain, day, light, hopeI don’t actually believe in New Year’s Resolutions. We start with awesome intentions on January 1st, but before long, we’ve either forgotten or become discouraged.

That’s why I believe in New Day’s Resolutions. Same thing exactly – but on a daily schedule.

I recently watched a documentary about a group of adventurers skiing to the North Pole. (Apparently, casually skiing to the top of the world is kind of a thing – The Last Degree Challenge. Must try it!) A member of their team had done it many times before. On his first expedition, he and his companions self-evaluated every 12 hours, asking themselves how they could better optimize their efforts. During one of these evaluations, they decided to reduce the last bit of excess weight they carried by taking the plastic sleeves off the ends of their shoe laces.

I was humored because I do the exact same thing – only without the sub-zero temperatures. At least once every 24 hours (often before bed), I reflect on the previous day and ask myself two questions:

  1. What did I do well?
  2. What did I do badly?

All I have to do then is adjust my course the next day.

Avoiding the Guilt Trap

2015-08-05 girl in sunshineEvaluating myself every day could get really depressing – because if there’s one thing I do faithfully, it’s miss goals. I could wind up constantly beating myself over the head because of stuff I didn’t get done and stuff I did wrong.

That’s why I’ve learned the fine art of goal forgiveness. When I miss a goal, I simply don’t dwell on it. I re-shuffle my schedule and try again, as if nothing happened. After all, beating yourself up over failure is a pure waste of time. Nothing is gained until you do something about it.

Write a month’s worth of blog posts in one week? Yep. Didn’t happen. I reshuffle and try again.

Contact five bloggers every day about reviewing my book? Also didn’t happen. I reshuffle and try again.

Spend half my day every day adding words to my WIP? … Actually, I’ve been getting pretty good at that goal! You’ll never guess. I reshuffled my schedule and tried again. Success!

The All Important “Why?”

2016-01-27 roads, mountains, journey, twisting, confusedIt’s one thing to look back over your day and say, “Yep. That went wrong.” It’s another thing to keep it from happening again. Just how do you do that, anyway?

By asking yourself, “Why?”

Why didn’t I work on my WIP today?

In my case, one major reason why I was failing at this over and over was because I was putting other tasks on the roster first – ahead of writing. Social media, email, blogging, and admin were all scheduled to happen before writing. And guess what? Work has a way of generating more work.

“Oh, I can fix that bug in five minutes.”

Yeah. Two hours later …

As soon as I put writing first, I was finally able to hit that goal of writing every day. All because I’d stopped and asked myself why  my goal wasn’t happening.

Keeping Your Chin Up

2016-01-13 joy, happy, smile, smiling, runningAnything you try in life is going to come with a fair share of backsliding. How do I manage to keep my stick-to-it-iveness despite failing so often?

  1. I focus on my successes instead of my failures. So I didn’t prep fifteen blog posts and two newsletters in a week? Hey, but I did ten!
  2. I leverage my failures. By asking “Why?” I find the key to success next time.
  3. I remember my favorite quote from Anne of Green Gables: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

So what if I failed yesterday? Why does that have any bearing whatsoever on tomorrow? I can be a brand new person tomorrow, if I feel like it. And I do.

So I will.

Keep your eye on the big picture. My goal isn’t really to write fifteen blog posts in one week this week, but to build up my writing endurance and my writing habit until I can successfully churn out fifteen blog posts in one week. Of course I won’t succeed the very first time I try – or the very first several times I try. But if I keep  trying, eventually I will get there!

When you fail, brush it off. It’s not a reflection of your abilities in general – just your abilities at this moment. You will do better tomorrow.

How do YOU keep motivated, despite setbacks? Tell us in the comments!

Writing Goals – Confining or Liberating?

Writing Goals Confining or LiberatingGoals are one of the most important tools in the writer’s arsenal. Can goals also become the writer’s biggest hindrance?

