goals

August in Review

Lynette M Burrows, image of sunflower, goodbye august

August wasn’t like any other August I’ve experienced. We’ve had mild and wet weather in Kansas. There was the spectacular solar eclipse, a visiting writer, a wet basement—twice, and a family crisis. Goals were met and goals were . . . not met.

Writing Goals

  1. Get at least half-way through Act 3. NOT MET *Sigh* I wrote 3 of 5 chapters. I fixed a big timeline issue which took a ridiculous amount of time.
  2. Write 4 new blog posts. MET
  3. Send out reader questionnaires for a new blog series I’d like to do. MET though I would love to get more completed questionnaires.

House Goals

  1. Finish the exercise room. NOT MET
  2. Get estimates for repairs to the house. MET
  3. Finish the bathroom project. NOT MET

Day Job

  1. Keep the number of times I must use a day off to complete those hours to just two days. MET

Other Goals

  1. Research, Learning, Reading – ONGOING
  2. Continue researching book promotion. MET
  3. Continue listening to podcasts when I’m able. MET
  4. Choose a new fiction book and begin reading. READING
  5. View the solar eclipse, Monday, August 21. AWESOME EXPERIENCE – MET
  6. Attend the Seven Deadly First-Page Sins by Tex Thompson on August 21. ENTERTAINING AND EDUCATIONAL—MET

Unexpected Events

Basement flooded—Twice! Once at the beginning of the month and once near the end of the month. No serious damage but it required an unplanned expenditure of time to clean up. My wet basement was nothing compared those who will be cleaning and rebuilding after Harvey. My heart goes out to them!

A seriously illness (family member), who was hospitalized for a week. I had very little sleep during that week which meant those were completely unproductive days.

Things I Learned

A line or two expressing what your character expects for his/her future can be all the ‘before’ you need in your story beginning.

Study folklore — it’s how we express our fears.

For an emotionally powerful scene, include one small contrasting detail.

Watching an eclipse is AWESOME!

From Tex Thompson: “Find the easiest, laziest, most obvious choice you could make – and then do something else.”

From Dean Wesley Smith: “The only Failure in writing is not writing.” And “All Writing is practice.”

From Science Friday: Tatoos can damage sweat glands. People with full body tatoos can have difficulty dealing with heat.

Where you were born dictates how many sweat glands you have though living in AC can subvert this.

From Writing Excuses Podcast: A short story should focus on one idea. Strip all but dialog then add only what is necessary. Be as specific as possible. To make it work you must have targeted stakes for the character. Consider, what are the consequences of failure?

From Writing Excuses Podcast: For inspiration in creating titles look through the online Shakespeare database. And “Monsters are best when they subvert the status quo and remind us we’re not at the top of the food chain.”

From Writers Helping Writers Podcast: Mentor characters are a touchstone for the thematic truth. The interaction between the mentor and protagonist shouldn’t be easy. Mentor characters should be flawed, unique. The mentor shouldn’t ‘save’ the character except with severe consequences.

“Failure isn’t Forever!” Angela Lee Duckworth Thank you, Angela! 

Final thoughts for August

August was a challenging month in all the areas that interrupt or stop my writing. I have also changed where I sit to write. This change has affected my ability to focus and get things done. It is not something I can change back anytime soon, so I will continue to work on finding ways to focus.

I don’t remember which blogger said that she tracks the things she learns each week. I thought I’d try it for a month. I love it!  Reviewing all of the tidbits of new information at the end of the month is invigorating and reinforces the learning.

I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to in August, but September is a new month and a new slate.

September Goals

Writing

Write 4 Chapters minimum.

Write 4 new blog posts, post reader questionnaire results on Fridays.

House

Finish bathroom project.

Get gutters replaced. (The source of my wet basement problem.)

Day Job

I will have to be flexible this month.

Other Goals

Continue to listen and learn via podcasts.

Dedicate at least 2 hours per week for reading.

Finish revising website.

Going Forward

I hope the month of September will have fewer challenges for us all!

Thanks for reading!

