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Posts tagged with: goals

Finding the Aha Moments

Last week, for about the twelfth time, I found myself befuddled up to my eyeballs over a romantic suspense work in progress. Whether you’re a panster, like myself, or a plotter, at some point you could find fresh ideas hiding in the deepest, darkness recesses of your mind amongst a pile of crappy overused ideas. When this happened to me in the past, I’d walked around for days mulling over my problem, my plot’s direction, which is perfectly fine, if you don’t have a deadline and or have time to waste. This time I purchased a few books (Snap: Seizing Your AHA Moments by Katherine Ramsland and Your Creative Brain by Shelly Carson, PHD) and learned for one that mulling is an acceptable process to release your muse. What I also learned, so far, that the more tricks you use to open the gates the faster that will happen.

We’re like the grains of sand on a pearly white beach. Besides having the potential to be stuck in places we really don’t want to go, we’re totally awesome and unique and we all learn in different ways. And in combination of ways.

It’s alleged that we have seven mind-sets (seven ways of learning and using our minds): Absorb Brainset, Envision Brainset, Connect Brainset, Reason Brainset, Evaluate Brainset, Transform Brainset, and Stream Brainset. I’m not going to divulge every detail I’ve learned from these books so far. I suggest you check them out for yourself.  However, I will share a concise description of each mindset and an exercise you can use that key to unlock your mind’s muse.

Absorb Mindset: Ability to absorb new information in a non-judgmental way to be stored for use later when you can use say information to see associations between objects and to remain open to your subconscious.  

Exercise: Pick a space, indoor or outside. For five minutes, really absorb your surroundings. Notice the colors, textures, lines and shadows.  Then touch, listen, smell and taste. Next pick an object and think of a new way use for it. We’ve all seen the Knorr Side Dish commercial where a cork screw is used as a coat nail and a fork is used a cabinet handle. That is the same idea.

Envision Mindset:  In this mindset we deliberately imagine ways to solve problems, using absorb information. This mindset is well known to creative people.  The exercise below will help you increase your mental imagery. It turns off the stream of unwanted thoughts.

Exercise: Close your eyes and take three deep cleansing breathes. Now image your happy place. Where you feel the most relax? Picture yourself there. Allow yourself to feel the surroundings. If your recliner, feel the texture of the material against your skin, the firmness of the cushion surrounding you, the angle of your body as you relax. Are there sounds around you? Soft music or maybe a ball game on the T.V., or your children playing at your feet.  How about smells, tastes.  Allow yourself to enjoy your happy place for a few minutes.

Connect Mindset:  This mindset allows you to spawn many ideas without concerns to how they will play out. You’ll think out of the box. Successful use of this mindset could lead you to become overwhelmed with creative possible ideas. You’ll become energized and excited about your work.

Exercise: Set a timer for three minutes. On a piece of paper write down as many uses for a shoe you can think of. Then set the timer again and write down all the things you can do with a shoelace. Set the timer again and jot down the consequences of a torn shoelace.

Reason Brainset: This brainset solves problems logically, using all your storage memories and knowledge. It allows you to control what thoughts occupy your mind. It is deliberate and necessary as you complete your creative project. It is the perfect mindset to flesh out a whimsical idea and make it realistic. It helps you motivate action, manage time, increases chances for success, strengthens self-confidence and heightens sense of control over your life. It’s one mindset I’ve consciously worked on every single day, several times a day, over the last several months.

Exercise: You will stop particular unwanted thoughts or train of thoughts as soon as they enter you mind by simply saying, “Don’t go there.” Or “Thinking of this is not my on my hour’s agenda.”

Evaluate Mindset: Coming up with fresh ideas is vital is our line of work, but judging whether those ideas are indeed worth spending time one is also essential. This is where this mindset comes in. Three factors are necessary: active judgement, focused attention and impersonality. We need to judge our work against others of which it’s competing. Not us against them. This is about our work, not ourselves. In order to do that, we need to get some distance from our work, judge it with respect, don’t toss the work mid-project, look at each of its parts and evaluate their merits, and look at the work from the point of view of your audience. Be flexible. Consult others. Be hard on your work and not yourself!

