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Organizing from the Inside Out

Happy Monday! Okay, so we don’t always celebrate Mondays (unless it’s a holiday). But often Mondays are beginnings. The beginning of a new job, or a new project or even a new healthy way of life. There are many avenues to a healthy life. Today I’m going to touch on the mental health that comes with an organized work space.

pigs-in-hats
I am definitely not the most organized person, not even close. I really don’t stand a chance living with three kids, three guinea pigs (lots of cavy paraphernalia), two sugar gliders, a crazy golden retriever who spreads her toys about the house, and a husband who means well but has no problem sitting amongst dirty dishes and clutter. But what I’ve found is that if I can organize a part of my world, I am a more productive person, which makes me a much happier person.
Notice that I did not say clean. I said organized. They are two different things. You don’t have to love cleaning to organize. I love Julie Morgenstern’s description in her book, ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT. She says that the goal is to be able to know where something is right away. As long as you have a system where you can retrieve something quickly, without wasting precious time hunting (which is what I did this morning to find her book under my bed), then you have organization.

organizing
So what makes Julie’s way of organizing different and effective? She analyzes first before plunging in and wasting money buying organizational paraphilia that doesn’t fit your space or life style. I’m a plunge-in type of person, but Julie made me stop and think first. And it works!

Here are a few basic steps and how I implemented them. I suggest starting with your writing area or business area. Not a whole room at first but just your desk.

1. Analyze – look at how you have things set up currently. What works? What doesn’t work? Write it down (really, write it down – it helps).
What works for me:
I always know where my passwords are written down. It’s a small brightly colored phone book I keep in a little drawer of my desk.
Lamp, white board with pens and calendar are within reach.

What didn’t work:
Too much clutter – knickknacks that remind me of my books are cute, but too many becomes just clutter, too many stacks of paper, things piled on floor since my desk is small, poorly utilized filing cabinet.

2. Strategize – Create a plan of action for wading through and transforming your space. It takes time so work that into the plan. Either a Saturday or plan to do a little each day, but be realistic on how long it will take (my small desk area took about 6 hours which I broke up over several days).

3. Attack – Julie uses the SPACE formula which is:
Sort
Purge
Assign a Home
Containerize
Equalize

Sort – Julie says it is critical to pick up every single piece in the area. Don’t ignore the pile in the corner. Sort it all. Identify what is important to you and that space. Does it belong there? Does it help you do the function in that area? If not, it goes somewhere else. Also, group similar things so you can containerize properly later.

Purge – have bins for trash, donate, or relocate within your house. This can be difficult and Julie writes more on the psychology of purging. It can be the hardest part for some and the easiest and most liberating for others. I fall somewhere in the middle, but I do feel “lighter” when I get things out of my house.

Assign a Home – Julie talks about the Kindergarten model of organization. Every space should be set up like a Kindergarten classroom. The teacher has specific locations for different activities (art, reading, computers, etc). It is pretty easy for the kids to know what activity should happen in each area based on what is stored there (crayons and glue in the art area, books in the reading area). Every location in our homes and offices should be set up the same way. If you want the top of your desk to be for writing, the pile of bills needs to find a new home.

Containerize – How many of you have bought containers to organize and then ended up not using them because they didn’t fit or work? I have several in a stack in my bedroom. Ugh! But I’ve now learned to measure areas and look at what I’m going to store there. THEN I go to the dollar store and buy bins and baskets. Julie uses the Kindergarten example again. Teachers will have a bin just the right size for 20 pencils, not 10 pencils because there are 20 pencils to live there. A too small bin brings on overflow and frustration. And if a system is frustrating or difficult to use, neither a kid nor an adult will use it.

Equalize – About 2 weeks after you’ve organized your space, take a lunch break to evaluate how things are working. Are you following your new system? Is something frustrating, time consuming or difficult? It’s important to smooth the rough spots and adjust. Our lives are dynamic and our spaces need to be too. If things change, the system may need to flex to that change. So make sure to include “tune-ups” in your quest to keep an organized area running smoothly.

