I mentioned a few weeks ago that I have started translating my weekly goals onto a daily goal list. I’m still doing it, and it is working brilliantly. The funny thing is that I’m actually adding more goals as the week goes on, so I’m getting even more done.
To meet my targets, I’ve had to force myself stop watching TV on work nights. This seems to have cured me of an unknown addiction. Now I can survive without knowing who gets voted off of Survivor. I’ve also realised that it doesn’t matter if I watch all my TV in one binge session on a Friday night (I loved ABC’s War On Waste).
Most importantly I’ve discovered that I feel a lot better about going to work when I have knocked out 2,000 words, or edited a couple of chapters the night before. All this time it’s been within my power to give myself what I’ve always wanted; to write.
There are so many ways we can use time, but some take more courage, more willpower and more determination than others. But when you make those choices it can be so much more rewarding. I know I’m only three weeks in, but my general happiness and contentedness is so much higher than it has been in a long time. And my word counts are still nearly as high as when I had my 4 months off last year.
Another benefit I have noticed is that I seem to be living more in the ‘now’. I enjoy the sunrise when I walk to the bus before work. I appreciate the songs of the magpies as they welcome me home (or more accurately the leftover cat food they know I’m about to throw out). I realise that I can take moments of time for myself at any time. Even while I’m waiting for SharePoint to apply my metadata (which seems to take so much longer now it is in the cloud) I can look out the window at the park and be in my own little world for a few seconds. Time really is what we make of it.
I know that one of the key things I need to learn in life is patience. I’m not good at being patient. I’m better than I was in the past, but I’m still a lot more impatient that I would like to be. Where I am both best and worst is with my writing.
When it comes to actually writing a novel, I no longer look at the long slog ahead with dread. I know that it is within my power to get it done and with a bit of patience I’ll get there. If anything my impatience works in my favour here because I want to get it finished fast.
Where I am falling down is waiting for responses. I’ve sent out 4 stories this year and haven’t heard back from any of them. For some I’ll have to guess this is a passive ‘No’, but for others I know that they are just really busy people who have a lot to get through. So I understand why they are taking so long, but it doesn’t stop me from checking my email multiple times a day, my heart in my throat each time. I really don’t like that character flaw in myself.
So I’m going to try diversion. I’m sure the fact I’ve only been working on short stories is why I’m getting focussed on the unimportant stuff. I think it is time to jump back into a novel. When I’m working on a novel I struggle to focus on work, so I’m sure I’ll be able to forget a few attempts at publication.
Now I just have to work out which story. I thought I had it worked out, but then the epigenetics novel kept asserting itself, which is usually a sign that the time is right to get it written. I might just have to be a little bit more patient with the novel I thought I was going to write. I know it will get done eventually.
Every now and then I worry what if “The Secret” is real? Usually this thought is sparked by a bout of coincidences that have left me feeling a little more connected to the universe than usual. Then work and bills and the minutiae of life creeps in and pulls a curtain over my budding belief. But what if it was real? What would my lack of progress say about me?
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m crazy lucky, but imagine if my lack of success in some important fields in my life were because I didn’t really believe I should get there? I know that exact same thought is what most people use to dismiss “The Secret”, but if I’m honest, realising my biggest hopes and dreams in life also has me terrified. What if I hated being a successful, published author?
For me, something that gives validity to “The Secret” is that I expect some things which are really exceptional gifts, but I take them as if they are the norm; wildflowers to be picked by anyone passing by. My chronic superstition won’t allow me to list those things, but when I stop and think about them I am really grateful, but only when I stop and think about them. Is it my expectation that gives me those things?
The biggest argument against “The Secret” as far as I can tell is why would the universe care what I want? Unless my desire is noble and for the benefit of the world, why should I be granted my dreams? But imagine; what if this world was meant to be a place where we are all satisfied, happy, content and live at one with nature, and the only reason it isn’t is because not enough of us believed in it? That would be tragic. Maybe we all need to work on our belief?
Okay, enough D&M. This year I want my last post of the month to be a Top10 again, so let me know if you would like scriptwriters or non-fiction books. Both kept trying to sneak in last year with my Top10 authors. Or feel free to suggest something else, the more challenging the better.
