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A Confession & a Change

It’s time for a confession: the way I’ve been going about this blog has been challenging and exhausting and it makes me want to quit.

Whew. Way to finally get that off my chest! I’ve been feeling this way for a long time, but repressing that feeling by thinking about what I thought I should do and not listening to what I wanted to do was making it worse. After some conversations with friends, I’ve decided that with the start of a new year, I’m making a few changes about how I organize my online spaces which I’m hoping will overall encourage me to create more and engage more.

Starting in January, I’ll be shifting the content of this blog to focus more on my writing life and a handful of short projects. Posting will consist of one monthly post and a second semi-monthly post.

  • During the first week of each month:
    You’ll be treated to The Write Life, a short review of what I’ve been working on or done related to writing during the previous month and what events are coming up.
    If you’ve been a patron on Patreon these last months, this will sound familiar—but fear not, the Patreon version will still be there, and will be an expanded version of what appears on this blog. So if you ever decide you want the full skinny on what I’m writing or what writing events I attend, head over to Patreon and pledge at least one dollar per month to unlock the patron-only feed.
  • During the third week of most months:
    You’ll get to read the latest installment in a limited series. These series will include deep dives into genres or writing craft, creative ways of addressing writer support, and the return of DIY Edit (and possibly other things). Each series will be 4–6 posts, which will be collected after the series is complete and available in a pdf or other digital format.

 

These changes feel more natural than the rigid definition of blogging and posting I’ve been holding myself to for the last year and a half. I’m actually looking forward to blogging again and I’m especially looking forward to devoting more of my time to writing fiction in 2019.

Goal Adjustment

Making goals at the start of the year is exciting. “I’m going to do all the things! I’m going to live a better life! I’m going to succeed!” But a month or two into the year it’s easy to figure out all those big plans may not actually pan out. So, what do you do? Give up? Punish yourself? Make adjustments?

I’m an advocate for continuing in the face of failure and realigning my expectations. Realignment can come in a number of ways:

  • Trimming out goals that I know I cannot achieve
  • Breaking a goal into landmarks so I can check off achievements
  • Reducing goals to something that is more achievable
  • Replacing goals with goals that better align with how the year is going


Trim

Last year I planned to write two novels—one during the year and a draft of a new one during NaNoWriMo 2017. The novel I was planning to write over the year became what I worked on during NaNo. My time just didn’t align for being able to work on the draft earlier than November. Trimming out a new novel was an easy decision for me to make, even though it was disappointing when I looked back on my plans for 2017. But it was the right decision, because looking back on the year, I have no idea how I would have been able to work on another novel during 2017.


Break

For the novel I worked on last year, I kept feeling intimidated by the process. Rather than continuing to look at it as “draft a novel” (which only sounds simple on paper), I broke it into several steps: write a two-page synopsis, draft character arcs for the main characters, re-read what’s been written, write 1,667 words per day during NaNoWriMo. Breaking the task into those smaller chunks gave me a plan for approaching the whole goal, and, even though I didn’t actually finish the draft, I did all of those other things! So even though I didn’t hit the main goal, I feel good about the progress I made.


Reduce

Last year I planned to write 200K words. That pans out to 548 words per day. I hit the 200K early, but decided since writing was going so well, I should keep writing 548 words per day. Oh. Oh no. That did not work. Instead of beating myself up, I reduced the goal. I changed it first to 500 words per day and then to 400 and finally to writing on a specific project (and at least 100 words). Each adjustment fit with what was going on in my life and it kept me productive on the main goal (writing) without feeling bad about not hitting an unrealistic landmark.


Replace

I had every intention of launching my editorial website in 2017. By the time October hit, I realized I was not in a place mentally where I could offer my services to strangers. My friend had died, my cousin was in liver failure, and several other areas of my life were already in upheaval—did I really need to stick to a goal that could easily be pushed to a later date? Instead of pushing myself when I really needed to take care of myself, I dropped my launch goal and replaced it with a goal to take care of my mental health. I started grief counseling and focused my efforts on being mindful of my feelings, my grief, and finding joy. It was quite a switch from focusing on business, but it was the right switch for what was going on in my life.

 

Your goals should never be static, and they should never hinder you. If your goals are stressing you out and demotivating you, you should revisit them and revise them. Goals are supposed to make us better, to get us closer to the people we want to be, but we have to work with the people we are now and what we can bring to the table today. Realign your expectations, throw out what doesn’t work, but don’t give up.

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The Changeable Plan

Almost every week I meet my friend for dinner and we go to either Barnes & Noble or the library. We spend an hour walking through the books, reading titles, touching covers, and expanding our to-read lists. In addition to an ever-increasing to-read list, I also have an ever-increasing library. And of those books there are a good many that I haven’t read. This year I decided my reading theme would be Read Your Damn Books. I made a whole plan for how many books I wanted to read, how many of them should be books I already own, how many audio books, how many graphic novels, etc. And then I proceeded to the library website and I ordered a bunch of books for home delivery because I apparently like usurping my own plans.

But aren’t all plans really just guidelines? I mean, when I made the original book list, I knew I would swap out books if I wasn’t particularly feeling a title, and that I would make new discoveries over the year. My primary goals were to read thirty books and to spend about half of my 2017 reading time consuming books from my home library. I also wanted to read at least five books borrowed from my local library and to listen to at least two audio books.

I had no idea that I’d get so invested in audio books. I’ve been listening to them while I take walks and so I’ve so far been through seven audio books. (Can I count one as “reading my damn book” since I already owned it?) My guideline of a plan obviously involves some spontaneous revision since I now have to decide how upping my audio book intake affects the number of physical books I read. Do I still need for half of my 2017 books to come from my bookshelf? Can I revise that number to just twelve? (Or ten seeing as how we’re over halfway through the year and I’ve read a whooping total of six books I own.)

I also had to scrap and revamp part of my plan. I had planned to start researching for a time travel story in the latter half of 2017, but in starting to draft my pirate novel, I realized I need to do more pirate research. So it’s back to the high seas, air, and steampunk for me. All the time travel books have been relegated to 2018—at least I already have the start of next year’s guidelines.

The main thing about plans is that they have to be flexible. Rigid plans often prevent productivity. If I said I had to stick to reading my physical books and ignored that I was enjoying listening to audio books on walks I might not have finished as many books as I have, or I might have stopped walking so I could add that time to my book reading time. Sticking to my original plan would have ignored my natural inclinations and that frustration would have easily made me stagnant.

Strangely this reminds me of writing my last novel. I had an outline laid out—an excellent guideline, indeed—but I got caught in the middle, trying to force the main character to read books when she just wanted to listen to audio books (at least in this analogy). Once I let her listen to audio books, things started coming much easier. I had to refigure my plan and change a few expectations, but finishing the first draft became much easier when I stopped fighting against my plan, just like how reading over thirty books in 2017 will be much easier if I let myself continue listening to audio books. Going with the flow isn’t so easy if you’re a planner, but learning to find my own rhythm and accept that as a new plan is key to staying productive.