Exercise: On a sheet of paper write the titles of your top ten books of all time.  Imagine they’re no longer available anywhere or ever again. Now, ( I know you’re going to hate me)  cross off five. Behind them, write why you crossed them off.

Transform Mindset:  Is all about emotion. Our emotion. Our negative emotions and how they affect our memories and visions. It’s important we know this mindset and how it disturbs our creativity. It is a what-if state, just like the envision mindset, but unlike the purposeful imaginings of the later, this mindset’s themes are worry, anxiety, self-pity or regret.  But this mindset can help with your creative project. Our characters are an extension of humanity.  People have flaws, negative thoughts, regrets. We can use this mindset to write timeless characters if only we draw on the transform mindset.

Exercise: Pick three things in your home that you feel best represents you: personality, taste, qualities. Now write a paragraph about each and how they relate to you. Did you learn anything about yourself? Was there a negative or positive view of yourself?

The Stream Mindset: We refer to this mindset as being in ‘the zone.’ It is the unique melding of self and action. You lose your sense of self and focus on the world at hand. But how do we achieve this mindset.

First, you need the expertise to enter the stream mindset. Second, you need to be engaged in an activity that intrinsically motivating you. (Intrinsic motivation means that you’re involved in an activity because of an internal award and not an external one.) Do you write for the joy of writing?

Exercise: On a piece of paper jot down five activities that had your blood surging and your mind whirling. These activities are your passion.

 

As I said at the beginning of this blog, I’ve only touched on the information contained in these two books. In fact, I’m not finished with either of them, but what I’ve learned so far has helped me to be more productive, to think out of the box on my wip, and be more acceptable of the amount of work I can accomplish in a day.

Winter Writing Festival: Check-in #1

We’re one week into our Winter Writing Festival and the chat rooms have been hopping, the initial goal setting and energy level have been inspirational, and I’ve had a number of writers telling me they “needed this right now.”

So did I. You all have motivated me to work hard and keep the momentum going. Even on days when the words aren’t flowing, I’m finding it productive to listen to RWA conference workshops, read a copy of RWR, spend time plotting, or perform any number of writing-related activities. And the sprints have definitely helped my word count along.

So, after seven days, how’s it going for you? Are you doing great? Hitting a wall? Consuming vast amounts of caffeine and chocolate? Remember, this festival is meant to promote productivity, which is why point-earning is flexible. Do you need to adjust your goals? Find a new motivation? Commit to stopping by the chat room to sprint this week?

Share your progress in the comments below for some cyber cheers or commiseration. And if you’ve met your weekly goal (earned at least 7 points), say “I MADE MY WEEKLY GOAL” at the top of your comment for a chance to win some amazing prizes to keep you going:

 check in 1 covers

 

 *PLEASE NOTE: If you’re reading this post on the Festival website (the blue site), make sure you jump over to the regular Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog (the ruby-colored site, at rubyslipperedsisterhood.com) before leaving your comment!

 Be sure to leave a comment below and mention “I MADE MY WEEKLY GOAL” for a chance to win. Good luck to you all as the festival continues. Happy writing!

–Anne Marie

Milestones

When I realized my birthday is tomorrow and I’ll be hitting another decade milestone in another year, my first reaction was, “That’s it—I’m not having any more birthdays after this one!” Then it dawned on me that the only way to avoid getting older is . . . well, you know.

Death is not an acceptable alternative, so I’ve decided to continue blowing out candles and change my outlook toward aging to an attitude of welcoming the opportunity for accomplishment.

The year 2014 has been especially challenging for me. It started off with my husband hitting a deer with our brand new car the first week of January, followed by my mother having a minor stroke which required her to move to a nursing home. That left me to clean out the hoarder’s mess in her apartment, in the middle of which, I had to have half of my thyroid removed, and my husband’s company announced they’re closing the facility he works at in the beginning of 2015, meaning he’ll be unemployed.