I’ve organized my desk according to Julie’s plan. And yes, it works better, however I need to keep using the system for it to continue to work. When life gets busy I find myself dropping things next to my desk instead of placing them in the nice file folder I created that’s sitting just two steps away. After a week of dumping I have to step over piles when I stand up from my desk. Sigh… But I’ve found that with my systems in place, I can usually clean things up within a half hour. All in all, I think organization is possible, even for someone scattered like me.eleri-organized

Do you have any tips for creating and maintaining an organized space? Do you think clearer in an organized space or do you prefer the creative chaos of clutter?

Ready to take an organization test? Choose one of the items below and see how long it takes you to find it. How well did you do?

1. Recipe for a dish you cut out of a magazine but haven’t tried yet.
2. Your child’s vaccination record.
3. A pair of garden gloves.
4. Notes from the last conference call you had with your editor or agent.
5. Your aunt’s phone number.
6. Needle and thread.

Get Organized with a Bullet Journal

Are you a list maker? Do you get a little giddy when you find a calendar with stickers in the back to mark the dates with things like “doctor’s appointment,” “Don’t forget!” and “Birthday”?

Or on the other hand, do you desperately need a way to organize your schedule but can’t find a planner that works for you?

Either side of the coin, this post is for you. Behold the BULLET JOURNAL…

My very first Bullet Journal!

My very first Bullet Journal!

“The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above.” Bulletjournal.com

You start with a blank notebook and set it up exactly how you want. You can track ANYTHING in the specific increments that you want. It is totally up to you. There is a whole system of symbols and tags (triangle for appointment, circle for event, etc.) that you can use, or you can make up your own. Color code it and use your best cursive handwriting or go minimalistic with dots and quickly jotted notes.

I know, it sounds time consuming, and it can be if you let it. But once I set up a few pages to start, it has saved me time. Really.

I’ve only been bullet journaling for two weeks, but already my stress level has come down. No more wasting time hunting for my little sticky-note lists and back-of-envelopes brainstorming. I have it all in my bullet journal, and there’s plenty of room to add more.

In the evenings I review what I did and didn’t do, and I decide what should move to the next day or come off the list. I review my monthly goals and figure out what I should start. On Sundays I set up the next week’s spread and write in the healthy things I want to track: Yoga, getting my 10K steps in, drinking water. I also attempt to decide on dinners for the week ahead, leaving some days blank until I figure out the menu.

But the most important (IMHO) are the weekly goals. What do I hope to accomplish in the coming week? This is über important for those of us who work alone and may not have anyone to push us to get the words down or the pages edited.

IMG_5452 IMG_5451 You can custom make any type of page. I have movies to see and books to read. I found a Gratitude spread that looks like a sun and have started a bucket list page. For more ideas, google bullet journal, and you’ll be amazed at all the pictures out there – both artistic and straight-forward.

IMG_5453

Gratitude Page

Experiment with different spreads from week to week to see what works for you. I’ve also discovered that I’m not as bad an artist as I thought. I just find clip art of things and try to draw it. If it doesn’t come out how I want, I can always put a sticker or washi tape over it.

I first saw Sarra Cannon’s (fabulous Indie YA Paranormal author) bullet journal on FB as we were discussing goals for the week. I asked her about it, and she pointed me in the right direction with wonderful advice.

You can start with any notebook, but the preferred one for bullet journals is the medium A5 dot grid Leuchtturm 1917 journal ( Leuchtturm Journal on Amazon )that measures a little bigger than 5½ by 8 inches with 249 pages (I thought it was going to be much bigger when I ordered it, but it is just the right size to slip into my purse). You will also want some pens and colored pencils and a ruler. I also use a small compass to help me draw circles. I tried Sharpie pens but they bled through the pages too easily. So I bought a Pigma Micron 01 pen (because it was in clearance) and found that it doesn’t bleed through. You will want archival quality pens and paper if possible so you can keep your journals (they might be worth thousands when you become huge like JK Rowling).

