Monthly Archives: December 2013

At Home with the New Year

Blank Mind Map

 

 

 

 

Snuggled beneath whitened sheet,
Within winter’s cold embrace,
Lies tomorrow’s lifetime,
Waiting for birth into today’s
Beginning overture

Isn’t that how it feels this morning? Thanksgiving and Christmas are past. A New Year beckons us to celebrate a new beginning by ignoring the cold reality of winter for the glitter of promised possibilities.

Taking stock

These last two weeks have been ones of re-evaluation for me—not so much about the projects I want or plan to do, but about methods, imperatives, and benefits.

We all go through this process, some more easily than others. Our culture has come to demand it of us, whether we like it or not. It’s goal-setting time. Our futures gleam and sparkle with dreams and schemes.

Writers, like everyone else, set goals. Editorial calendars are mulled over like fine spiced wine. Plans for new expansive projects that have percolated in the back of our brains for weeks or months find purchase on clean pages that echo snow-laden fallow fields. New endeavors wink at us as we pencil them into naked calendar squares.

But here’s a question for you. What criteria do we use to choose those lucky projects that simply can’t wait until another year to work on?

Deciding on Priorities

Any creative person has projects that require completion before another can begin. The type of project doesn’t change that need.

A choice is made, sometimes a quick one, about the importance of the project to the creator. If I’m thoroughly bored or frustrated with something, the likelihood of completion drops exponentially by length of projected time to completion. Usually, though not always, these involve physical crafts like crocheting or needlework.

Unfinished writing projects get priority over all new work; the short story I’ve expanded to a novella, the cookbook that requires formatting and submission, and the second in my “How-To Slay a Writer’s Dragon” series are all the first on my new year’s agenda. Sitting squarely behind those three is my women’s cozy novel.

These projects are definite priorities for the beginning of the New Year. I can hear the next question in your mind. What will you do when these works-in-progress are finished?

Adding Tidbits

I have too many designs floating around in my head to worry about getting bored with writing. I enjoy interviewing other writers, poets, and creative types, and I haven’t done any interviews for a few years. Lining up an interview for each month seems like a good way to liven my writing time.

Likewise, I’ve been neglecting my poetry for a few months and need to return to verse on a regular basis. A short poem or two once a week would be good for me to do and post on my websites.

I don’t have time to read as many books as I’d like, but I’ve chosen to put the pleasure of reading at least one book per month on my agenda and to write a review of that book.

Taking time for self

One of the things that’s been lacking in my daily schedules for months is pleasure. Now, pleasure comes in many forms, depending on who you are. Reading for the fun of it hasn’t been something I’ve done much this past year, but I’m making it a priority on my calendar for the coming one.

And since I’ve chosen that route, I can also do a review of whatever book I’ve read. I’m fairly eclectic in my choices, so don’t be surprised if I wonder from fiction to non-fiction, poetry to children’s literature, or something totally off the wall. I’m a wanderer of words, so all things are fair game for me.

I’ve also decided to dedicate a few hours a day to continued study of the writing craft and self-exploration. If knowledge of self improves the quality of the characters I write, so much the better. Benefits can come on many sides of an exercise.

There you have it—the overview of my coming year’s design. Goals still need to be fleshed out in specifics. I’ll work on those in the next several days. I wanted to design the package before I began filling it with goodies. Short projects, long projects, and fillers that bring enjoyment will have their spots on the calendar before long.

Your possible achievements

Have you decided what you want to achieve in the coming year? Have you chosen specifics or designed the framework that you’ll use to create the life you want for yourself? Please share what you have planned as your possible future achievements. Leave a comment below and tell us all of your dreams, plans, and expectations.

We all have them. Sharing allows others to help in bringing those dreams to fruition.

Have a terrific New Year celebration, everyone. Take special care of yourselves and come back to work refreshed and ready to make things happen. Stay safe. I’ll see you again on the other side of midnight.

 

At Home This Holiday’s Goals

Cave at Mycenae

Every December is a challenge around here. NaNoWriMo has just finished. Poem challenges are over until the next round in a few months. Work load either wanes or intensifies, according to how many deadlines have been set for the year’s end push. And anticipation of a few days of festivities and good cheer ensues.

This year’s push through the holidays

This year, December seems even more frantic for me than usual. Health scares for sister, my personal writing challenges and goals, and now shaky future plans have all taken a toll on the household.

Whether I like it or not, goals tend to shift without notice during life-event eruptions. Daily activity becomes a matter of adapting or suffering the consequences.