We’ve decided to move to Austin, TX (closer to our kids) for him to look for a new job, which resulted in having to quickly whip our house into shape to sell it, listing it, getting a sales agreement, packing and moving into a temporary apartment until my hubby’s job ends late this winter—all while my energy levels are extremely low from my new thyroid hormone deficiency. We’ve just gotten settled in our new apartment and have discovered it’s infested with fleas from the previous tenant’s pets. An exterminator sprayed the apartment on Wednesday, and now I’m crossing my fingers it worked.
We’ve all survived years when our lives seemed to be in constant crisis. Then on New Year’s Eve, we’ve all heaved a sigh of relief and said, “At least that year is over, or Yay, I’ve made it through another year!” Even though we’re just glad it’s behind us, there’s still a sense of accomplishment for having endured.

On Monday, the Rubies will be celebrating their fifth blogoversary. It’s hard to believe we’ve been sharing our experiences with our readers for that long. This started me thinking about all the milestones I’ve passed during my writing career: My first finished manuscript, my first national conference, my first request from an editor or agent, my first submission, and then my first rejection. Then came the second and third rejection, and a fourth and fifth. (The rejection total is really high, so I’ll quit right here.) Then I was nominated as a Golden Heart® finalist for the first time and actually won. I landed an agent, and two years later, I won the GH again! I was a finalist five more times, jumped into indie publishing in 2012 and have released nine books since then, realizing my dream of making a living from my writing.

We all have our list of achievements, disappointments, tribulations, and celebrations. And when we get discouraged and feel as if we’re no longer moving forward, it can be really uplifting to look back at all we’ve accomplished. But, more importantly, we need to look ahead to our next goal—our next milestone.
As writers, we all know that if we don’t give our characters strong goals and compelling motivations at the very beginning of our novel, no one will care enough about our characters to continue reading. And if we don’t put up roadblocks to challenge our heroes and heroines in the journey toward accomplishing their objectives, we’ll end up writing a very boring book.

Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs

That’s true in our lives, too. Anyone who’s ever taken Psych 101 has studied the humanist psychologist, Abraham Maslow, and his theory that all people have a hierarchy of needs. Those needs can be illustrated in a pyramid structure—the foundation of which is basic physical needs, peaking with emotional needs like personal fulfillment or self-actualization. If you look at the diagram at the left, you’ll see that according to Maslow’s theory, in order to satisfy our highest need, we must have a sense of purpose in life. If we have no goals or dreams, we have nothing to look forward to, and without challenges, there will be no sense of accomplishment, which is vital to feel fulfilled.

I’ve observed that the people who seem the most unhappy or depressed are usually those who have no purpose—no reason to roll out of bed in the morning—no goals to work toward. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a tough year with a lot of circumstances that have kept me from working toward my writing goals. My last book release was back in February. I’d hoped to release two more books by the end of the year, but obviously that’s not going to happen. Therefore, I’ve lost my sense of accomplishment in my career for this year—despite that I’ve achieved a great deal in handling all of the challenges the universe has thrown at my personal life. The problem is none of those triumphs were celebrations of achieving a goal, they were simply sighs of relief over enduring and coming out the other side.

I realized the only way to pull myself out of this funk and feeling of failure is to set a new writing goal and work toward it. I refuse to completely write this year off, so I’m here today to publicly declare my goal to release another book by the end of the year and to invite all of you to join me in making a commitment toward some career objective.

Your goal needs to be achievable. It can’t be to earn a nomination as a finalist in the GH or RITA or to sell a book, because those aren’t things you can personally control—we all know luck plays a huge part. However, your goal can be to enter the GH or RITA. It can be to finish a manuscript, send submissions to a certain number of agents or editors, write a number of blog posts, or whatever it is you choose to work toward. A few weeks ago, Ruby sister, Elisa Beatty, challenged us to commit to a daily word count. That’s a great start to reaching our milestones.

So how about it? What’s your writing goal for the rest of 2014? What do you want to accomplish before the calendar rolls around to 2015? Do you have any good tips for staying on track toward your milestones?