There is a call for novellas that closes on January 12th which I found out about in mid October. Toward the end of October I got hit with an idea. Since then I’ve been dabbling with it, writing 700 words here, 1000 words there. Back in October I figured that as long as I could finish it by December, I’d be okay.
December 31st 2016 at 3:02PM I finished the novella. I was writing nearly every day leading up to this, including Christmas day, to get it done in time. I was doing blocks of over 2,500 words in a sitting. In short, I was working to the deadline.
Now I’m editing like a crazy person. The TV is off and my social life is gone. Grocery shopping has been forgotten (I’m getting creative with making meals out of what is in the fridge), and let’s not even talk about housework. I’m losing days in a world of edit and re-edit. After all, it needs to be as good as it can be by January 12th – and that could take a while.
I can’t help but wonder if the submission due date was Dec 31st would I instead have finished the novella on December 15th? Conversely, if it wasn’t due until the end of January, would I still be writing little snippets of the first draft now? Even more interestingly, would it have been the same story as the one I’m working with now?
I have long realised that I need a deadline to get me working, but it is amazing what can be achieved when you force yourself to do something. I guess I’d better start working out what the next deadline needs to be, because this one will be up soon.
But first I’ll do some grocery shopping. The housework can wait.
I have 5 projects I identified as being possible targets for my time off. Last week, when I was working, I thought I had identified the one I wanted to hit first. It was the epic novel I have been trying to write for 15 years that really needs some time dedicated to it. This week I’m questioning that choice because it is a totally brand new piece, and will realistically take at least 4 to 5 months to finish if I’m disciplined, over a year if I’m not. I feel like I need a quick win first.
I am a fiercely logical person, and logic is telling me to do the re-write of the novel I wrote last year. It won’t take as long and I have beta-readers lined up to give me feedback. The problem is that re-writing is never as exciting as writing new words. But maybe that is the best taste of a writer’s life I could give myself during this time off? After all it is the re-writing I always seem to sacrifice when I am working.
Then there is the young adult story which I got 30,000 words into and then totally dropped the ball. I love the story, it is funny, it is magical and it has no end. It probably only needs another 20,000 words, which seems like it should just be a few weeks work. Maybe that’s the one I should be doing?
The final temptation is the screenplay. Again, just 90 pages, it doesn’t sound like it should take that long, and I’ve wanted to write a screenplay forever. But knowing it is my first one, so likely to be crap, and both story ideas I have are stupid (yes, I’m thinking Spiders Man for those who know me), so I think it might also be a waste of time. But it would be a fun waste of time.
I’m a week in to my freedom and haven’t picked any of them, so I think it is time to just grab one and run with it. Re-write, here I come… I think.
I know it is the last post of the month so I’m meant to be doing my author top ten, but with my last day of work quickly approaching, I just wanted to expand a little on my expectations for my time off.
Firstly, let me quell any concerns you may have if you think I’m expecting to write and sell a novel that is somehow going to make me rich. Even if Penguin did reply to my email and said they wanted to publish my novel, from that moment to the first royalty cheque would be at least 18 months, more likely 2+ years. This time off is not about making money out of writing, I know that I will be going back to work at the end of it.
For most of us who write, it is not a choice. We get grumpy and guilty when we don’t do it, and we are happy to miss out on everything else in life when we do write. After a while it isn’t about how many people read your story (and let’s not even talk about how many actually like it) eventually it is just about getting the story written. You want to breathe life into that thing that constantly haunts you.
In the past few years I’ve come to terms with the fact that not everyone likes what I write. My story Stanhope’s finest was a lot of fun to write, and it is the sort of thing I want to do more of, but lots of people don’t like that story, some have said they hated it, but I know there is a small group out there who like Greta as much as I do.
So this time off is not about getting anything published, I will try, don’t get me wrong, but if I come out of the next 3 months with a finished first draft of my next novel I’ll be happy. The best thing about that target is it is 100% within my sphere of influence, unlike getting published which seems to be about 60% luck.
I know I seem a little hung up on the idea of to plan or not to plan. I write a list of 20 things I want to achieve each week in my day to day life, so planning is clearly something that appeals to me.
I’ve just been reading the approach of another writer who does not like to plan. He thinks it limits his creativity and runs the risk of forcing his characters into places they don’t want to go. I feel very strongly that I don’t push my characters into decisions or actions that don’t feel natural for them, they have freedom of choice, and yet I plan, so what is the difference?
