Tag Archives: goals

Marathon Day of Edits…

12 Jan

…coming up right after I finish this blog post.

As you may or may not remember, I made an ambitious deadline for finishing this draft of my novel.  Well…the problem with ambitious deadlines is that they are, by nature, ambitious.

Translation: ohmygoodnessihaveSOmuchworktodo.

I’m determined to leave my deadline firmly where I carved it into stone set it.

Therefore: today. Lots of peppermint tea. Focus turned all the way up to eleven. Twitter on in the background—for sanity breaks, of course, so I don’t go crazy.  And, of course, my cat.  Most importantly: perseverance.

So.  Here I go.

*Deep breath.*

UPDATE! Thank you all—SO MUCH!—for encouraging me today, both here in the comments and on Twitter!  It helped a lot, and brightened my (very analytical, very focused) day.  In case you’re wondering about my progress, it was pretty fantastic!  I didn’t get through everything I’d hoped to, but that’s okay.  I got through most of it, then decided a) it would be good to move around, so I took a walk, and b) I can get back to work tomorrow with fresh eyes!  Again, thank you all for being awesome.  🙂

New Year, New Goals…

3 Jan

2011 has only just started, but I can feel it: it’s going to be a big year.

A lot happened in 2010.  I made major progress on my novel, started a second novel, participated in Merrilee’s Creativity Workshop over the summer, joined Twitter, made new friendships and deepened others, and blogged more regularly (until, um, the move to Austin).

2010 was the year I really settled into a disciplined groove with writing, the year I learned how to cultivate new ideas (and therefore, the year I learned how to choose which new ideas to focus on as they came flooding in), the year I grew a spine and shared my novel with beta readers for the first time.

All that to say, I think 2011 will be just as amazing—maybe even more amazing.

The week before Christmas, I made a huge list of goals.  I’m talking HUGE.  (This is because I make extremely specific—and therefore, extremely measurable—goals.)

Perhaps the biggest, most exciting, goal is this:

This year, I will finish this novel to the point where I am satisfied enough with it to begin querying agents.

I’ve set myself a pretty ambitious, specific schedule (because, yes! I did set a goal date…and it’s soon…).  The novel’s close to being ready, but it’s not there yet.  Still: YAY.  This is the first year where “finish my WIP,” “send query letters to agents,” and “finish first draft of Shiny New Novel” have been actual, possible, achievable goals.

AND I’M SO EXCITED.

The other goal I’ll share with you guys is this: I plan a return to more regular blogging, and plan to write on a MWF schedule (plus any and all other random spurts of blogginess that just beg to be written!) from now on.¹

Happy 2011 to everyone!  I wish you all motivation, inspiration, and dedication in abundance!

xoxo ❤

 

¹On that note, if you happen to have any requests or suggestions for things you’d like to read about, let me know in the comments!

Oktoberzest, Revisited.

1 Oct

So, uh, wow.

I have it on good authority that October has arrived.  How is this possible?  This year has flown by.  FLOWN, I tell you.

Last year at this time, I was in the early phases of rewriting my first draft.  Now, I’m about to start actively crafting a fourth draft.  (As opposed to the past few weeks, where I’ve taken no concrete action on it, but have been mulling over crits received and changes to be made.)

  • Somewhere along the way, I developed two systems that worked well for my writing habits.  One was for adding meat to a WIP and re-writing it from a blank page, the other was for tightening a WIP based on the basic structure already in place.  (Here and here.  Both links are for the tightening phase, not the total re-write.)
  • I entered the beta-reading world, both as reader and as writer.
  • Over the summer, I participated in Merrilee Faber’s creativity workshop, which sharpened my coming-up-with-ideas skills, produced several ideas for new novels, and even resulted in two YouTube videos where I covered songs by Patty Griffin and Lennon/McCartney.  (Here and here.)
  • I read a tall stack of novels.
  • I figured out how to use Twitter to my advantage (as opposed to letting it rule my day and destroy my writing time).
  • At the end of the summer, I finished the third draft.
  • In the interim between finishing and starting the fourth draft, I started writing a pressure-free first draft for a totally different novel.

So.

That brings us to now.  Sorry to get all I did this, I did that on you.  It can be easy to forget just how far we’ve come, especially when we’re focused on how far we still have to go.

Where have you been, and where are you going? Specifically, where are you going this October?