I am ever so grateful you’ve taken the time to read my scribbles. If you’ve taken the time to comment, I’m delighted and honored.

image courtesy of PicturesCafe.

July in Review

American flag, blog post by Lynette M BurrowsWow, another month is gone. I’ve been working hard at trying to increase my productivity in writing and ALL THE THINGS that must be done. So, for the first time, I’m sharing my progress, or lack thereof, with you.

WRITING

July was not my best nor my worst month. I managed more than 4,800 words on my work-in-progress. The best news is that I finished the second act and have started the third and final act of this book. This revision has been extraordinarily long and painful for a whole bunch of reasons, but I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A shiny new idea, rather variation on an old idea, came to me and I did a little research that may turn into a series about aliens and Greek mythology and the challenges of being a hero.

I wrote nearly 2,000 words of blog posts but I missed one day.

I finished a deep, structure critique for a friend. And my journals are nearly 2,000 words fatter.

HOUSE

There was one huge storm that meant I spent a fair amount of time cleaning up afterwards. This also meant I didn’t get the exercise room finished nor cleaned up enough to actually use. And I didn’t get the bathroom project done. So many half-done projects going on!

House cleaning is about at the bottom of my list of priorities, so there are tons of things to do that I’m moving to August’s list where they will also likely not get done.

The bad news is that I discovered a woodpecker has done a lot of damage to a portion of our house. It has to be repaired soon.

THE DAY JOB

Caregiver stuff interfered less than it has in the recent past, so I worked the appropriate number of hours. But three of four weeks I ended up having to do some makeup time on a day off. That accounts for some of the dip in the writing word count.

RESEARCH, READING, LEARNING

I finished a book called The Unfit: A History of a Bad Idea by Elof Axel Carlson about eugenics in America. Very interesting. You’ll see a blog post on that someday.

I listened to LeVar Burton Reads. In this podcast LeVar reads short science fiction or fantasy stories. He is fun to listen to and his story selection is excellent. I recommend it.

I listened to the Writing Excuses, Story Grid, and Creative Penn podcasts. Each of them offered interesting details that I can use in various projects. One of the tidbits I found helpful was from the Creative Penn Podcast with Dean Wesley Smith. Dean said, “The only failure in writing is not writing.” Something to remember as I struggle forward.

My fiction reading ground to a halt. The book I attempted to read just didn’t hold my interest. I’ll try something else this month.

GOALS for AUGUST

To Do List Chalkboard, post by Lynette M Burrows

Yes, I know this is the seventh day of August, but it’s the first Monday in August.

WRITING

  1. Get at least half-way through Act 3.
  2. Write 4 new blog posts.
  3. Send out reader questionaires for a new blog series I’d like to do.

HOUSE

  1. Finish the exercise room.
  2. Get estimates for repairs to the house.
  3. Finish the bathroom project.

DAY JOB

 

There will be more challenges to getting the hours in. I will attempt to keep the number of times I must use a day off to complete those hours to just two this month.

RESEARCH, LEARNING, READING

  1. Continue researching book promotion.
  2. Continue listening to podcasts when I’m able.
  3. Choose a new fiction book and begin reading.
  4. Take time to view the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21.
  5. Attend the Seven Deadly First-Page Sins presentation by Tex Thompson on August 21.

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Blogging all this feels a bit weird to me, but there it is. If it helps me increase my productivity, fantastic. I’ll try it for this quarter and see what happens.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Or, share one of your accomplishments or goals. I love hearing from you!

image credits: American Flag by Mike Mozart on flickr CC and To Do List Chalkboard by Mufidah Kassalias on flickr CC

 

Consistently Inconsistent OR Striving for Consistency

Success Golden Key - Public Domain image courtesy Animated Heaven on Flickr

I am nothing if not consistently inconsistent. At least, that was my excuse. I used it all the time.  The ‘I have a family and a job’ excuse was helpful. So was the excuse, ‘I’m a slow writer.’ After I used those excuses, I beat myself up. I was a failure for not being consistent, for not making my writing goals. I went through this a circular reasoning day after day after year. Until I decided to change.

