Start with One Step Forward…How Else Will You Get There?

sign post with arrows pointing in various directionsWhether you call them resolutions or goals or plans or dreams, in order to succeed at achieving them you need to move toward them. They won’t come to you on their own.

While I was out on a brisk icy morning to complete my 1-mile-per-day-outside-for-the-month-of-January challenge, I thought of this one-step-forward concept (I know it is not original, it struck me in the moment though). I took deliberate steps that morning because it was slippery, and with each step, I was one step closer to the 1-mile goal.

It was slow progress, but it was forward progress.

And as with any goal, resolution, etc. you set for yourself, as long as you’re moving toward it — full speed, half-speed, slowly — you have a much better chance of reaching that finish line than if you sit still and don’t do anything.

Am I right?

This isn’t anything new. We all know we have to take steps to reach a goal, yet, time and time again, it’s easy to slip back into the not doing it or thinking we’ll do it later. However, the truth is that tomorrow’s success is based on today’s actions.

Keep saying you want to write a book but haven’t started it yet? Write 1 word today (sounds silly, but it’s 1 word more than you had yesterday), then write another tomorrow… before you know it you’ll be writing a paragraph a day, then a page a day, then a chapter a day — or simply a sentence a day. Whatever it turns out to be, you’re writing that book! Finally!

Want to walk a mile a day? Start with a walk to the end of the hallway and back, to the end of the driveway and back, to the start of the neighbor’s driveway and back. Figure out ways to get some steps in and the do at least the same amount of steps or more the next day and the next, and the next and eventually you will hit a mile-a-day (or whatever your goal is).

Want to build your business network? Connect to someone new on social media. Give a sincere reply or comment to a post you liked reading. Make a phone call to a past client. Reply to a request for assistance. Join an online group. RSVP ‘yes’ to an upcoming event. Do one thing today that can start you forward on building your business network. Then do another tomorrow.

Doing one thing may not sound like enough – but if you’ve had the same dream, goal, resolution, etc. for a while now, doing nothing hasn’t worked, has it?

Maybe it seemed too overwhelming.

So, stop and take a serious look at the goal/resolution/etc. Is it something you truly want to accomplish?

If no. Toss it. Get it off your list once and for all. If yes, if you still want to see that end result, then I challenge you to take one step toward it today.

And then another step tomorrow.

And so on.

Promise yourself you’ll to do at least one thing and I bet you’ll end up doing more.

By taking at least one step forward, you’ll feel good about making positive strides. I know, because it’s what I’m doing now in a couple of areas.

What will be your one thing to get you moving forward?

Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

Friday Fun – What’s your starting point?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: 

If you don’t daydream and kind of plan things out in your imagination, you never get there. So you have to start somewhere.

Robert Duvall

We’ve talked about goals for the coming year and the importance of breaking them down into steps and discrete actions – what is the starting point of your writing goal this year?

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wendy-shotWendy Thomas  – I’ve polished up my manuscript and my query and I’m working my way through the Guide to Literary Agents 2017. My starting point is to send out at least 5 queries a week until I’ve either gotten a nibble or run out of agents’ names (at which point I will revise and start all over again.)

lisajjacksonLisa J. Jackson: I have a goal to submit short fiction this year. My starting point is to find markets for my short stories, and actually I’m thinking I might find more markets for my non-fiction than fiction as I keep getting ideas for those markets in my e-mail! We’ll see. But this year, I definitely want to submit and publish fiction, and having a market gets me started on a path.

At the end of the Long Trail, 9/8/2016.

Deborah Lee Luskin: Great question! I don’t have an answer. I’m in the middle of several projects, both teaching and writing in addition to my regular commentaries and blogs. I’ve got a good rhythm going. It feels as if I’m already in second, ready to shift into third.

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin – I’ll tell you next week. LOL. It’s been a slow start to the year due to illness and travel. My goal for this weekend is to work through my annual goal planner (Susannah Conway’s Unraveling the Year) and figure out what my next steps are.

Friday Fun – Are you where you want to be?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION:  Here’s a good few questions to ground us all in the upcoming year: 

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been” – George Eliot

Who is it that you truly want to be? Are you on track?

What steps need to be taken to get you you there?

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin: Love the Elliot quote! When I’m fully present, I’m in the exactly right place. When that happens at my desk, words fly!

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JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: The definition of who we want to be is a moving target, a mercurial vision that shifts and shimmers as our own hearts and minds evolve. I am not sure if anyone ever feels, or is meant to feel, that she has fully become the person she wants to be. I don’t believe we can ever be “done.” It’s not as if, after all, one is a turkey with a pop-up timer to indicate perfection.

I suppose, in a way, this means that each of us must live in a perpetual state of discontent, ever striving toward a new goal and a new identity; and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When we stop learning and exploring and seeking adventure, we stop growing. And when we stop growing, we die.