One of my year end activities is assessing the goals for the past year and setting new goals for the next year. Annual goals lead quite naturally to monthly and even weekly goals. For the last two or three years, I’ve also set a writing goal of at least 2,000 words a day at least five days a week.

Recently, however, with fiction in a bit of a quiet season, I’ve struggled to find the words. For most of this year, in fact, every day has been marked with a big, fat goose egg in the fiction writing category.

But the experience has led to a rather surprising realization; a realization that led to a seemingly impulsive decision and startling results.

Surprising Realization
It may come as no surprise to some of you, but writing doesn’t have to be about fiction. Even for a novelist, there are other ways to engage in the act of writing.

Articles, for example. Freelance writing is just as much writing as writing the next chapter in the Great American Novel.

Or blog posts. Articles and blog posts need to be written.

I maintain two blogs. This one and a teaching blog for colored pencil and oil painting. I also happen to write a regular column for the online art magazine, EmptyEasels.com.

Personal News Flash: When I do writing for any of those three things, I am writing.

Impulsive Decision
Yearly, monthly, and daily goals used to reflect my attitude that fiction writing comes first. I should never, never, NEVER take time away from fiction writing to write a blog post (even for my own blogs) or an article for someone else. Those things are important, but not as important as the fiction.

Sounds noble, but it’s not.

Remember those days I mentioned earlier? The ones with the goose eggs?

On some of those days, I “sneaked away” to write blog posts or art articles without working on fiction first because I didn’t have fiction to write. I felt guilty. Lazy. Unfocused. Dissatisfied. Did I mention guilty?

I wrote blog posts and worked on articles, but a nagging little voice in the back of my mind taunted me all the while. The net result was no fiction writing and non-fiction writing suffered as well because I wasn’t properly focused.

The surprising realization that blog post writing and article writing is writing prompted my impulsive decision to focus on non-fiction until something comes up in the fiction department. If writing is writing (and I’d already realized it was) why not give the time to non-fiction and see what happens?

Startling Results
I made my decision early this year.

I started with the idea that I would be writing articles, not fiction. I’d start at the regular time in the morning and do as much as I could by the end of the day every day until the fiction well began flowing again.

The results?

  • Nearly 40 articles for EmptyEasel (that’s almost one a week)
  • A handful of other freelance articles for various publications, on- and off-line.
  • 52 blog posts for the art blog
  • Nearly 60 blog posts for Indie Plot Twist
  • Nearly 50 blog poss for the author blog
  • A handful of journals, some of them lengthy, as I processed various events through the year, including the length, depth, and breadth of creative stillness.
  • August, September, and October averaged over 90,000 words per month.
  • Over one million words so far this year

The Moral of the Story
Goals are good. Most of us wouldn’t accomplish much without goals to aim at.

But be flexible enough in setting and keeping goals to know when a course correction might be in order and how best to make a course correction. You won’t be sorry.

Do you set writing goals? Have you ever found your writing goals too confining? If you did, how did you break out of confinement?

Embrace the Muck that Is First Draft

2015-07-13 Handwriting2Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines! When this post goes live, we will be four days deep into NaNoWriMo – a.k.a., National Novel Writing Month. I thought this would be an appropriate time to talk about embracing the muck that is first draft.

How the heck are you supposed to write an entire novel in just 30 days, anyway? It’s so easy to obsess over every little detail while writing first draft – particularly if this is your first book.

Maybe it takes you two hours to fill out one page because you keep going back to research something or edit the preceding paragraph. Or maybe you get in the zone and dash out 20 pages in one sitting – only to re-read it the next day and conclude that your masterpiece doesn’t deserve to live under a rock in the desert.

Either one of these problems can really put a wet blanket on your momentum, grinding your NaNoWriMo challenge to a halt. How do you overcome?

2015-11-04 Embracing the Muck That Is First Draft

Flawed Is Beautiful

Keep in mind – first draft is not about perfect. It’s about getting the story out of your head. Subsequent drafts are about making it perfect.

