Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Step 6: The Goals: The Long and Short of It

If you've been watching yourself to avoid negative thinking, bolstering yourself with some affirmations, and have figured out what things you can and can't control, you should definitely be ready to think about your creative or writing goals. :-)

Let's start with this: If your writing goal is to become rich or famous you need to re-examine some things.

I won't tell you that you can't be both as an author, or that you can't at least be one of the two (amazing things happen all the time and maybe you're the one it'll happen to). BUT. If the only reason you want to write is to be rich and/or famous, just stop. It's like someone naively saying they want to be a teacher because they get summers off. *twitch* Not only is it the absolutely wrong motivation, it also shows an utter lack of understanding of the value of the task.

So let's cross rich and famous off our list of goals, okay?

Let's also cross off anything remotely related to competing with another writer, friend or family member. You shouldn't live your life constantly comparing yourself to others--it'll make you bitter, self-destructive, will break your heart and ruin your friendships. I've seen it happen.

If you're driven by competition, that's cool. COMPETE WITH YOURSELF. Just like professional and Olympic athletes. They are trained to work to achieve a personal best every time and/or learn how to improve each time they compete. Those are both healthy attitudes.

Now. Let's think about intrinsic motivation. What about writing makes you feel good? Me? I like knowing I can create worlds and characters and watch them grow and change. It's my itsy-bitsy god complex. ;-) I also like the feel of completing a story--knowing I bring things to an emotional resolution and a justifiable point in the action and in characters' evolution.

How about you? Why do you really enjoy writing? Let me remind you that if you don't enjoy doing something I believe strongly you should stop doing it if it won't adversely impact your future.

Once you know distinctly WHY you enjoy writing, you should be able to better identify your goals.

One of my general goals could be: to create and complete a story with believable and engaging characters who evolve and change based on their circumstances and actions.

To make that goal better I need to make it more specific. Perhaps I could use my WiP like this:

I will complete a 70,000 word rough draft of book 1 of CREATIVE LICENSE by [date--be reasonable here, you'll always feel better completing it ahead of time than not in time], making sure my characters are believable, generally likable and engaging and that they evolve and grow based on their circumstances, actions and logical cause and effect.

That goal (which I'd consider a long-term goal because it will take more than a week or two--probably a month or two) will make me definitely feel a sense of accomplishment when I'm done with it. Have I tied money directly to it, saying "I will sell blah-blah-blah by blah-blah-blah and make blah-blah-blah dollars off of it?"

NO.

Why not? A.) That's not tied to my intrinsic motivation. B.) A lot of that (the date I'd sell it by and the money I'd earn) are things that are outside my "circle of influence." [If you don't know what that means, please pick up a copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.] In short, there are things we have direct control over and things we don't. Keep your limitations in mind as you set your goals.

If completing CREATIVE LICENSE is my longterm goal (which it is--one of several), I need to also consider the short term goals that will lead me there. Short term goals can be monthly, weekly or daily, depending on your needs.

Think of your longterm goal as a fabulous meal with all the foodgroups represented. To fill your plate appropriately you must first make sure you have all the dishes prepared to be plated, right? So what components do you need to prepare--and in what order?

Me? I need to hit a certain wordcount daily. Considering how I trim and edit, 2-3K a day is necessary if I'm to finish in a month and a half (I already have a start on this WiP thanks to NaNoWriMo, btw). I also need to include a goal related to my internal editor (she's a pesky wench who needs to keep her mouth shut as a story evolves--she'll get turned loose on it soon enough). I'll also include a few goals about the story itself (to keep me focused) and things about the characters. I'll also include a short term goal about editing and revising. All these things lead up to my longterm goal of the book's completion.

So think about one longterm writing goal you want to hit this year. Remember the things you control and the things you don't. Remember what makes you want to write in the first place.

Now write that goal!