 

 

Winter Writing Festival CHECK-IN (Week 5)

Here it is—already WEEK 5 !!!

If you’ve made your goals so far, you should have earned 36 POINTS! (The day one sign-up gave you a bonus point for the first day!) Don’t despair. You can always make up points. If you’ve fallen behind, just work on catching up over the next few weeks. Even writing nonsense is better than a blank page!

Here are a few suggestions on how to increase your chance of succeeding in making your goals.

Make your writing a top priority! Write SOMETHING every day, even if it’s just a chapter heading.

Set your goals to an achievable level to avoid discouraging yourself. You can always exceed your target. For example, I set my daily goal at 1,000 words a day, and I’ve been consistently writing over 1,500. So I have a surplus for the days I wake up feeling lousy or my electricity goes out.

Lose the all or nothing mindset. If you fall behind, don’t worry, just jump right back in and keep going!

Take advantage of our chat room http://www.rsswwf.com/ichat/. It’s open at rsswwf.com site. Check the times posted on the RSSWWF site (blue site) for your sprint hostesses and come join us. If there are no sprints scheduled, come hang out. Other writers frequently drop by hoping to find sprinting buddies. If you haven’t had a chance to try sprinting yet or if you’re not sure how it all works, Kim Law did a great post on how the sprints work right here.

The writers who sprint are usually more successful at making their goals and sticking with it to the end. I’ve gotten to know a lot of you in the chat room, and sprinting has been an invaluable tool to help me achieve my goals. Not to mention it’s LOTS OF FUN!

Now, share with us how you did this week and 5 lucky commenters will receive one of the five fabulous prizes below (1st winner gets first choice, 2nd winner gets second choice, etc.). So be sure to comment on this week’s progress, whether good, bad, or ugly. We want to cheer you on or commiserate. And remember—you can’t win the GRAND PRIZE at the end of the festival ($250 online gift certificate) if you don’t check-in every week.

Here’s the SWAG that’s up for grabs for Week 5

1) An e-copy of Her Hard To Resist Husband by Tina Beckett

2) An e-book Only in Vegas or Operation: Date Escape by Lindsey Brookes

3) A $20.00 Amazon gift certificate from Bev Pettersen.

4) Kindle version of Hotter in Atlanta by Liz Talley

5) A first chapter critique (contemporary romance-25 pages) by yours truly, Laurie Kellogg, and an e-copy of one of my books. RubyWeek 5 Checkin

*NOTE: If you’re reading this on the Festival website (the blue site), make sure you jump over to the regular Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog (the ruby-colored site, at rubyslipperedsisterhood.com) before leaving your comment!

Here’s hoping you make lots of progress this week as we sprint toward the finish line! Happy writing! We can do it!

 

Winter Writing Festival: Check-In #4

 

Wow, are we at the halfway point already?! As Elisa’s post on Tuesday pointed out, we’ve crossed the halfway point in this marathon.

You may be chugging right along, pacing yourself perfectly to cross that finish line on time and with your goals met. Or you may have tripped over a loose stone, run smack into a boulder, splashed through a puddle, fallen and skinned your knee, or gotten stuck in a poppy field.

I’m here to tell you that finish line is still reachable. (*adopts drill instructor tone*) Get yourself up, dust yourself off, and push, push, push. You can accomplish amazing things. I know you can.

Tell us how you did this week and 5 lucky commenters will receive one of the five fabulous prizes below (1st winner gets first choice, 2nd winner gets second choice, etc.). So be sure to comment on this week’s progress, whether good, bad, or ugly. We want to cheer you on or commiserate. And remember – you can’t win the GRAND PRIZE at the end of the festival ($250 online gift certificate) if you don’t check-in every week.

Here are the prizes up for grabs this week:

1) Tamara Hogan: Tempt Me in winner’s choice of format.  (Print USA only)

2) His Forever Girl (winner’s choice of format) by Liz Talley (Print USA only)

3) An autographed copy of Last Chance Knit & Stitch by Hope Ramsay (US ONLY)

4) A $20.00 Amazon gift certificate from Vanessa Barneveld.

