I've learned some of the best things I know about not-writing from my writing friends.
There's writing and then there's the not-writing part of writing. No, not binge watching Pretty Little Liars, spending an hour on Tumblr, or doing the other umpteen things I do when I'm not wearing my writer's hat.
What I mean is the foundation-building that makes it so I can write.
Hang on...Let me backtrack just a little more.
Give me a piece of chalk, a cold hunk of charcoal, or a sharp nail against my skin and I can write. I prefer the keyboard, of course, but to create a compelling story, relate-able characters, and a relatively hole-free draft, there's a lot that goes on before I even click in the words Chapter One.
I've pantsed manuscripts and I've written 30+K outlines. I've named characters on the spot and fleshed out families and known their intimate habits from page one. But to get there, there's an amount of planning and collaboration with the humans in my life to obtain writing time, separate from the dog-needs-a-walk-time, make-dinner-time, and other responsibilities that populate my day. Sometimes this is as simple as jotting a note with the words Do Not Disturb on a sticky note and adhering it to my forehead, while other times I have to make special requests from the Universe for, like, five minutes. It can get very complicated.
But back to my main point. My writer friends have taught me much in the way of character motivation, avoiding the mid-story slump, and how to get in deep with the point of view. But perhaps one of the most useful and practical bits of wisdom came from my author friend, Cheyanne Young. And it was so simple it hardly took more than ten minutes to get together, which then saved me days, possibly weeks of lost time, disappointment, and incomplete chapters and drafts.
So what is it?
I started with a simple monthly calendar I printed out for free. Each day I made note of word count goals, blog posts, deadlines, etc. Having it all on one sheet, clearly in front of me saved my November and December months from slipping into the wasteland of lost time (not to mention holiday madness).
But then Cheyanne one-upped the simple sheet calendar.
She introduced me to the Passion Planner. I went from tap water to champagne in, like, sixty days and it is awesome.
Here's what it's all about in the words of entrepreneur and organization fairy, Angelia Trinidad:
"I wanted people to use this planner as a compass they could use to guide their daily decisions. It's simple. You ask yourself: is what I am going to do today going to get me closer to my goals? Yes? Do it. No? Don't do it."
I have a lot on my life-plate this year aside from the usual gluten-free, sugar-free, vegetarian fare. In fact, some might say I'm taking second helpings! All the prep for the blitz that is PEARL releasing on March 1, writing 3 sequels: TIDE, THE BIG THIS, and a super-secret NA shortie, (also we have a puppy, are planning a surf trip, and big, exciting things for my growing family in the fall). So like most people, it's important to me that I make the best use of time. Because, durn it, it's flying by mavericks.
So with the help of my #stayGOALden Passion Planner, my 2016 goals in the writing-realm are:
1. Stay focused. Eyes on the freedom prize: having time to do all the things I love with the people I love. No slacking off when it comes to writing, promoting, and reaching readers. I love this gig, so I can't imagine not putting my heart and mind together, but ya know, distractions happen. *Cough Downton Abbey, cough.* Not to say I can't enjoy little nips of fun, but protecting writing time and using it well is primo.
2. Efficiency. I sometimes find myself wandering down internet rabbit holes, doing irrelevant research because jeez, there's some interesting shtuff out there. I also bog myself down in second-guessing, rechecking, and over-thinking, which can seriously cut into me getting what I set out to by the end of the day or week or month. So sticking to mini-goals will help me better reach the bigger ones.
3. Patience. I've talked about patience a bit, and I think about it a lot. It's one of those things I have to continuously work on as a human. It isn't that I expect things now or have an instant gratification complex, but more that I believe that life is a matter of our personal agency and the results of our efforts combined with one of my favorite Paulo Coelho quotes:
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Meaning there's more at work than what we perceive. So my lesson is allowing things to unfold in their time without getting disheartened or giving up on dreams. I imagine the Passion Planner is going to help me keep perspective.
4. Simplicity. I tend to take on too much. I know this about myself and I know it's too much when I start to stress and lose all sense of focus, efficiency, and patience. So if my to do list gets too long, it's time to scale back, say no every now and then, and refine what it is that makes me feel the creative sizzle! Under this goal I include making sure to meet my body needs: food, water, sleep, etc. I'll refer to this post about writer health.
5. Sparkle! Yep, I want to sparkle, be surrounded by sparkle, and eat, drink, and breathe sparkle. I don't mean glitter, well, not really. I really love glittery things (and fluffy things in case you were wondering), but what I really mean is the shine that comes from within. I want to amp up the bright light a few notches this year and really see the radiance of my true heart in everything I do.
Hashtag life goals.
How do you keep yourself on track? Any tricks or tips I should know? Please share below!