All that said, I do not feel that I am currently on track to be the person/writer/artist I want to be. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what steps need to be taken to get me where I want to go; but I do feel a tide of sorts rising within me. It’s not just the New Year energy. It’s something else that has been building over the last year or so and seemed to reach a tipping point after the election.

The thing that makes me smile is that even though I’m not (yet) where I want to be and I’m not sure how I’m going to get there, I’m excited at the prospect of deep change and endless possibility. Eliot was right, of course, and I’m hoping to prove her point in the years ahead.

Friday Fun: New Year’s Writing Resolutions

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: What are three writing resolutions you have for 2015?

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus:  First, to become more comfortable with plotting, and trust the process. Second, to get into a regular writing habit. Maybe even 500 words a day, hopefully first thing in the morning. Third, to start and keep up with a gratitude journal.

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headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: As I noted in my last weekend edition, I’m not a big fan of The Resolution. It has always seemed to be a judgmental sort of motivator, a bit hard core for my taste. I do, however, like to pick a word or a theme for the New Year. Last year, my word was “fierce,” a choice that inspired its own private Pinterest board.

pin your own magicFor this year, I’ve chosen a phrase which spoke to me the moment I read it: Believe in your own magic. This simple phrase holds, for me, so much meaning. It is a gentle reminder of how each of us is both unique and worthy in her own way. It is a quiet but insistent call to have faith in that truth. And it is full of the enchanted possibilities that sprawl before us at the beginning of a bright and shiny new collection of 365 whole days.

Happy New Year to you. May your journey be filled with adventure and help you to believe in your own magic.

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LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I just have one at the moment: WRITE! I wasn’t as attentive to my fiction in 2014 as I wanted to be, so I’m renewing my energy for 2015 to get some short stories written and submitted somewhere. ANYwhere.

 

 

photo by M. Shafer

photo by M. Shafer

Write more.  Write better. Write deeper. This includes my new blog, Living in Place; a new novel (no title yet); and a new column (in the works). But are these resolutions or goals? Resolutions invite attempts at perfection – and inevitable failure, whereas goals are achievable and success something that can be measured. So I’ll stick with goals and write my way through the year. Wishing everyone the same.

 

 

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I just devoted a whole post to my writing goals for 2015, so I won’t repeat myself here. I think of resolutions as intentions rather than goals so I don’t apply them to each part of my life. A resolution I make every year is to be more present, more in the moment. I think I’ve been able to keep that resolution for the past number of years, but it’s an overarching theme of my life, to stay present, to experience my life as it’s happening, rather than live in my head, so I recommit myself to that resolution every year. Wishing you wonderful adventures in 2015! Happy New Year!

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: I have quite a few goals (not resolutions) for the new year. I’m going to be changing my content focus (I’ll write a post about that soon to explain) which is going to take a bit of work and reflection. I’m determined to get 2 manuscripts out this year using that new focus. (one is already done (but needs to be revised to fit the new direction) and the other is currently in creation.)  I’m also going to work on expanding my magazine writing (based on my new focus) and will actively seek new assignments. I have always wanted to try travel writing and so I might write a piece or two on a trip in the coming year. Lastly, I’m going to continue teaching college classes on Technical Writing and Blogging.

Best wishes to all our readers with your writing this coming year. Remember, the best way to accomplish your goals is to simply put your butt in a chair.

 

Weekend Edition – Resolution Smesolution Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Resolutions Just Aren’t My Thing

Though my holiday decorations are all packed away, I've left a little sparkle out to brighten the winter dark.

Though my holiday decorations are all packed away, I’ve left a little sparkle out to brighten the winter dark.

Ahhh … ’tis the season of The Resolution. Can you smell the grit and determination in the air? Can you feel the electric current of commitment? I was talking with my mom yesterday, and she was lamenting how she and my dad were dreading going to their gym because it would be overrun with Resolutionists. Happily, she knows from experience that this influx of overly enthusiastic interlopers is only temporary. “In six to eight weeks, they will all be back on their couches with their potato chips,” she said.

I have never been one for resolutions. No matter how good my intentions are, they seem doomed to combust under the pressures of real life. Instead of inspiring me to be a better person, my resolutions become self-fulfilling prophesies of failure. After many years of false starts, I have finally learned to stop making promises that I know I won’t keep. It’s made my life a lot simpler.

Though I no longer subject myself to the rigors of resolutions, there is another New Year’s ritual that still holds a seductive appeal. As the old year winds down, I feel an irresistible urge to “set things to rights.” Like some manic Mary Poppins or overzealous Snow White, I am suddenly seized with a desire to find a place for everything and put everything in its place. I want to purge and organize. I want to file things and tie up loose ends. I want to rid my home of dust bunnies and cobwebs. In short, I want a clean slate for the New Year.

So, instead of swearing empty oaths to always or never do this or that in the year ahead, I roll up my sleeves and take immediate action to conquer the literal and figurative clutter that has built up over the course of the previous three-hundred-and-sixty odd days. After a month and a half of using the holidays as an excuse to let things slide even more than usual, there are plenty of battles to fight.

