Posts tagged with: goals
Posted by Vivi Andrews Jan 11 2013, 12:01 am in goals, writing life
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?
Posted by Heather McCollum Jan 7 2013, 1:01 am in eating right, exercise, goals, health, priorities, tips
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.
Posted by Cate Rowan Jan 3 2013, 2:01 am in 2013, goals, New Year's resolutions, writing goals
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!
Posted by Heather McCollum Nov 13 2012, 12:01 am in cancer, goals, reaching goals, writing
We are almost half way through November – National Novel Writing Month. Have you been writing frantically? Or has life dropped boulders all over the road, tripping you up and slowing you down?
Let’s talk about goals. I have writing goals, but they fall second on my list. My #1 goal is to get my life back. My old life was taken from me in April 2011 when the “you have cancer” bomb blew up in my face. Major surgery to remove all my girlie parts (that’s what they do with ovarian cancer), fifteen months of chemo, and lots of teal t-shirts later – I have beaten it.
Yes, victory is wonderful, but even with victory there is collateral damage. I gained 40 pounds from all the steroids I took to keep my body from freaking out while being poisoned by chemo. One of the chemo agents was a neurotoxin, so I have total body nerve damage and inflammation. I went from running with my dog everyday to hardly being able to walk. Each step hurts like someone has beaten my feet with a baseball bat. Some nights I wake several times because the pain, from regenerating nerves, aches so badly in my teeth, legs and shoulders that I can’t sleep.
Make sure your goals are really important. My #1 goal is to reclaim my healthy body. It is something I don’t just want to do, I must do it. I can’t be the mom I was to my three young kids without it or the woman my husband fell in love with. I can’t be a helpful daughter or a drop-everything-when-you-need-me friend. And I totally suck at dealing with constant pain. So I must reach my goal.
Each morning I wake knowing there will be pain. So I’m prepared. I keep special slippers by my bed so I can step right into them. I still end up wobbling to the bathroom like I’m walking on hot coals, but they help. I lay my work out clothes out the night before so I just put them on. If I had to walk back across my room to find them, I might not do it. I get ready before the kids get up so I have some time alone while I work the worst out of my shoulders and legs.
I have a routine. Yoga. I both love and hate yoga. It hurts – enough said. But when I get through the slow stretching movements, amazingly I feel better.
I have a back-up plan. Once the kids are off to school, I walk the dog unless my feet hurt too much and then I ride a stationary bike. When you have a back-up plan it is easier to stay on track.
Accountability. Twice a week, on set days, my friend helps me work out with weights to build up my muscles and strength. Having a partner, who knows your goal and is willing to help you reach it, is golden. We are also friends on a calorie/food tracking free app (My Fitness Pal) so we can e-mail each other encouragement.
I learn and read to stay on track. There are tons of people out there who know more than I do about maintaining an über healthy lifestyle. So I read what they have to say, and I try some of it. Yes, I’m a juicer. I juice kale and fruit almost every day (and I drink it : ). I’ve brought toxin neutralizing plants in the house and managed to keep them alive. I avoid nitrates, tephlon, and pesticides like they could kill me (because they could!). I do everything I can NOT to invite cancer back into my cancer-prone body.
I do even when I don’t feel like it. That would be the discipline part. I don’t feel like getting out of bed every single day because it hurts every single day. I don’t feel like starting the yoga DVD and I don’t feel like juicing the whole veggie aisle at Whole Foods all the time. But I do anyway. When you have a goal that you really, truly want to reach, you must follow your plan even when you don’t want to. You put on your big girl panties and just do it.
I reward baby steps. I’ve lost twenty of the forty pounds I gained and my strength has improved. That there is reward in itself! My pain is still here – damn blasted nerves! But at least I’ve taken twenty pounds off my poor feet.
I also take time out of my busy day to enjoy life. If I do my routines and eat well, I reward myself with a hot bath or some dark chocolate (which is also healthy for you BTW). Today I took the dog and kids to walk under the autumn foliage at a park. I LOVE doing that but never have the time. So today, I stole the time. Yes, I got less writing done, but that comes second on my goal list.
1. Okay, what are your goals? Write them down or know them by heart. Make sure it is something you REALLY want to accomplish.
2. What is your plan for reaching your goal? Be prepared, have a routine, learn how others have reached the same goal.
3. How can you measure your progress? Is it pounds, inches, words written, bulbs planted, grades?
4. Do you have a back-up plan and a partner to help you maintain discipline?
5. How will you celebrate as you reach each wrung on your ladder to success? Don’t forget this part or you won’t last to the end. Every good manager knows, if you want people to push the limit and reach a goal, you’ve got to pat them on the back on the way there. Praise and celebration is good for the soul and the goal : )
Reaching a goal requires determination and discipline. Beating and recovering from cancer teaches you both, although I truly can’t recommend it. A less painful way to learn to reach your goal is to follow the above steps. Just put one foot in front of the other and climb, and I will definitely see you at the summit! I’ll bring the celebratory chocolate (and kale juice)! Hugs! Heather
Posted by Anne Marie Becker Nov 2 2012, 12:01 am in Anne Marie Becker, goals, inspiration, motivation, perserverance
It’s been six weeks since we saw each other last. (Where did the time go?) If you’ll recall, I gave you a little push in the form of a writing challenge waaaay back on September 19th, hoping it would generate a massive wave of productivity. Today is the conclusion of that challenge, and it’s time to check in. Drumroll, please…
My “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goal: Complete 60,000 words of a new project by October 31st.