There are many posts out there for how to set up your bullet journal. Here are the basics.

1. Index – the Leuchtturm 1917 journal has several blank index pages at the beginning, but you can leave room at the beginning or end of any notebook. Each time you fill out a new page or spread, just flip to the index and fill in the page numbers so you can find things easily.

2. Key – I followed the advice of some sites and listed a key of symbols and colors, but I haven’t used it too much yet. I tend to make little squares for all my to-dos.  

3. Monthly Spread – Fill out a month-at-a-glance spread so you can see a bigger picture. Some people also have a year spread to put in upcoming appointments, etc. I’ll probably make one of those next.

IMG_5454

Monthly Spread with Monthly Goals

4. Monthly Memories – I love the monthly memories page! You can put it in at the beginning of the month or at the end (mine is in the middle). I drew out important things that happened in that month (kids starting school, release of your book, 25th anniversary, etc). I think this page will be wonderful to have when looking back years from now.

One side shows how many words I still need to write in my WIP. The other side is my Memories Page.

One side shows how many words I still need to write in my WIP. The other side is my Memories Page.

5. Weekly spread – there are so many different types of weekly spreads. So far this one is working for me, but I might try one where each day is broken out in chunks going down the page instead of across. Make sure to add your goals for the week. I’ve also added a tracker of things I hope to do each day. Filling in the little completion box is an amazingly motivating technique to get things done.

IMG_5446

My Weekly Spread

daily spread

A Weekly Spread I might try

 

Those pages are the basics. After that, track whatever you’d like. If something stops working for you, switch it up, but always keep those goals where you can see them.

Anyone else out there keep Bullet Journals or something similar? What pages or tracking techniques do you find helpful? 

Business Plans for Writers

(The bulk of this post was first published on the Not Your Usual Suspects blog on August 1, 2016.)

Most writers long to spend their time writing, not thinking about the business side of, well, the business. But in this day and age, spending all of our time dreaming up worlds and characters isn’t an option. There are a plethora of other things to wrangle, manage, and deal with, from marketing to social media to creating an indie book to finding agents or editors to shop in a traditional market. And everything in between.

At the RWbusinessplanA conference last month, the first workshop I attended was one I had hoped would get my head back in the business of writing. It was entitled “Plan for Success: Create a Motivational Business Plan for Your Writing Career” and was presented by author Stephanie Bond. Sitting in that workshop brought back memories of a chapter workshop I attended a couple years ago with a similar topic: “Dream, Dare, Do!” presented by Ruby sister Shelley Coriell

And it reminded me that I never sat down to finish that business plan that was begun that day.

And I certainly hadn’t updated my scrawled notes in the intervening years. In fact, a quick search on our Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood blog shows another Ruby, Laurie DeSalvo, posted on the same topic way back in 2009. But here I am in 2016, finally getting around to writing down my plans.

Since I’ve been looking for focus lately, I made creating a business plan my priority when I returned home from conference a couple weeks ago. I started by exploring more about business plans online, and integrated a lot of that fabulous information here.

First, Jami Gold says, “no one will ever care about our success as much as we do.” And therefore, we must have a business mindset. If we have clear goals and a personal definition of success, we can make better business decisions. Amy Atwell says it’s important to think of writing as a “career,” which is why a business plan is helpful. On her “Author E.M.S.” website, she refers to other sources, where one can use worksheets to come up with her business plan. She also reminds us the plan isn’t set in stone, and should be revised or updated regularly.

Second, before creating your document, Angela Ackerman recommends brainstorming what you want to accomplish, identifying themes, and then grouping together areas of focus. Then, try to step back and see the big picture, assigning importance to what you need to accomplish.

When you’ve done some big picture and small picture thinking, put them together into one handy document that summarizes your career plans and goals for the coming year:

 

Royalty-free clipart picture of a 3d red and white business plan word collage, on a shaded background.

 

THE BASICS of a BUSINESS PLAN

OBJECTIVES (a.k.a., Dreams!)