Personally, I’m headed into somewhat uncharted territory: the wow-my-betas-have-given-me-some-awesome-feedback-now-how-on-earth-do-I-deal-with-it? territory.  This territory, I hear, is sharpening.  And by sharpening, I’m thinking it’s like an arrow: you have to whittle away at it so it has a sharp point, and will therefore pierce the target with precision.  Unfortunately, the whittling may be painful. That said, precision seems to be worth a bit of temporary pain.

On Being Productive…and Those Days Where You Really Aren’t.

27 Sep

Inspired by the last week of my life¹, here are two lists: How to Ensure You Will Get Nothing Done and How to Get EVERYTHING Done.

Here goes.

How To Ensure You Will Get Nothing Done

  1. Sleep a LOT. Fall asleep on the couch, don’t set your alarm, and proceed to snuggle your pillow until your cat bites you into consciousness.
  2. Click EVERY link that looks interesting on Twitter. Don’t hold back.  Read everything immediately, leave novel-length comments, and generally peruse the internet at the speed of a poet in a field of dandelions.
  3. Once you’ve finished reading all those interesting posts, check Twitter again. Proceed to click every new link that looks interesting.  Rinse and repeat ad infinitum/ad nauseum.
  4. Say yes to everyone. When people ask you to do things, just say yes!  You have to eat lunch/have coffee/relax sometime, right?  Why not do it with someone else and double (maybe even TRIPLE!!) the time you would have spent doing those things alone??!
  5. Watch as much TV as possible. I’m talking Lone Star, Glee, The Biggest Loser, Survivor, America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, and The Amazing Race. Side note: I did NOT watch all of these shows this week.  But, I like them all, so I was tempted.  Of those that I did watch, this clip from The Amazing Race is SO HILARIOUS and worth sharing.  Painful, painful, painful—but hilarious.

How To Get EVERYTHING Done

  1. Don’t deny yourself: just be wise. It kind of hurt me to write the above list because it’s so extreme.  None of those things are bad, in and of themselves.  It’s GOOD to get a healthy amount of sleep, to read links on Twitter and make new friends, to spend quality time with people, to watch some TV at the end of the day.  Denying yourself things you enjoy won’t make you more productive—you’ll probably just end up procrastinating with things you enjoy less.  Do things you enjoy, just try not to let them eat your day.  How?
  2. Have a clear idea about WHAT you need/want to accomplish. When you’re not sure where to begin, it’s easy to waste your own time.  Figure out what, specifically, you need to do.  A list of specific goals is a concrete thing to wrap your mind around and is essential toward making progress of any kind.  In my experience, it’s much easier to pull my head out of the clouds and get to work if I know where to begin.
  3. Have a clear idea WHY you need/want to do whatever it is you’re doing. Worthwhile goals usually take time and discipline to accomplish.  They are not always fun.  They are not always easy.  The WHY is your light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s also the steam for your little engine.  It’s the truth you come back to when things get hard and you forget why you started a project in the first place.  Know why you get up before the crack of dawn to write, why you allow yourself two TV shows per week instead of every show on the air, why you sacrifice like you do for your goal—you can come back to the why when things get hard.  When things get hard, it’s too easy to give in to what’s merely fun, while putting off the thing that’s a little more difficult, but worthwhile.  The WHY is essential.  Know yours.
  4. Pay attention to the clock. Not obsessively—just be aware of it.  You’re human: you have numerous passions and priorities, and like all other humans, a scant 24 hours/day to nurture them.  Know your priorities, know yourself, and get a feel for how long it takes you to do things.  Work hard, rest hard.
  5. Then (and this is the thing that seems easy, but isn’t always) DO. I realize this is a revolutionary concept and all—to be productive, you have to do stuff.  Stuff that helps your goal(s) move along, I should clarify.  It really is that simple, and it really is that difficult.  Silly brains, always convincing us we need to do the exact opposite of what’s on our agenda.  Go back to the WHATs and WHYs if when you feel stuck.
  6. Don’t beat yourself up. This is pretty much imperative in being productive.  Some days your focus will just be ornery.  You’ll have things on your heart and mind, or you’ll just be exhausted.  You try and try, but still—nothing.  Or, maybe you don’t try, and you ride the procrastination wave until it dumps you in the sand.  Some days will just be this way, and that’s okay.  The quickest way to have a more productive tomorrow is to just move on and try again, sans self-inflicted guilt trip.

Okay, I think that’s it.  I now raise my coffee mug in a toast to making the most of your time, whether we’re talking ten minutes or ten hours.  Happy productivity, y’all!