I know there are those who are reading this who understand exactly what I’m talking about. Questions fill the mind.  Will I get any of my projects finished this month? How many submission deadlines will I miss, and do I really care that I miss them? How long will it take for things to get back to normal? Will sister be able to recover, even after surgery?

All personal goal considerations aside, the biggest concern is sister’s health and how soon we can get her on her energetic and productive feet, with a brighter future ahead. That takes precedence over anything else.

Adjusting necessary attitudes

calendars-6888067The world won’t crumble if my projects are delayed. Many of them have been delayed for too long already. The sky won’t fall if new projects aren’t developed right now. After all, there is enough instructional material and new software on my hard drive to keep me occupied in study for months.

Substitutions for planned goals

A major culprit in my working dilemma is turning off the ‘Push’ button inside my head long enough to be satisfied with accomplishing small pieces of work each day. A blog post that’s well thought out or pertinent. Reading others’ work and commenting on it for an hour. Reading a book on the Kindle, fifteen minutes at a time, while waiting in an office or for dinner to finish cooking. Crocheting a pair of mittens with fold-back finger covers for sister, while chatting with her about what’s going on in our lives.

This past few weeks has shown me that small advances can be as satisfying as huge leaps, with the proper attitude applied. Even though a yearning to finish my novella before the end of the month digs a hole in my resolve to back off and cruise for the month, I must admit that the resolve is necessary.

hammock-on-stormy-beachSometimes we just have to slow life down. We need to take time to appreciate where we are, what we can do at present, and how much we can do in the moment.

The silver lining to our situation of medical necessity is that while watching as sister comes to grips with her changing lifestyle requirements, I’m also forced to follow my own medical instructions that I’ve ignored for too long. To make her life easier, my own must synchronize with hers. Stress and a hectic schedule must get reduced.

I doubt the impact of my workload reduction will be felt outside of this household. I’ll do as much as possible on days with plenty of available time and wing it on those days when chaos reigns. My new goal is to simplify my life, my possessions, and my intentions. Other creative outlets can occupy short snatches of time each day. More poetry seems probable.

Simplifying my days and workload will help reduce my own stress levels and keep attitudes more positive. This plus represents a silver lining I can work toward with joy.

In the meantime, sister and I both anticipate a quiet, though laughter-filled, holiday with new friends. My hope is that everyone out there can enjoy such a blessed celebration of the season, regardless of what spiritual form it takes. Stay safe and warm, all.

I’ll be back in a few days with something  related to writing. Please leave your comments anytime. I like hearing from you and learning how your writing experience is going.

At Home with Yourself and What You Write

Hands on Computer

A few days ago, I posted a piece on my blog at 2voices1song.com/ about patience and how difficult it was for me at times. What I had to say probably wasn’t earth-shattering for anyone, but it brought a few issues to the surface for me and this career that I choose to pursue.

Most writers I know, regardless of genre or experience, contend with similar issues. The learning curve is too great some days. The field is shifting too fast. I can’t keep up with what I want to do; much less what the industry expects me to do.

Raise your hand if you’ve used this mirror.

Winding through each of these areas of concern is a single thread—patience. Most importantly, patience with ourselves. We tend to treat ourselves with less regard than we do others.

The how-to of applying patience to you is manageable.

Whether you’re a teen or octogenarian, you know how your mind operates. You understand the method of learning that works best for you. You also recognize where you have stumbling blocks. Take all of that self-awareness and create an educational package just for you.

I’m not talking formal education degree here. I’m referring to an individual, doable learning experience that you can carry with you anywhere.

  • Decide if you need more complete instruction in grammar or other writing skills—there are plenty of free courses online or inexpensive formal classes at community colleges everywhere. Check out short writing courses taught by working writers. There are many excellent ones to choose from, especially among specific genres.
  • Determine how best you learn new material—here’s a Learning Style downloadable PDF to help you. Some of us use multiple styles, according to type of material.
  • Do you have a problem getting comfortable with new or specialized computer software? Tutorials for most software are available online—even on YouTube for programs like Scrivener and other writer software. Remember—Google is your friend.
  • Are you unsure how to proceed once you’re at a certain stage of your writer development? Join a writer’s forum. If it’s a good one, recommended by other writers, you’ll learn many useful tips, tricks, etc. You can ask your questions and get options from those who’ve been there already.
  • Most of all, take to heart this one reality and repeat as affirmations each day. I am one human being. I can accomplish several things in one day. I can work on my writing each day by learning new ideas and skills. I can learn what I want to learn. All learning takes time and practice. Perfection is not my goal. I learn from each mistake and each struggle. To compare myself to other writers is futile. We each have our learning curves.

