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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?

 

 

Tapping into Feng Shui for Success

Feng Shui centers around the concept that there is a powerful flow of energy around your home and workplace which affects your life. Feng means “the force of wind” and Shui means “the flow of water” in Chinese. Practioners of Feng Shui feel that this living energy can flow or stagnate, causing success or problems in all areas of your life. The art of Feng Shui works to manipulate this energy flow in order to improve your health and success.

So if you feel like you’re not getting ahead in your personal life or in your career, making a few changes in your home or work area may help balance the energies and open up a window to success. Feng Shui can be very complex. Below are a few simple ways to encourage energy flow around you which should calm and balance your writing muse.

  • Clear the clutter from your workspace. Clutter trips up the free energy flow around you, so try to feng-shui-office[1]take a few minutes each day before you dive into your manuscript to throw out the uneeded and file away those pesky papers around you.
  • Ideally, you should face the door of the room where you are working. If you can’t, place a mirror before you that reflects the doorway. Facing the doorway is a power position.
  • Bring a live houseplant into your area to “breathe” life into your work, but if it starts to die, get it out of there quickly. A little bamboo plant is easy to bamboo-house-plantcare for and will do the trick.
  • To invite wealth and prosperity into your home, put nine coins (any denomination) in a red envelope (color a white one red if needed), tape it shut and place it under the welcome mat at your front door. Also place at other doors if you use several entrances.

asian_new_year_red_envelope8[1]

  • Use color – there is a ton of information on color with Feng Shui. Red and purple are strong colors associated with prosperity and fame. Keeping a red pillow or purple candle in the far left-hand corner of your workspace will encourage wealth and prosperity. I painted the inside of the doors to my computer cubby red so that red surrounded me while I wrote. About a year later I got published. Just saying…: )
  • Keep a nourishing view. If you look up from typing and literally see a brick wall, that explains why you’ve felt stuck (or it’s just that your characters refuse to follow your plot). Hang a pleasant picture or move to a spot near an unobstructed window.
  • Repair or replace broken objects as they block the flow of energy. Change burnt out light bulbs and batteries in dead clocks. Remove chipped or cracked objects from your work space.
  • Light is an important source of energy. If you work in a room without natural light, paint the walls yellow and make sure there are enough lamps to give a glow to the room. Mirrors placed about the room can also help move the energy and give the room a lighter appearance.master-ws055[1]Put marble tables and red sofas on Craig’s List. They are not considered good for careers as they pull work stress and obstacles into the space.  Hmmm…I guess I’m glad my dog ate part of my red couch so I had to get a new one (couch, not dog).
  • Stay away from Feng Shui arrows. Arrows are elements that disrupt positive energy flow, such as pointy architectural objects or stair cases or mirrors pointed at your bed. Don’t write under a stair case (maybe this is why Harry Potter didn’t become an author – LOL!) or under slanted, irregular walls. Even a straight road leading right to your front door can be an arrow. To disrupt the negative effects of arrows, place a wind chime or hanging plant or decoration in the way.

These are just a few fun tips to help bring positive energy into our writing lives. For vastly more information check out Feng Shui on the web, in bookstores, and libraries or consult your favorite Feng Shui master.

Have a prosperous, peace-filled, productive day : ) Heather

 

The Latest Comments

  • Heather McCollum: Hi Jenn! Yes, I had lots of broken hearts. I think I’m still bitter though : ) But I guess...
  • jbrayweber: Thankful weeds…hmm… Am I thankful to those who broke my heart. You fellas taught me more than...
  • Heather McCollum: Thanks, Elisa! Have you seen that show about tiny houses? People live in these 250 sq ft homes....
  • Elisa Beatty: I’m the resident gravy-maker in the extended family….and made it even when I was a...
  • Elisa Beatty: Such a fabulous, wise post, Heather! And, yes, I agree 100% that, much as we may worry sometimes, not...

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