Think about the steps you need to take between right here and right now to get to the longterm goal successfully. Write them out and order them appropriately.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Step 5: Circles Within Circles--Your Influence

I must apologize for my absence. I finished my book 2 revisions for 13 to Life, am working through book 3 and have a short story prequel due (plus other stuff). But let's get refocused, shall we? ;-)

Part of what tends to make us frustrated is forgetting that some things are simply beyond our control. We can influence many things in life, but not all. Realizing where that boundary is will help you set achievable goals (and stay happier, too).

This does NOT mean accepting or embracing a phrase/philosophy like "It is what it is." NO. Many, many things in life are exactly what we make them or allow them to be and we attract things to us by being either proactive or reactive.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey mentions our circle of influence versus our circle of concern. We may be concerned about getting a publishing contract but we have to consider (and focus on) the things we CAN do to get closer to achieving the goal of publication. These are the things we have direct influence on--generally because they relate to our perception of our world, the way we process that perception and the habits we hold to as a result.

Below you'll see a modified circle of influence. The center shows the things I influence in my writing life (there are a few more, but those are good ones for this example). Any hey, they're things you control in your writing life, too.

The outer circle or "The World" shows things we really have no control over. Different economies and emerging target audiences desire different books (and different numbers of books). Different agents, editors and publishing house have different response times and different pay scales. Heck, the postal service even has control we writers don't--believe me, I know!

So we have a choice. Waste our time and energy on things we can't influence or control, or focus on the things we can. These are differences between proactive and reactive personalities, in case you didn't know (but I expect you did). It's very important when you're setting your long and short term goals to be realistic about the things you do control and the things you don't.

Think about it for a minute...

Can you control the date a story or book sells by? No. That's based on market projections, trends, the publishing houses and the economy. NOT your circle of influence.

Can you control how much money you make from a book or the rights you retain? Only to an extent. You may have expectations of what you'd like to see or get from a contract, and if the offer's not made that reaches your expectations you can certainly walk out on the deal (that's within your circle of influence--your control). But will you have met your monetary aspirations (or goal of being published--although there are many paths to publication nowadays) by walking out on it without a better deal in place? Probably not at that point. See?

So think about the things in your writing and creative life you can control and the things you really can't. You'll need to be able to identify the difference between them before setting your goals.

Wednesday--Goals: The Long and The Short of It

See ya then!
~Shannon

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Step 4: New Year, New You: Basic Write-Thinking

Okay, so we've identified our negative thoughts, recognized what they are and when they tend to be triggered and we've exorcised them. We're approaching each day with a more positive and proactive attitude.

This doesn't mean we're perfect--we may still slip from time to time--and that's okay. The point is we're getting better. Life's a journey and we're learning to walk our path this year. 2010's our year.

So today we're going to add a very simple concept into our personal arsenal--the dreaded self-affirmation! ;-) Why dreaded? Self-affirmations have gotten a bad rep because people who don't understand how they work and fit point out you can't change the world just by repeating a personal mantra. And (to an extent) they're right.

What?!

Although I believe the mind is capable of absolutely amazing feats, I also believe that what you put into something reflects back to you. If you just accept this "New Year, New You" as theory and think more positively, that's great. Things will improve in your life (and you'll be more capable of finding the good). But if you apply the theory your life will be even better! Self-affirmations work the same way: if you just think good things, that's great, but if you put action behind it it's far more powerful!


So, from here on out I want you to do the following four things:

  1. If you have a negative thought, spin it around quickly so it's positive and repeat the positive thought in your head three times
  2. Set a basic writing goal like: This year I will create deeper, more realistic characters.
  3. Use that writing goal as an affirmation. Every day at breakfast, lunch, dinner and before bed (as example) repeat your affirmation twice.
  4. Take steps to make your affirmation true--do the work! Read a book about character development and practice what it preaches or take a suitable workshop or make a point of identifying powerful characters in stories you read and make notes about why they rock.
You can create as many self-affirmations as you like, but I suggest keeping it to less than five to start and repeating them frequently.