I think it might be semantics.
I wonder if what I am calling a plan others might call a first draft, albeit an extremely short fist draft. The person I was reading about who doesn’t like to plot simply writes the scenes as he sees them, eventually writing enough to find the whole story, at which point he pulls it together and gets to work on writing the joining bits, what he calls his second draft.
Until I have a beginning, middle-ish and an end-ish in mind, I generally don’t commit an idea to paper, but when I do, I go through the discovery of those ideas in much the same way as I feel I did when I wrote my pantser novel, I just go through the process much faster when writing a plan.
Then, when I sit down to write the novel I have the plan in mind, but if things change I let them. So is that pantsing? Is that planning? Who knows, I think writing any story is magic at work, no matter how you get there.
I’ve been reading a few philosophical texts recently that have talked of living in the now. I’ve always found the whole now/future thing to be a balance that I never knew if I was getting right. There is no doubt that I’m more of a living for the future kind of gal, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’ve got that wrong?
Living in the now isn’t just about cleaning your floors now because you can, it is about really embracing life and going for that long walk when it is a beautiful day instead of prepping for the team meeting you need to present at on Monday. It is about spending your savings on that computer that will help you get on (and off) line faster so you have more of your time back.
I always thought of living for the now as being a life where your mortgage doesn’t get paid, you retire with no savings and one day everything you didn’t plan for comes crashing down on you. Maybe that is not so.
I’m not an existentialist, nor do I think I ever can be, but I do think I need to take a leaf out of their book. If I got hit by a bus tomorrow (more likely now they have moved the bus stop next to the part of the road where everyone speeds) what would I regret leaving behind? Is that the ‘now’ I need to work on?
Perhaps the best way for me to work this out is to live a week of questioning what is the now thing to do? The past five years feel like one very long year, I’ve spent nearly all my time on work, I don’t want the next five years to feel the same. After all, who knows when that bus is going to lose control.
Four days off work is a gift for any writer. You get to spend one day fulfilling all your family requirements, one day tending to your home and two whole, splendid days dedicated to what it is you keep telling everyone you want to do; writing.
But even with these four days you need to set your priorities, do the high priority tasks first. I know this might sound crazy to some of you, but on the days that I’ve got ‘booked in’ for writing, I get up at 6:30am to start writing. Experience has taught me that the day rarely goes as planned, and invariably someone will drop by, or call from out of the blue for a chat. If you start at 6:30 there is a good chance you’ve been able to get in some solid hours of work before you get side-tracked.
I know many of you are thinking you just tell those people to go away, but I can’t and in all honesty, don’t want to do that. These people are my support network and support is a two-way street. I know it might slow me down in my quest to get some novels finished, but it also means that when the world comes crashing down I always have friends and family to turn to. That is also a priority.
So sacrificing a few hours of sleep-in to spend some one-on-one time with my characters is an easy choice to make for something that is a priority. When the sleep-in wins, then I know that there is something wrong.
The New Year is nearly upon us and so, yet again, it is time to make up the list of what is to be done, goals to achieve, habits to change etc. The temptation is there just to roll over the stuff from this year and add a few new things.
I’m going to resist that temptation.
I cannot help but feel that there must be a reason for me not hitting those goals, especially the complete lack of progress in the latter part of the year. There is no doubt that life (and by that I mean WORK) got in the way a bit, but I wonder if my process is perhaps getting a little stale.
A little wobble of security on the work front saw me take away my rewards for achieving a number of goals for the week. For a couple of months it was fine, just getting the high numbers was enough, but I wonder if the rewards were more incentive than I realised. They were things I wanted but didn’t need, and I think I need to bring them back. Even if I get a bit creative to save on costs, like giving myself a whole Sunday of just reading a book, now that would be incentive!
The other thing I need to look at is my projects. I think I have too many and I spread myself too thin. I’ll sometimes have goals for three different writing projects in a week. Now that’s just silly. And who knows, maybe the appeal of working on something different will be enough motivation to get me through what my current focus is. I may actually get some stuff finished.
So good luck with your goal setting and remember; these are not set in stone, you can always re-jig them at any time if they aren’t working. New Year is just a good time to refresh your vision for the future, it isn’t about locking one in.