5) A first chapter critique (25 page max) contemporary or romantic suspense by Autumn Jordon

 

TamaraHogan_TemptMe_100pxHisForeverGirl_300-142x225Last Chance Knit & Stitch coveramazongiftcardperfectsml

*If you’re reading this on the Festival website (the blue site), make sure you jump over to the regular Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog (the ruby-colored site, at rubyslipperedsisterhood.com) before leaving your comment!

Wishing you forward progress and happy writing vibes in the coming week! You can do it!

Winter Writing Festival Check-In Friday!

Hello Winter Writing Festival Participants! Welcome to our second Check-in Friday! So…how did you do this week? Did you meet your goals? Did your muse come out to dance, making your fingers fly across the keyboard and the dialogue flow without your conscious thought? Or were your kids home, demanding sippy cups and play dates until you had to lock yourself up in the closet to sprint to the end of your daily word goal?

We want to know! So make sure to comment on this blog on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood site for your chance to win one of the 5 following prizes (1st winner picks first, 2nd winner picks second, and so on):

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1) A Kindle copy of Romanced By The Redneck by Lindsey Brookes.

2) A $20.00 e-gift certificate to Powell’s Books from Shoshana Brown.

3) Two e-books (winner’s choice) by Vivi Andrews

4) A $10.00 Starbucks gift certificate from Tina Beckett

5) A first chapter critique (25 pages max) any genre by Anne Marie Becker.

 

If you are reading this on the blue WWF site, pop over to the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood site (www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com) to comment. You must check in every week on the RSS site to be eligible for the grand $250 prize!

 

Wishing you every success this week!

Free-for-All Friday: RWA National Tips and Tricks

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Can you believe the 2013 RWA National Conference starts next week? It seems like just yesterday that the Rubies were all named 2009 Golden Heart finalists, but if you look at the right hand side of our website’s home page, so much has happened since then.

In those four years, there have been many additional Golden Heart finals and wins, several RITA finals, and one RITA win (Darynda Jones generously let us rub RITA’s belly for luck). A gratifying number of Rubies will walk the stage as nominees and presenters at this year’s awards ceremony.  But to me, the biggest metric of our success is this: since 2009, the Rubies have collectively published over 200 books.

OVER 200 BOOKS. Yay, us!

There’s a lot of experience here at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, from the sisters and from members of our community.  Whether you’re a RWA National newbie or an old hand, today, in true free-for-all Friday fashion, we’d like to learn everyone’s tips and tricks for navigating RWA National.

Here are a few of mine:

Don’t overpack! (You’ll need room in your suitcase for books!) I challenge myself to make it through the entire conference on four pairs of shoes. Four. I choose my shoes first, and build my wardrobe around them. Take it from a massive shoe hoor, IT CAN BE DONE.

Wear comfortable shoes – Yes, more about the shoes. Showing off our fierce footwear is part of the fun, but on the other hand, no one wants to hobble around with bloody blisters all week long. You’ll be on your feet a lot throughout the week, so plan ahead. Break in your shoes beforehand, and bring blister treatment products.

Dress in layers – I had an amusing chat with a hotel employee at last year’s conference about how, at an event like ours, dominated by women, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE is happy with the temperature!  I’m always cold in air conditioned hotels, so you’ll find me bundled up in long sleeves and a sweater. Other attendees will be walking around in sleeveless shirts, carrying battery-operated fans to battle hot flashes. As Grandma Marion always said, “It never hurts to carry a sweater.” Grandmas are wise.

Eat lunch with strangers – Get out of your comfort zone a little! Break away from your buddies and sit with strangers at the conference’s luncheon events. Everyone at the conference loves reading and writing, so you won’t be strangers for long.  It’s not unheard of to find yourself sitting next to, and making informal contact with, an agent or editor who might then ask for your pitch. The person you ask to please pass the salad dressing might be an influential blogger, someone you follow on Twitter, or an author whose work you enjoy. This is the easiest networking opportunity you’ll have all week long. Take advantage of it.