Struggling with what should be.

How often do you think something like, “It shouldn’t be this hard to figure out ‘X’”? Or, “I know I’m bright. I should get this in no time.” If you return to this thought pattern, ask yourself one question. Who said you “should” understand or master this in an instant?

I have little patience with my own stumbling efforts to learn as fast as I think I “should.” Beware the tyranny of the “should,” as it’s known in Psychology circles. The “should” is my primary nemesis. Some days are worse than others for me.

Why? Because I tend to pile on far too many projects at a time to work on, complete, and get out into the world. It’s the completing phase that takes the longest time and it’s the most frustrating for the perfectionist in me. Patience with myself flies out the window on wings that could carry the mighty albatross.

I’m getting better in the patience department. I’ve dubbed it part of the learning curve of writing. I’ve accepted the fact that no one is perfect at all activities. I don’t have to expect perfection as the final product. Also, I don’t have to make excuses for not being perfect.

Mistakes photoMistakes are learning tools that I carry in my memory. Each mistake not only teaches me something critical, but also gives me the opportunity for greater advances than I would have made without it. They have become friends in a larger sense.

Give yourself a break today. Relax. That really is something we “should” all do on a regular basis.

“Inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened.” Terry Pratchett

This quote applies to writers as professionals, too. Inside every old writer is a beginner who wonders how she learned to write as well as she does with so many constantly shifting tools.

Be sure to tell me your own struggles with patience, if you have any.

At Home in the Cold with a Full Timeline

Snow Trees

Blasts of frigid air out of the Yukon have sunk many of us into arctic conditions. Here in Northeast Montana we’ve taken to wearing three to four layers of clothes when we venture outside. Inside, we have our thermostat set on 65° and we still use afghans and lap robes to keep warm.

We’re not alone, though. Much of the country is facing the same conditions and many aren’t prepared for it. We do have that advantage up here in the Rockies. We’re also used to anticipating such needs months in advance.

Weather and writing?

Some may be wondering what this weather report has to do with writing. It’s this. If you experienced an avalanche of work in the past, you’ve learned how to prepare for another such event. If you understand how other chores, life situations, or projects must shift to accommodate the onslaught of new work, you can make room more easily and survive.

Last month I had several projects on my ‘To Finish List’ for NaNo. I got a few completed and out. I succeeded in that. That left a few projects awaiting further work this month, plus obligatory articles already scheduled for the month. In the middle of that list, add a story for a publication invitation and the Christmas holidays. Enter the avalanche, full-blown.

Handling the To-Be-Done

Can I get everything done before the end of the month? That remains to be seen. The blessing is that I’ve been here before and I can anticipate steps to secure the best outcome for me.

  • If an item has no deadline, give it one based on priority
  • Put all projects on a timeline for scheduling, ranked by deadline dates
  • Be sure to add time for domestic appointment(s) and tasks for holidays and double up where possible
  • Allow for minimal social media participation throughout the month
  • Complete each project quickly and efficiently and send it out before moving on
  • If a project can’t/won’t come together in a timely manner, skip it for later and go to the next in line.
  • Don’t skip more than one project this month

Looks daunting, doesn’t it? It is, but if I don’t prepare this way, I’ll lose too much ground in completing what’s on my desk. My January 2014 Editorial Calendar is set, except for last minute entries like guest posts.

My planning acts as a series of snow fences to break the waves of work into doable chunks. In the next two weeks I’ll be able to get several things done and out. One of the remaining larger pieces—my short story-turned-novella will be ready for final edit by the end of the month. That first week of January is slated for clean-up duties on my calendar.

A quick look at reality vs. planning

I take risks and persevere. I have three articles and two short stories which will definitely go out long before Christmas. A third short story will go out Christmas week and my second How-To Slay a Writer’s Dragon book will be ready for Kindle by the last week of the month. It’s almost ready for final edit and formatting now. I’ll have to see if I can pull off the cookbook that same week. I’m not sure about that one, I admit.

You see, I know what needs done, when it needs to be done, and have a good handle on how much I can complete.  That’s three-quarters of the game right there. And make no mistake—this is all a great board game with rules, playing pieces, and motivated players.