Later this week we're going to examine our desires--WHY we want to write and start setting appropriate goals. You can do this. This year is your year (and mine, but I'm cool with sharing ;-).

Take care!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Step 3: New Year, New You: Exorcising Negativity so You Think Write ;-)


By this point you should have kept track of all your negative thoughts in your little notebook for at least three days.

If you're coming up empty either you're a saint or a liar. Try REALLY listening to yourself. It can be hard at first--we're often emotionally disengaged. But you can't be emotionally disengaged if you want to write well.

This part of our activity will be longer because it's a part A and part B deal. So hang in there.

PART A:

Take your notebook and look at it with a critical eye.

Most people are stunned after they've completed this part of the exercise. We think negative thoughts without realizing it. But it's a growing poison that infects every bit of our thinking and feeds our voice of self-doubt.

Are there certain things or people you are most negative about? If so, you'll want to think about ways to fix that. Is there a time of day you're most negative? Why? What does that time relate to? Consider how to make that time of the day better and smoother--something you look forward to more.

Think about it--can you really find the value in yourself if you're so often devaluing others? It's like the concept of how you can't truly love someone else if you don't first love yourself.

You're going to need to squash your self-doubt to succeed this year with writing, so start really thinking about what you're thinking and why.

In 2010: Be proactive. Be kind. Be understanding.

Now, write down some ways you can address the things that encourage you to think negatively so you can overcome them.

Like, maybe getting everyone out the door to school and work makes you angry and you spew negativity. Make a short goal of how to get things organized before that final push so it's not so stressful. If one stress stems from scrambling to get bookbags together in the morning, you could write a goal like:

Bookbags will be packed, checked and ready immediately after homework and will sit beneath the coat rack. Then you can breathe a little more easily about that issue.

So write some brief and proactive goals to help alleviate the stress that attracts negativity in your life.

PART B:

Now, take those pages you filled with negativity earlier and destroy them. If you can do it safely, burn them, imagining all your negative thoughts going away with the smoke. If you can't burn them, compost them, thinking as you add the shreds to the pile that you will get many positive things to blossom in 2010 by getting rid of the negative.

I promise you, the more positive your thinking, the better your writing and the more opportunities you'll find opening up in your life overall.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Step 2: New Year, New You: Start Thinking Write

In 2010 we're going to be doing what I like to call "write-thinking."

Write-thinking is important because:

  1. it muzzles your voice of self-doubt
  2. it allows you to write from the gut (or heart)
  3. it will tremendously increase your productivity

But how do we think write? ;-) Here's an activity I want you to try for the next three days.

Take a little notebook around with you (everywhere). It needs to be a cheap one you don't mind parting with later (or one you at least don't mind pulling pages from at the end of this activity). Every time you have a negative thought you need to write it down along with the day and time. It doesn't matter how petty the negativity seems to be, or who it is directed at, make a note of it. Do this for 3 entire days (or an entire week).

After you've done this part of the activity, come back for the next part.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Step 1: New Year, New You: A Definition of Write-Thinking


Some authors do their best write-thinking practice when they're racing through a rough draft, sometimes during NaNoWriMo or JulNoWriMo or GothNoWriMo or the Fast-Draft experience with author Candace Havens.

What's different about their thinking during those activities compared to everyday life?

They've shut down their internal editor.


We each have an internal editor (whether we want one or not). It's that niggling voice of doubt that sounds amazingly like the third grade bully or your tactless aunt or even, most crushingly, sounds just like your regular thoughts. But it's very important to realize what is you and what is the destructive internal editor.

Once you disengage that voice and just go with your gut you can get tremendous things done. I wrote two rough drafts in 2009 without my internal editor and they're strong (not perfect) but better and produced faster than if I had let my internal editor worry them to death from the beginning.

So, the first thing we're going to do together is correct the way we think. 2010 is the year to cut out your crippling self-doubt and muzzle the internal editor until we actually need her help. For editing.

2010 is the year to engage in write-thinking!