¹Which, if you’re new around here, has been completely out of the ordinary for me.  I’m taking a brief break before starting the fourth draft of my WIP, and my usual routine is all messed up.  I pretty much thrive on productivity, so being out of my routine feels very strange.

FINISHED.

3 Sep

YAY. Draft three = FINISHED.

Well, relatively.

Who knows how finished finished actually is, you know?  But I do know one thing: the third draft is done.  Finally.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

(Ahem.)

It was a major stretch to try to finish this week, and I am feeling it, physically.  My neck is tight.  My head aches.  Since I’m sore from so many hours of staring at my laptop this past week¹, I’m postponing the rest of my Comparison Series until I get back from vacation.  I hate to do that, because I am kind of huge on sticking to my word.  It’s for everyone’s own good, though.  You know you’d rather have a quality post than one that reads:

Blurgh.

Right?  Because that’s about all I have in me at the moment.  And writing the last two posts of the series will be the perfect way to transition back from vacation.

The vacation which, at the moment, I feel is completely deserved.  Sigh. (No, really.  I actually did just sigh.)

See you guys in a week, or a little more.  Maybe before, if the ocean happens to conjure up an internet connection.

Until then: peace, sunshine, cool breezes, and happy writing.

¹And possibly because I have mountains of dishes and laundry to finish before tomorrow.  Side note: I stared at the mess last night.  It was, quite possibly, the only time I will EVER look at such a disaster and think, Wow. This tornado zone is not due to laziness but, rather, is a direct result of super-awesome diligent productivity!!!  I should totally take a picture!

Lemons and Things

25 Jun

So, uh, hey.

This is the part where I awkwardly tell you about my inadvertent, week-long blogging absence.  That’s what I get for breaking up my every-other-day-or-so routine last week.

Note to self: oops.

Rather than spelling out things you already know¹, I’ll just skip to the juicy parts.  Let’s pretend my life is a lemon (a before-I-made-lemonade-from-it version of lemon).

The juicy part?  My absence was inadvertent² for a reason: June has been more productive, in terms of novel revision, than both April and May combined.  This is rewarding and awesome (not to mention difficult and tiring).  I crawl into my cave³ and re-emerge hours later, only to realize time has, indeed, continued to pass.  And not at a snail’s pace, either.  Unless said snail is propelled with rocket-boosters.

The sugar in the lemonade, while not technically part of the lemon itself, would be the oh-so-fun distractions I’ve had in the past week!  Namely, I got to play the guitar and sing at church for all three services on Sunday.  This involved, like, an all-day commitment, plus a rehearsal.  It was a lot of fun, and it went well, but my poor hands are not used to that much guitar-playing.  I ended up with fingers full of blazing sore calluses-in-the-making.  (Needless to say, typing was a blast for the next few days.)

And now, for the seeds.

Obviously, the seeds represent the more annoying part of the week.  I’ll lump the pith in there, too, since bitter white nastiness isn’t anyone’s idea of tasty.  Right?  (I hope no one thinks pith and seeds are the epitome of yum.  That would just be sad.  And confusing.)

Moving on.  So, my week had its share of seeds and pith.  Like seeds in a lemon-raspberry tart which, otherwise, is the picture of perfection, some emotionally draining stuff keeps popping up where it’s least expected.  Responsibilities and commitments to think through, advice and support to give, random frustrations to deal with.  Nothing terribly terrible on its own, just a lot of it all at once.  Plus, I’m getting a cold.  In June.  Weird.

Rather than carry this lemony analogy full-circle (“My attitude has been…so…ZESTY!”) — mainly because I now have a wicked craving for lemon-raspberry tart — I’ll end it there.

In case you’re wondering where my Creativity Workshop end-o’-the-week-assessment is, it was eaten by snails.  Don’t worry, though, you didn’t miss much.  I took an inadvertent break from that, too, so there wasn’t much to report.

Also, in case you’re wondering why I didn’t post a new music video this week, in the tradition of the last two weeks (see here and here) — see my aforementioned blazing fingertips.  I may have also had some bad hair days in there, and did not want to frighten anyone.  (Give me some blue dye, I become Thing One and Thing Two.)  I’ll do a new video next week, provided my fingertips and hair do not go on strike.

Aaaaand, last but not least?  I get to hang out with THE Melissa Williams again tomorrow.  Hello H-Town, hello humidity.

Hello, awesome weekend.

Hope things are going as well as a seedless lemon-raspberry tart for all of you!

PS: Here’s the recipe for the lemon-raspberry tart — just in case you’re now craving it as much as I am!