My reality: 61,707 words as of 10/31.
There were struggles, and some very difficult days in which focus was elusive. At least five days, kids were home from school, sick and needing Mommy. Some days, I hit a roadblock in my plot that I struggled to get past. And some days I just felt like procrastinating. There were a couple days when I was traveling or family was visiting, and it made it that much harder to jump back into writing.
Whenever I felt like I wanted to slack off or let things slide, I remembered you were holding me accountable. (Um,…thanks? <grin>)
I also found that having a plan helped. I stuck to my decision to spend the first several days plotting. Using Hope Ramsay’s recent post “Using Scrivener for Plotting,” I was able to organize my thoughts and hit the ground running on 9/24. I found that, when I could, using the evenings to plot and organize the next day’s scenes helped.
What did I learn? That I can do it! But I also learned that my maximum of 5,000 words is not a pace I would care to keep up day in and day out, and 3,000 is a more comfortable goal. Some days I wrote 300-500 words and that was quite the achievement. Being flexible was oh-so-important on days when I felt like one more apple on my cart would topple the whole thing. Most of all, I learned to go easy on myself when I don’t make it. Some days are highly productive, some aren’t. But enjoying life is important to keeping my creative juices flowing, too.
What’s Next? I’ve decided to set this project aside for a few weeks before I go back and finish the last third of it. I simply need a mental break from it. Besides, while I wanted to start a new series, my Mindhunters series is calling to me, too. With National Novel Writing Month starting up yesterday, I wanted to begin with a brand new project that will (hopefully) rejuvenate me. Perfect timing. (I’m “Anne Marie B” on NaNo’s site by the way, if anybody wants to buddy-up.)
The best part of the Ruby Push: I am a writer who seems to make the biggest strides in the editing stage. Having something other than a blank page to work with will help me out so much.
If you missed the 9/19 post, let me know your goals for NaNo, or simply for the rest of 2012. If you posted goals on September 19th in the Comments section, let me know how they turned out (for better or worse or a totally different direction). If you met your goals and let me know in the Comments below by Sunday, November 4th at midnight Eastern time, you’ll be entered in a random drawing for two $10 Amazon gift cards.
Keep focused and GOOD LUCK to you all as you immerse yourself in the holidays, or NaNo, or whatever new challenge awaits you. Don’t forget the Rubies’ Winter Writing Festival starts in January!
Posted by 2011 Golden Heart Finalists Jun 10 2011, 12:01 am in 2011 finalists, goals, motivation, productivity, writer's advice
Over the course of the summer, the Ruby-Slippered Sisters are giving the 2011 Golden Heart finalists an opportunity to introduce themselves and share a bit about their writing life. Today’s guest is Valerie Bowman, a finalist in the Regency category for SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT. Please join us in congratulating her and welcoming her to the blog!
Are You Slacking? Do the Math
Thank you so much for having me, Rubies! I’m so excited to be here and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist! By day I am a technical writer at a software company in Jacksonville, FL, by night I write fun Regency romps, and in between I am a dog lover, cake aficionada, avid traveler and Hoarders watcher. I’m a member of The Beau Monde Regency chapter of RWA and a former Vice-President of the First Coast Romance Writers.
Now that the intro is out of the way, saddle up. It’s time for some tough love, writing peeps. We’re talking production.
I have 3 questions for you.
#3 is actually the most important, but we’ll start with the first two so you can properly answer #3.
#1. What’s your ultimate writing goal? Do you want a career as a writer? Or do you see your writing as a hobby? Writing for fun is fine, of course, but be clear with yourself on that score. If you’re a career-minded writer, proceed to #2.
#2. How many years have you been writing? Seriously writing? By serious I mean – when did you sit down, crack your knuckles, and vow, ‘I’m gonna do this thing! I’m gonna write a romance novel and pursue publication. For real!’? How many years ago was that day? Remember? Now, keep that number handy, we’re moving on.
#3. Remember, this is most important! How many manuscripts have you completed? Got that? Completed. I’m not asking how many you’ve started, thought about, plotted, entered into contests. How many have you actually finished? Written, in their entirety, from beginning to end? Go ahead, name that number and be honest. Don’t round up. This is for your own good. I promise.
Ok, are you ready? Here comes the tough love. If the number of completed manuscripts isn’t as big or bigger than the number of years you’ve been writing, you are SLACKING. There. I said it. You are slacking. I’m sorry to be the one, but someone had to tell you.