I’ve tried to change many, many times. And I’ve failed many, many times. This time I was determined to make it work. So I did some research—of course! The internet is full of well-meaning but useless advice.  I turned to some trusted experts: Marie Forleo, James Clear, Stephan James, Dean Anderson, and Henrik Edberg. From their insights, I’ve compiled a list of things essential for developing consistency.

Know Your Why

—Marie Forleo

Marie Forleo lists this as her number one key to being consistent. Being consistent over the long haul is hard work. She encourages you to have a clear compelling vision for what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Knowing what and why makes it easier to stay focused on your goals.

Being Consistent

Isn’t The Same Thing As

Being Perfect.

—James Clear

Oh, boy howdy, did this one resonate with me! Some say I am obsessed with perfect. If you, too, are obsessed with perfect, it’s time to change your mindset.

No one is 100% consistent. Life happens. Surprise and change interrupt every intention. I used to think I must function at 100% or I’m not successful. So when something knocked me off course, I was a failure. I’d curl up in a metaphorical, if not physical, ball and quit trying because I was a failure. How did I overcome this?

Aim for mostly consistent. Choose an achievable percentage that means winning to you—80%, 85%, 90%, 95%. There will be days or weeks when you are 99% consistent, but there will also be times when you’re 80%, or less. Keep your eye on the average.

Don’t Hurt Yourself

—Henrik Edberg

How many times have you thought that you aren’t motivated enough to do this thing? Stop listening to that! Telling yourself you’re not motivated is giving away your power of choice. Lack of motivation is a way to say you had no choice. It is a choice, you know. But you have to choose to work on your goal every day.

So, when you have a “I don’t wanna—“ day, don’t listen. Train your brain to ignore that voice. Get up and do it anyway. Pay attention to how you feel at the end of the day. And those days when you choose not to be consistent, to do the thing. Pay attention to how you feel on those days, too. Learn from that.

Focus on the process. Love the process. Acknowledge the process is work, but don’t associate the work with negative thoughts. Negative thoughts will beget negative progress. After all, if you do something that causes you pain, why would you choose to keep doing it? I don’t know how many times I have heard a writer say, “I hate to write” or “I can’t write when X happens.” Change your mindset. Associate the process with positive feelings and you’ll want to repeat the process.

Have a Plan

Without a plan, you won’t succeed. Steven Covey said, “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but schedule your priorities.” How you schedule is up to you. I have an allergy to rigid schedules, so I don’t schedule by hour. I schedule by day of the week.

Dean Anderson recommends building momentum slowly. For example, if you want to exercise more, plan for a ten minute session once a week. Do that for a while (at least three weeks), then increase it to two days a week. After you’ve worked that into your schedule, increase it to include another day or more time each day. The key is to move forward step-by-step.

Many experts recommend that you take 5-10 minutes each evening and make a plan for the next day. It’s a flexible way to schedule your priorities. I know that my days are much more successful when I choose to take that evening time and plan for the next day.

If you have trouble scheduling your priorities, ask yourself Edberg’s three questions. What is the most important thing I can do right now? Is doing this bringing me closer to my goal? Am I keeping things extremely simple right now?

HAVE A PLAN B

When Something Goes Wrong in Your Life Just Yell "Plot Twist1" and Move On by zerotalking.com

Plan B is for those days when life surprises you. This has been my downfall over and over. People who are not consistent usually fail to have a Plan B. Plan B would have saved me angst during our power outage last week. Yup, this is a habit I’ve not had as successful with, but I’m working on it. (Confession: My first thought was that I failed at this habit. I’m working at changing my mindset!)

Life is a work-in-progress. So is being consistent.

Tell me, about yourself. Do you struggle with consistency? What steps do you take to be consistent?

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this blog. And thanks, in advance, for sharing your thoughts.

Credits: When something goes wrong quote and image courtesy of zerotalking.com (TinEye attributes first use of this on August 6,2013 to shadowfax42.soup.io however, I found this on dated July3, 2013 on zerotalking.)

Public Domain image “Success Golden Key “by Animated Heaven courtesy Flickr