The unshakable rule not be forgotten on this kind of schedule is simple. Butt remains in chair at all times unless scheduled otherwise. Fingers keep flying across keyboard until a project is complete. And attitude must be one of confidence and perseverance.

NOTE: Okay, so butt will move for the unexpected calls of nature, but otherwise, it will go to sleep before rising from the chair seat.

Have a good week, everyone, with your own holiday avalanches. Build those snow fences high and strong. You can do it. I know you can.

 

At Home with Finishing NaNoWriMo

2013-Participant-Square-Button

Five days have elapsed since NaNoWriMo ended. Writers have tallied their word counts and taken away various prizes. For the rebels of NaNo, results, too, are varied.

Poetic Asides November Poetry Chapbook Challenge languished (I’m sure) without my participation. The PiBoIdMo (National Picture Book Idea Month) challenge was another challenge left at the gate by me this year. Several others held contention but no serious interest for me.

Instead, I had five projects to be considered for work during the month. Of those five, I chose three to finish for submission by December first.

Along the way, smaller projects appeared on my horizon—projects that would take little to finish and submit to an editor of an already selected venue. One of these was a piece of flash fiction and the other was a long poem. These were revised and edited to satisfaction and submitted. Chalk one project off the list.

I hoped to get my selected short story expanded to novella length, but didn’t quite make it. I’d been putting the story and its changes through my critique group, and that always lengthens the process. It makes for better copy at the end, though, leaving me with no complaints. It will go out this month, for sure.

My cookbook continues to languish for lack of attention. If I’m very lucky, I can get it out before Christmas. I’m thinking holiday stocking stuffers. The second book in my series of How-To Slay a Writer’s Dragon books still sits on the hard drive, waiting for a full edit and formatting. Another December project to get out this year.

I did manage to get an article accepted by a wonderful writer’s website, Bestseller Labs, and its owner Jonathan Gunson. That was a coup in my book. I like coups.

Wordsmith Studio will have an article from me on Monday, Dec. 11. I have a regular gig on the third of the month for the next year to do a piece on publishing trends. Of course, I got the gig in October, but it was re-enforced by this last article out.

I have all of the research done and sorted for two short articles on eco-oriented subjects for Ether Books this month, as well.

Looking back, I feel accomplishment for the month. Did I succeed? Did I win? In my mind I did.

I took an entire week off from writing to do platform reconfiguration and to up my career game. Life created a tsunami that tried to wash everything away on the heels of that week. Yet, through it all, there was accomplishment and growth.

For me, that’s success for the month of November, challenges and all. I won more than anticipated. Wonderful writers shared war stories during local write-ins. Email addresses were exchanged and plans made for regular semi-monthly write-ins to continue throughout the next year.

At the end of NaNoWriMo, a new sense of purpose and the future had slipped into place and put down roots. More guest post requests are showing up in my inbox. New solutions for completing other projects have made themselves known.

A deep sigh of contentment replaces anticipated panic and uncertainty. I hope everyone who participated in this national craziness had as good an experience as I did this year.

 

Advice from a Lamb for Writers Everywhere

Kristin Lamb pic

This morning I read a terrific blog post from one of my favorite writing pros, Kristen Lamb. You’ve probably seen her around on Facebook and Twitter. My advice is to hop over to her blog site and sign up for great tips and a winning perspective for an example.

Her post today had to do with how to grow your brand, but the advice came in a slightly different form than you might expect. She took the corporate lens to the issue, using stellar comparisons to make her points. How is being a writer comparable to being a Sears or a Macy’s?

Kristen’s take–Macy’s hasn’t lost its focus yet. Sears did and muddied their commercial sales waters until consumers didn’t recognize them anymore and left for more distinct fare.

Please do yourself a favor today and take a look at her post. Read it, savor it, allow your mind to digest all of its nuances. I don’t think you’ll be sorry for the few moments of diversion. Instead, you may find a way to up sales, save money, and find readers you never thought existed.

You can find her blog with its post about finding your marketing path at http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/what-makes-you-so-special-the-magic-to-selling-books/#comment-86762/

Enjoy your visit.

Today’s Post on Claudsy’s Blog

For those who don’t know, I have a collaborative website, 2voices1song.com/. On that site, I have Claudsy’s Blog and Calliope, among other things.

Today, I posted a piece on Claudsy’s Blog about reflections and mirrors and how they operate in my world.

I invite everyone to pop over to investigate. Take a chance to see the other side of my world, the more philosophical side of this writer’s take on reality.

It never hurts to have a more complete picture, now does it?