Take some downtime – for most of us, the conference is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t feel like you have to attend every single workshop. Sometimes the best use of your time is to go up to your room for an hour, decompress or take a nap, and re-energize for the evening to come. For more on this topic, here’s a blog post I wrote in 2011:  Behold My P-Ness! Writers, Myers-Briggs, and An Introvert’s Guide to RWA National.

Some things I don’t leave home without:Deep water plug

  • earplugs, in case the room next door gets rowdy
  • bubble bath and my overflow drain cover – turns even the stingiest hotel bathtub into a soaking tub!
  • First aid kit, including Band-Aids, safety pins, the aforementioned blister treatment products, ibuprofen, tampons, etc. (Why pay inflated gift shop prices?)  I didn’t even NEED tampons during RT2013 in May, but I gave two away from my purse stash to authors in need. Is this sisterhood or what?  😉
  • NutriGrain bars, for breakfast or a quick afternoon snack
  • 6′ cheapo extension cord, for convenient gadget charging
  • Favorite book signing pen
  • Bookmarks and business cards – carry at all times!

 

What are your conference tips and tricks? Any items you don’t leave home without? If you’ve never been to the conference before, what questions do you have? It’s free-for-all Friday; anything goes!

Tammy’s latest release… 

TamaraHogan_TouchMe1

Touch Me…An Underbelly Chronicles Novella

Mere hours after human technology whiz Bailey Brown learns the truth about her Sebastiani Security co-workers—they’re all vampires, incubi, succubi, sirens, faeries, Valkyrie, and werewolves!—she’s thrown into an undercover operation protecting a siren singer at Underbelly, one of Minneapolis’s premier nightclubs. With pheromones saturating the air like sweet chloroform, starving for touch, and her inhibitions fading fast, Bailey has to avoid Rafe Sebastiani, her boss’s gorgeous sex demon of a brother, at all costs…

Because only his touch will do.

$0.99 at Amazon.com! Other digital formats available Sept. 2013.

 

Wordcount Mindgames: Tricks for Productivity

The Winter Writing Festival is upon us and you know what that means. Mega wordcounts! Pushing for our goals! Striving to stay motivated and not burn ourselves out in the first week so we last all the way to Week Seven! But just how do we do that? How do we stay motivated day after day? My trick? Little victories.

People have called me prolific, a fast writer, churning out new books faster than the Kardashians churn out magazine covers. With a stack of published works behind me, it’s hard to argue, “No, I’m slow!” but the truth is there are days when I plod along, dragging each word onto the page by stubbornness alone.

You want to know the secret? (Or maybe not THE secret, but MY secret? Or at least one of them…) The trick behind pumping up your word count, day after day, book after book, and avoiding burn out is tricking yourself into believing it’s easy. It’s all about the mind games, baby.

There are a thousand different ways you can do this, ways to make the Sisyphean task of writing a book seem manageable, and one of them is bound to work for you. So let’s talk mind games and efficiency tricks.

Have you ever set a timer? Done a writing sprint? Rewarded yourself with a handful of M&Ms or an episode of your favorite show? Joined an accountability group where your rewards depended on *everyone* achieving your goals and you refused to be the one who let everyone down?

I’ve used all of the above, but I’ve found I have to change it up every now and then because my lazy brain gets used to them and they stop working as well. I’ve also found different techniques work well depending on whether you’re trying to wedge your writing time in around a busy schedule or stave off burn-out as a full-time writer day after day. (My current challenge is the latter.)

Here’s my latest technique in one simple step: I just set an hourly goal for my writing day which I KNOW I can achieve, even on my worst day when the voices in my head are ignoring me completely. For me, that’s four hundred words in one hour.

It has to be a goal that seems almost laughably easy to accomplish, because then 1) I have no excuse for not doing it and 2) when that is ALL I accomplish, I still get a sense of satisfaction and that drives me to keep going, as opposed to setting my goal at my average rate and then being discouraged every time my performance is below average.