I can hear you. I know what you’re saying. “Valerie Bowman, you don’t know me! You don’t know how freakin’ busy I am. How crazy my life has been.”
“Sorry,” I reply. “No excuses.” I’m shaking my head, but looking sympathetic. Trust me.
You’re sputtering now. I know. You’re drawing up your shoulders tight. You’re looking down your nose at me (which, trust me, isn’t difficult, I’m 5’2). “Valerie Bowman, you tyrant! You’re going to feel bad when you learn I have a very demanding full-time job, two kids, and a pushy dog.”
Believe me, I know. Life is hard. Bad stuff happens. We’re busy. But none of that changes the reality. If you can’t produce one new, complete story a year as a wannabe, you need to pick up the pace. Odds are, even as a full-time writer, you’re not going to pay your mortgage with one book a year or even two. Not at first.
Your hands are on your hips now. Perhaps akimbo. “But I’m learning,” you argue. “I’ve been rewriting my original manuscript for the last three years because I’ve gotten so much feedback on it. Good feedback. My CPs love the hook. And it’s even been a finalist in contests! So there!”
I’m shrugging now. And nodding. “Good for you,” I reply. “But do yourself a favor. Put that manuscript down. Back away. Write another story.” You need to do it. And you need to do it every single year. And you need to get better and faster. Yes! At the same time.
“How do you know?” you ask. Well, I’m not an authority. I’m simply telling you how the pros do it, but here are some pebbles from my writing path.
- The manuscript that landed me my agent was not the first one I queried her with. The first one earned me a standard form rejection letter.
- The manuscript I love the best has never made me a finalist in any contest and my agent didn’t even submit it. I still love it the best, but it’s sitting on my hard drive.
- I’ve entered every manuscript I’ve ever written into the Golden Heart contest. Some of them more than once. #4 finally made me a finalist.
- June 3 (yes, I remember the day) was my four-year anniversary of seriously writing romance. I am currently writing manuscript #5.
And here are some stats from the 2011 Golden Heart® finalists:
- Of 33 respondents, 24 of us became finalists with something other than our first manuscript.
- Over half didn’t become finalists with our first OR second manuscript.
- Over one-third became finalists with our 4th or higher manuscript.
- Two became finalists with their 10th or higher manuscript.
Convinced yet that production matters?
All right. All right. You got the message and I will stop. The tough love is over and I hope I’ve given you something to think about. Hard.
Now for the good news! You can turn things around. If your numbers aren’t where they should be, write more, write faster, pay attention to your production. Make it a priority. Declare today as the first day you really started taking your output seriously. You can turn it around. Remember, writing just one page a day will result in an entire book in a year. That isn’t so difficult, is it?
Now. Go write! (Ok, maybe take that pushy dog out first really quick. Then, write!)
Posted by Vivi Andrews Jan 5 2011, 12:01 am in determination, goals, resolutions
As I’ve confessed here before, I’m in love with goals. So you’d think I’d be all about the New Year’s Resolutions, right? Not so much. I’ve never put much stock in ‘em because the fact of the matter is they just don’t seem to last. Those yearly Resolutions aren’t very resolute – more like flimsy wishes, unsupported by genuine dedication. By mid-January real life has intruded and we’ve all forgotten about the frantic burst of New Year energy that had us going to the gym every day, eating right and writing three thousand words a day.
Instead of grandiose resolutions, what we really need to accomplish our writing goals in the new year is a firm sense of resolve.
Posted by Vivi Andrews Aug 17 2010, 12:10 am in goals, golden heart
I confess, I’m a little goal obsessed. (Okay, maybe more than a little.) But setting goals works for me. I’m gearing up for a busy fall (including three new ebook releases & my first solo print release) and I attribute that to the fact that I’m freakishly goal-oriented. Writing challenges, self-imposed deadlines (and now publisher-imposed deadlines), and visions of future success keep me motivated and moving forward, so today I’m sharing my goal-setting techniques in the hope that they might be useful to someone else out there in the internet ether.
Ready? GOOOOOOOALS! (<–It helps if you imagine this as a soccer shout.)
Posted by Vivi Andrews Jun 22 2010, 1:13 am in career, goals
Maybe I’ve read Sun Tzu’s Art of War too many times, but whenever I start to talk about trying to break into the publishing industry, my vocabulary always starts to drift toward terms more commonly used in siege warfare. It’s too easy for me to picture the Publishing World as an impenetrable citadel and myself as the general of a ragtag rebel army storming the gates. (The Fortress of Publishing can and shall be taken and I’m just the girl to do it!)
Posted by Dani Wade Dec 28 2009, 8:00 am in goals, motivation, resolutions
As each year draws to a close, I always find myself contemplating the coming year as if it were a blank slate – an opportunity to strive for something new and exciting. And being the plotter that I am, I must set a concrete path before me or I’ll get to the end of the next year with nothing to show for it but aimless meanderings.