First Quarter Review

A photo from Living in Place

A photo from Living in Place

As the first quarter of the year comes to a close, it’s time to review where I am with the three goals I set at the start of the year while I’m between books: launching my blog, increasing my work-for-pay, and completing some necessary administrative tasks.

I’ve been very successful meeting the first two goals, posting to Living In Place every Wednesday, placing my column about The Middle Ages in The Rutland Herald, and generally writing, publishing and expanding my state-wide and on-line audience with essays.

Then, while I was still thinking about contacting my former editors for

Traditional Ax Skills Class at Doe Camp. [photo by Deborah Lee Luskin for]

Traditional Ax Skills Class at Doe Camp. [photo by Deborah Lee Luskin for]

paying work, they contacted me. I just returned from one of my most fun assignments ever, attending Doe Camp for an online magazine I haven’t written for in three years. I’ve also completed other pen-for-hire work, which is satisfying both for telling other people’s stories and for boosting my bank account.

It’s the third goal, completing the administrative tasks, where I’m stuck. With the first quarter of the year nearly ended, I need to examine what’s made me stall and what I need to do to shift back into first gear.

I set three significant administrative goals. Of these, I’ve completed one: creating a better system for paying bills and tracking both my business and household accounts. The job of reorganization didn’t take nearly as long as I expected, and it has streamlined the bi-weekly tasks of accounting, bill-paying and staying on budget. Just acknowledging this outcome helps motivate me to advance the other two tasks: create a current curriculum vitae (CV) and bring my clip files up-to-date.

A CV is an expanded resume used in academic circles. It lists all professional positions held, all publications, professional associations, and public service. When complete, a CV can run up to twenty-five pages, though it’s not always submitted in its entirety.

The beauty of a CV, especially for someone like me who is not on a traditional academic career path, is that it can be easily edited to emphasize one’s strengths for a specific job.

I started gathering the information for my CV back in January, and listed all my publications through 2010, so I’m now only five years out of date.

I have to organize my papers, which I don’t seem to have filed for the last five years.

I have to organize my papers, which I don’t seem to have filed for the last five years.

I have stalled on listing all the different courses I’ve taught, and all the public speaking I’ve done. In part, because I’m stuck in one of those chicken-versus-egg conundrums: In order to update my publications and teaching credits, I have to organize my papers, which I don’t seem to have filed for the last five years.

When I think about these projects in their totality, I’m paralyzed with fear. Where do I start? How do I proceed?

It’s the same place I am with two book projects starting to percolate in my head.

But I know how to write a book: one word at a time. Words become sentences, sentences paragraphs, sections, and chapters until I’ve created an entire imaginary world.

And there’s my answer: chip away a little at a time, whether it be filing and documenting my professional life or writing character sketches for a new novel.

Just as I allow myself to write freely to start and revise as the arc of a story becomes clear, so I can allow myself to simply list my achievements and revise them as the logical order of presentation becomes clear.

As I know from experience, big goals are achieved with small steps. It’s consistency that serves inspiration and achievement, both in creativity and in ordinary tasks.

As the first quarter of the year draws to an end, which of your goals are you successfully working towards? If you have stalled, what do you need to do to restart?


18 thoughts on “First Quarter Review

  1. I needed to read this – my goal was to write every day, and I haven’t. I’m still doing much more than I was even at the end of last year, but getting my butt in the chair every day has been tough. What do I need to do to restart? Well, I need to hear that a quarter of the year is already over, so thanks!

  2. I’m glad you found this post helpful. Your comment reminds me of Dorothy Parker’s famous line, “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” Maybe instead of challenging yourself to write every day, you could challenge yourself to sit down today for ten minutes . . . Thanks for reading the blog and commenting.

  3. A very candid appraisal of the first quarter (but it’s not over yet, plenty more time, Deborah!). The admin part is sooo hard, it’s really tricky to motivate yourself, but your method of slowly but steadily chipping away at it, small bit at a time, is probably wise and the best way to deal with it.

  4. Bit by bit is definitely the approach to take. However for many it’s easier said than done, especially if its an icky task.

    A very nice post and yep, time is flying past!

  5. Reblogged this on angelaspath and commented:
    So completely inspiring. I’m behind before I ever get started. haha Anyway, it doesn’t matter really. Just like Deborah says here, just chip away one bit at a time. Great post!

  6. Yeah, I check in. I set weekly goals and cross them off as completed – but I seem to complete the interesting ones, like writing essays and posts. The icky ones, like filing, just follow me from week to week until – poof! – three months are almost gone.
    Thanks for your comment.

  7. Great post thanks! I am part way through my first attempt at a psychological thriller. With kids and work taking up a lot of my time, my goal has always been about finding the time to write. At the moment it’s 2-3 times a week which I need to increase. A healthy reminder! Thank you.

  8. randomaly i was checking the blogs and it was you, so how my thoughts moving as reading this blog , is like it make me to think, where I am ? and purpose to write ? how writing something can be a big push . nice to read 🙂

  9. It sounds like you have a good plan for the paperwork, as tedious as those tasks are. When I updated my CV, I asked a colleague to help. She reminded me of a number of workshops I’d presented and forgotten about and also pointed out some skills I’d overlooked.

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