Sounds too simple to be effective, doesn’t it? But here’s the trick: even though I tell myself I can take a break until the top of the hour when I hit my hourly goal or stop when I reach my daily goal, I almost never do, because by then I’m in the groove. Telling myself I only need 400 words per hour is how I got almost 20,000 words in three days when I was pushing to finish my last book.

It’s all the little victories that keep driving you. Every four hundred words, your brain is releasing dopamine to celebrate your accomplishment and you never have the disappointment of not hitting your overly ambitious goal. Because 400 words? I can write that in no time! So what if I got a phone call and got distracted for half an hour – I can still get right back on track!

Obviously this technique won’t work for everyone, but for me it is my mind game of choice at the moment. Setting targets so far beneath what I know I can do, that there is NO EXCUSE not to do it. And then do more.

What tricks do you use to keep yourself motivated? Do you have any word count mind games to share with the class? 😉

A Healthy 2013

The ball has dropped, confetti thrown, kisses landed hopefully where they should. It’s another new year. Will 2013 be your year for greatness? What are your goals? I’m a firm believer in goals. If you don’t take time to decide where you want to be, you will never get there. Or worse – you will arrive and move on without even knowing you’ve won.
New Years 2011. I was fit, the lowest weight I’d ever been, had just published my second romance, was busy raising my three kids with my hunky Highland husband. We were comfortable. Life was good, even though I’d just turned 40. My budding mid-life crisis mixed with all those New Year’s “what are you doing with your life” questions, making me depressed.
What I didn’t know was that my life was precious, solid, and perfect just the way it was. I didn’t know that until three months later when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and that old perfect life was over. Major surgery, instant menopause, five burning months of chemo, total hair loss, ten more months of an experimental chemo, forty pounds gained from steroids, and residual neuropathy pain everywhere. Ugh! But as my blood test showed two weeks ago, the cancer seems to still be dead. Yay!

Regardless of where you are in your life journey, your health should be #1 on your priority list. As writers and readers, who must remain sedentary for stretches of time (although I’ve been known to walk while reading), we often neglect the goal of remaining healthy. But health is what makes the plot of our own life story move. Without it, the whole thing falls apart. So here are my strategies for keeping healthy.
 1. Make those doctor appointments. I was a “too busy” mom before cancer. I had a 3 strike rule. I didn’t go to the doctor unless there were 3 things wrong with me. I actually went in because I thought I broke my hand playing soccer. Luckily I mentioned the slight bloating and sporadic pain in my abdomen. She found the 5-inch tumor growing and spreading.

TIP: Schedule a time each week to sit down with the phone and calendar to make any appointments for you and your family.

2. Exercise. Yeah, yeah – we all know it’s important, but hell’s bells it’s crucial! I’m not talking about running a marathon, but walking. Even with neuropathy pain I made myself walk. When I couldn’t stand the pressure on my feet, I’d ride my mom’s recumbent stationary bike. I also found a slow, meditative yoga DVD which I do nearly every morning to stretch and build strength. After talking with a doctor about what you can or shouldn’t do, figure out how to build some form of exercise into your everyday life.

TIP: Lay out comfy clothes the night before. Even if I don’t feel like exercising, I put them on first thing in the morning. Then if I feel better or can squeeze some exercising in, I’m already dressed and ready to go.

3. Stop eating crap. Bye-bye Twinkies! Hello organic food! Whether you believe organic is better or not, we probably all can agree that cupcakes and fast food are bad. We don’t really know what causes the body to go haywire and start growing out of control (cancer). There are some obvious things like smoking (which I don’t) and sunbathing (which I don’t) and playing with uranium (which I don’t), but otherwise it is just a series of little things that add up. One more little nitrate-filled slice of bacon could break the camel’s back. So I cut as much of it out as I can.