¹Things like: time, these days, has a way of making a girl feel like she’s been sucked into a time warp and spit out six months in the future.  Or the past.  Or somewhere else entirely.

²It would appear that the opposite of inadvertent is not the word advertent.  This is inconvenient and somewhat illogical.  Just a thought.

³Also known as my living room, with no lights on.  Or, my favorite Starbucks.  Or, my new favorite library.  Who knew writing caves came complete with lattes and strange patrons?

Commitment v. Desire

18 Jun

COMMITMENT

[responsibility, obligation, duty, liability, task]

DESIRE

[wish, want, aspiration, fancy, inclination, impulse, yearning, longing, craving, eagerness, enthusiasm]

I don’t know about you, but to me?  One of these sounds way more appealing.  In an ideal world, the things you desire and the things to which you’re committed would be the same things.  Too bad the world isn’t always an ideal place.

There are tons of directions I could take this topic — relationships, work v. rest, budgets of all sorts, social responsibilities.  For now, because it’s a recurring theme I’ve seen at least three times this week, I’m pointing it in the direction of writer-sees-sparkly-new-project-and-wants-to-drop-everything-in-pursuit-of-said-sparkly-new-project.

As writers, we have more freedom than most to commit to the things we desire — if you’re writing a novel, a short story, even a blog post, it’s probably about a subject that appeals to you.  Right?  I hope so.

The hard part happens when new becomes old, dull replaces sheen, and our eye lands on a new desire.  There’s temptation to drop the current commitment and follow the sparkly thing, the pretty thing, the oh-this-would-be-SO-fun-RIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE! thing.

Usually, that temptation arises when the current commitment becomes difficult.

So, what are you to do?  Stick with the commitment, or follow the new desire?  Or, find a way to stick with the commitment and follow the new desire?  Well, I hate to disappoint you if you were looking for a hard and fast answer, but a) I don’t have one, and b) I don’t know if anyone does.  I have been thinking about this, though, so I’ll give you my thoughts.  Then, you should give me yours.

The way things are today, it’s become normal to do what we want, whenever we want to do it.  It feels unnatural to spend valuable time on a project we don’t always feel is valuable.  There’s the problem.  Feelings aren’t always reliable.  You have to go on truth, too.

Truth #1: Shiny new things will, inevitably, get dull and old.  Truth #2: Most worthwhile things take work.  Truth #3: Work is often hard.  Truth #4: If you’ve committed to it, you committed for a reason.  Truth #5: Nothing will ever get completed if you stop working on it when it gets hard.

However.

Misery isn’t exactly the goal, either.  I don’t think it’s wrong to want to enjoy life, or to want to enjoy the work you do.  So, when is it okay to drop a project in favor of a new one?  Here’s what I’m thinking.

[Click over to the actual post if you’re on the main page & the bullet list is scrunched/impossible to decipher.]

It’s not okay to sacrifice Dull and pursue Sparkly when:

  • Someone else is counting on you.
  • You are legally obligated to follow through.
  • Your financial health depends on you upholding the commitment.
  • Your reputation or your integrity would be tainted because of it.
  • You’re acting purely on emotion, rather than truth + emotion.

It’s reasonable to ditch Dull and pursue Sparkly when:

  • No one else suffers negative repercussions from it.
  • The reason your current commitment is hard is because the idea is lame, will never work, and you’ve spent way too much time already trying to force it into something it’s not.  You had high hopes for it, and it is still hard to let go.
  • You are overcommitted, others end up having to pull your weight, and you are hurting more than you are helping.
  • You genuinely believe, after much thought, that the new project is a more valuable use of your time.
  • It’s a commitment for an undefined length of time, one which will never end unless you end it.
  • You don’t have a jumping-from-project-to-project-and-never-finishing-anything track record.

These lists are, most likely, not exhaustive.  Also, there are probably circumstances where exceptions happen.  And, like I said before, I don’t have answers — these are just thoughts, opinions based on (a slew of sometimes painful) experience.

To sum up: commitment is good, difficulty is not bad, misery is not preferable.  Emotions can blind, and are not reliable if unmixed with truth.  Overcommitment is a draining cancer.  Doing things you know are healthy — even if they’re not particularly enjoyable — can lead to wonderful, surprising results.  And, there are times when dropping commitments can be the best decision.  (Not a lot of times, but they do exist.)  Other times, you can keep current commitments, but still try to get a marginal amount of work done on the sparkly project in time not already devoted to anything.

Okay.  Enough of me.  What do you guys think?  How do you decide what to work on, when to work on it, and when to move on?

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