What do you want out of this business? Do you simply want to see your name on a book? Do you want to hit a bestseller list? Win a RITA award? Do you want to make enough money to quit your day job or put your kids through college?

This is where you put anything you want out of your writing career. Dream big!

MISSION

A mission statement is often brief, and for writers it can be as lofty as “to encourage people to grow through my writing,” or as generic as “to entertain.”

PRODUCTS (or Product Plan) & BRAND

Here’s where you think about what you are creating, which of course, includes your books. Also think about what makes them different/unique, and what formats they’ll be available in, and whether you plan to publish via traditional publishers, indie, or both. Don’t forget about audio, film, and even nonfiction items such as series-related coloring books.

Kimberley Grabas also suggests delineating your “ideal reader” as you create your business plan, as well as your “brand personality and culture.” This includes the vibe you want to give off when people land on your website or other social media pages, or when you speak at events. How do you want to be perceived by the public/readers?

Think about what makes you different, and what makes you the same. Everything from business cards to website design to the font and your name placement on your covers should reflect what/how you write.

GOALS (a.k.a., the things I can control!)

This is where we get down to the nitty gritty.

Keeping your dreams and objectives in mind, what can you actively and reasonably DO to make those dreams come true in the short term? This can include such things as attending a signing or conference, submitting to agents, finding a critique partner, researching your next series, etc.

For instance, one of my dreams is to win a RITA. I obviously need to enter the contest to even have a chance of making that goal happen, so entering the contest is listed under my goals and has been added to my calendar. Similarly, to hit a bestseller list, I’ll need to write books and increase my audience, which led to my current annual goals of building my newsletter list and increasing advertising and amount of time spent on social media.

MARKET ANALYSIS (or Competitive Analysis) & SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

What do you need to do/change to achieve your dreams? Do you have the necessary equipment, time, and energy? What is the state of the market in your genre/subgenre? How crowded is it?

This includes looking at your “competitors’” or fellow authors’ bodies of work and how they’re advertising them. What are their price points? What things are they doing well, in your opinion? Is it something that should be added to your goal list?

For me, one of the items in this category is to read several top-selling romantic suspense novellas, as I have not written one before but hope to this year. I want to study how the character arcs and plots differ from full-length books, so that I know what novella readers expect.

STRATEGY & IMPLEMENTATION SUMMARY (or Development Plan)

This includes setting up your calendar. Will the amount of writing you do this year be increasing/decreasing from the previous year? What publishers or agents do you want to target and how are you most likely to get your work in front of them? Do you need to register for some conferences or enter contests?

The first item on this list, for me, was writing a business plan. The second item was transferring my task list to my planner/calendar.

FINANCIAL PLAN

How do you plan to support yourself while you implement these other plans? When would it be a good time to incorporate? To meet with an estate planner or tax consultant?

For me, I plan to create a “Body of Work” document that contains all of my books and information my husband would need to access them, should something happen to me. I also have a note to consider drawing on savings to create audio versions of my new series, but have yet to make a decision on whether that’s a wise investment. But it’s something I can revisit next July, when I update my business plan.

Have you written a business plan? Do you update it regularly? What things do you make sure to include on your plan?

 

 

AnneMarieBeckerAnne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling.  Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.  

She writes to reclaim her sanity.

Find ways to connect with Anne Marie at www.AnneMarieBecker.com. There, sign up for her newsletter to receive the latest information regarding books, appearances, and giveaways.

 

This or that – dream or goal?

Earlier this year, I went on a writing retreat with 5 Rubies. (Well, 4 Ruby sisters and 1 honorary Ruby!) One evening, I was listening to 2 of the authors discuss their goals for their careers–and it struck me that their goals had never even entered my thinking. Hitting a bestseller list? Earning enough money to replace the income from my day job? These felt more like impossible dreams than achievable goals.

So, for July’s This or That, let’s talk about our aspirations. What are your dreams or 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):

Lindsey_RedneckthCAI7V1YXNaughtyKarma72lg-150x225[1]thCA47M2NJAnneMarie_DarkDeeds-150x225[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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