I vividly recall the light-bulb moment one of my college classmates had in English composition – when he realized he didn’t have to write everything perfectly the first time; that writing could be broken down into pre-planning, a wretched first draft, not-so-horrible subsequent drafts, and the beautiful final draft – and that he wasn’t such a bad writer as he thought!

If first draft is good for one thing, it’s for being as intensely imaginative as you can possibly be. So what if you flung your hero’s car off a cliff in one scene and have it up and running again in the next? Be a child again. Anything is possible. Just keep writing. First draft is for you, final draft is for your readers.

But how do you turn off the inner critic and get that challenging first draft out?

Sign Up for NaNoWriMo

2015-11-04 NaNoWriMo Logo ShieldYou’ve already accomplished the first step! By challenging yourself to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you have no choice but to tie up your inner editor and get the book written.

Keep the Pen Moving

Photo of pen and journalOr pencil. Or cursor. Set a timer, start writing, and don’t quit or go back until the timer rings. You can also use a page goal – don’t stop until you’ve filled one page. Or two or three – whatever you set as your goal. Or you can use a book-oriented goal. Don’t stop until you’ve finished one scene. Or one chapter.

I find this exercise works great for me – particularly since I’m also guilty of a wandering mind! I write by hand, and instead of concentrating on the actual words I’m writing, I strictly focus on whether or not words are flowing out of my pencil. If I notice that words are no longer “magically” appearing on my page, I just get that pencil moving again with whatever is next word in my head. I let my subconscious handle the rest – and when I look at it again later, it usually isn’t half so bad as I feared!

Love the Ugly Ducklings

2015-06-08 EditSometimes, when you’re having a really bad day and can’t find the zone and every word you write is truly a piece of trash, you have to simply love your ugly ducklings, in all their horrific gangliness.

Again, instead of making it your goal to write something good, make your goal so many words, so many pages, so much time, or so many scenes. It doesn’t matter one bit of nasty gray down if those words are disgusting.

They exist, therefore they are beautiful. Embrace them because they are written, make a note of how you plan to make them much better in second draft, and move on.

Those are my top three tips for embracing the horror that is first draft, whether you’re in the middle of NaNoWriMo, or just chipping away at your WIP. What are yours?

Book Review: Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day

write-a-novel-in-10-minutes-a-dayWant to learn how to write your first novel – but crunched for time? You should pick up a copy of Write a Novel in Ten Minutes a Day  by Katharine Grubb.

Grubb walks you through the entire process, from arranging your life to fit your writing, to the nuts and bolts of good story telling, all the way to polishing and publishing your new book.

A home-schooling mother of five, Grubb writes from personal experience. She got her first novel written and published by putting her computer in her kitchen, setting timers, and fitting as many ten-minute getaways into her day as possible. Her goal was not to get it done fast (it took five years to write that first novel), but to get it done.

Being the famously bad time manager that I am, I was of course primarily interested in her techniques for getting the writing done despite life. She had some excellent pointers on assessing your life and looking for ways to streamline – such as eliminating or delegating tasks you don’t really need to do.

The primary feature of the book is a series of writing exercises in every chapter, each of which can be done in just 10 minutes. By the time you’ve timered your way to the end of the book, you should have written your first novel in just 10 minute increments!

Two more points I loved were her advice to read non-Western writers as a way to develop your writing voice, and a great questionnaire you can send to your beta readers along with your manuscript to help them read your book critically.

If you’re just getting started as a writer, and don’t have a lot of time to do it in, Write a Novel in Ten Minutes a Day  will take you where you want to go. I also highly recommend the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group, and the weekly #10MinNovelists Twitter chat on Thursdays at 7:00 Eastern.

Buy Her Book on Amazon

About the Author

Katharine GrubbKatharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward, PTSD survivor, and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. She lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her new novel, Soulless Creatures, which is about two 18 year old boys, not vampires, will be released August 2015.

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