I also added cancer fighting foods like wild salmon, kale, and walnuts into my diet. I’ve cut the amount of meat I eat in half, and I consume sugar with the understanding that it is what cancer cells love to feed on, which makes it easier to say “no thanks.”
 TIP: If you really want to watch what you eat, you have to record it. I use the free My Fitness Pal app. http://www.myfitnesspal.com/


4. Tell yourself that you want to be healthy. Huh? What got me through the darkest moments, those moments when I had to answer my 4-year-old’s questions about me dying, those moments when I caught myself writing my own obituary in my head (because as a writer I would do a hell of a job), those moments when I hurt so bad I understood why some people decide not to fight – what got me through that was convincing myself that I could win. And to do that I said positive affirmations at least twice a day, out loud.

 

“I am living a long and healthy life.” “I am strong and full of energy.” “My body is comfortable and beautiful.” “I am cured and full of health.”  Even though I didn’t believe them, I still said them, cried them, prayed them. And slowly they sank into me, reorienting my mind so that my body and spirit knew what to aim for.
 

TIP: Use post-its on the bathroom mirror so you can read them when you get up and before you go to bed. But remember to tell your partner/roommate/spouse what you’re up to or they may wonder.
 
5. Feed the spirit. To be healthy you feed your body good things. You also must feed your spirit, which means effectively reducing and managing your stress. I do yoga, watch birds, and journal to combat the stress of everyday life. I see a therapist to help me cope with fears of dying, and I talk to God.

TIP: Try various techniques to see what works for you. You are unique, so find something that resonates with you.

 

 

 

Those are my top 5 ways to become healthy. You’ve heard them before, but it’s time to practice them. Make health your #1 priority in 2013. Because if you don’t work toward this goal, the rest will fall apart.

GOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAL(s)

Ah, January… We get a new month, a new year, and all those mistakes writing the old year in dates until we finally retrain our brains.

We also have the chance to look back at the old year and figure out what we want to keep doing—or to change—in the new one.

Looking back is always fun. Good or bad, it’s all behind you. Even though 2012 didn’t go the way I expected, it was joyful all the same. I wrote and published four shorter fantasy romances to augment the two full-length novels I have out. I changed cover art several times, nearly tore my hair out over all of it, and finally created cover looks that I truly like. (Though I’m not ruling out changing them again in the future. That’s the beauty of going indie!)

      

I’m glossing over a lot of…stuff, ahem…that happened this year, but I survived it all just fine and things are looking up. Even though my writing to-do list could wrap the equator.

Time is a funny thing. I always think I’ll get more done than I end up managing. Last year I wanted to do 1000 new words six days a week, but that goal whimpered and died shortly thereafter. At first I was frustrated with myself, but looking back, it’s hard to self-flagellate about being a slow writer when I see the four new stories I have out. And after all, what is life but a learning experience? So I’m taking a good look at 2013 and figuring out what I want to have done by this time next year.

Within the next few months I’ll have two audiobooks out based on my novels, and probably additional ones from my four shorter stories. I’m proofing the full-length audiobooks right now. (A tip for those of you planning audiobooks, whether trad- or indie-published: proofing takes a lot of time. Plan ahead!).

I have a new novel in progress, too. Okay, technically the danged thing has been in progress for eleven years. In my head I’ve even named it The Novel That Refused To Be Written. Its real title is The Soul of Magic, and chronologically it fits between my two other novels. (Yeah, not the greatest game plan. It’s much easier to write sequentially from the beginning of a series. Unfortunately, I don’t have a time machine to warn the Me of 2007 about that!) The plot and personalities in this WIP have shifted so many times that I should put a mood ring on the cover. But I’m determined to complete it and publish it in 2013—preferably the first half. I plan to work on it during the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival.

That will leave the second half of 2013 for something new, either a novel or novella. I have three candidates in mind and I’m excited about all of them.

I look forward to the next New Year’s Eve and seeing what I accomplished during 2013. I’m betting I’ll have a smile on my face as I look back—and that’ll be the best part of all.

So here we are with a fresh year ahead. What are your writing goals for 2013? Share your dreams and plans!

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