For instance, the once-manageable kitchen-counter pile of receipts and miscellaneous mail has mutated into an impressive (and unstable) tower that measures a daunting thirteen and a half inches from top to bottom and contains all manner of unidentified paper detritus. I have lived for months with this eyesore (not to mention the nagging feeling that there is some important paperwork buried in there), but it’s time to cut this beast down to size.

And that is only the beginning. There are closets to be cleaned and clothes to be donated. There are stashes of school papers and artwork to be sorted, archived, and recycled. Administrative household and business tasks are gathering like a flock of noisy seagulls coming inland ahead of a storm – bills to be paid, accounts to be updated, tax paperwork to prepare. My email inbox is overflowing (evidence that it’s time to unsubscribe from all the digital newsletters that seemed like a good idea at the time). The cat beds need to be laundered. The windows need to be washed. The car needs to be vacuumed. It’s like spring cleaning without the warm weather.

But this ritual is about more than just tidying up and putting a little spit and polish on things. It’s about reestablishing a sense of order and creating some physical and mental space. It’s about crawling out from under the weight of all the little things that have been left undone –  crossing those bothersome tasks off your list so you can clear your head for more important thoughts. It’s about pulling the emergency brake so that you can take a minute to catch your breath before diving back into your usual routine.

Resolutions are a good idea in theory, but in practice they tend to create unrealistic expectations that add stress and pressure to our already-busy lives. Setting things to rights, on the other hand, is a no nonsense way to lighten your load and give yourself a fresh start. Though it may at first seem a tedious chore, putting things in order – even if only temporarily – almost always brings a sense of comfort and contentment. And doesn’t that sound like a good way to start the New Year?

 

What I’m Reading:

When I awoke this morning (a tad later than I’d like to admit), I realized that for the first time in a year I had missed publishing this post in its usual Saturday slot. For a moment, I was dismayed and a bit guilt-ridden, but I immediately cut myself some slack. This past week has been gloriously agenda-free to the point that I have several times lost track of which day it is. It is a strange, but liberating feeling.

In addition to untangling myself from my usual routine – school drop-offs and pick-ups, my daughter dance classes and dog walks, writing deadlines, grocery shopping, etc. etc. etc. – I forced myself to take a Real Break. (“Forced” being the operative word.) In my Real Life, I am always hustling, usually late for something, and always multi-tasking. This week, however, during our holiday staycation, I did manage to spend substantial time parked on the couch with a book and a mug of tea. It was lovely.

Though there were plenty of other activities and some chores (yesterday, we took down all the Christmas decorations and cleaned my daughter’s room!), I did carve out enough down time to finish reading Charles deLint’s hefty novel, The Little Country. It was the perfect post-holiday read – full of magic and music and adventure. I have read several of deLint’s other novels and always admired his ability to make magic tangible in a contemporary, real world setting. The way he weaves myth and fairytale into otherwise ordinary settings is almost like a kind of magic in itself. He is also a master at avoiding fantasy tropes, telling stories that are full of unique characters and plot twists.

The Little Country is actually two stories woven into one – a pretty neat trick in itself. From the book jacket:

When folk musician Janey Little finds a mysterious manuscript in an old trunk in her grandfather’s cottage, she is swept into a dangerous realm both strange and familiar. But true magic lurks within the pages of The Little Country, drawing genuine danger from across the oceans into Janey’s life, impelling her—armed only with her music—toward a terrifying confrontation.Come walk the mist-draped hills of Cornwall, come walk among the ancient standing stones. Listen to the fiddles, the wind, and the sea.

If you like smart, well-written fantasy, I highly recommend The Little Country. Just be prepared to stay up late once the action begins to climb. You’ll have a hard time putting it down!

 

What I’m Writing:

make stuffDespite avoiding resolutions (even writing-related ones … maybe especially writing-related ones), I am still susceptible to the ubiquitous feeling of optimistic expectancy that permeates this time of year. Off with the old and in with the new. Fresh starts. Bright horizons. I may not be nailing myself down to specific writing goals or habits, but that doesn’t mean I’m not all a-buzz with anticipation of another 365 days of writing potential.

Despite my enforced slothfulness (in order to read and recharge during this rare break), I have been noodling around with a big, scary writing project that I would really like to bring to life this year. It involves a complex story, many moving parts, art, publishing, print production, and distribution challenges (opportunities!). One minute, I feel like it’s a genius idea that can’t fail, and the next I think I’m a complete crackpot for thinking anyone would want to read it. And then, a nanosecond later, I’m back to thinking it’s a brilliant concept, but scared that I’m not the person to see it through.

It’s all a bit confusing, but still – surprisingly – exciting.

Though I’m starting to tug my reluctant brain back to its usual routine and responsibilities, I am still finding time to percolate my ideas and make notes. I’m beginning to compile all my materials and thoughts in a Scrivener document and may try to pull together a rough plan of attack soon. (I’m all for spontaneous creation, but I also know myself well enough to admit that if anything is going to get done, I need a plan.)

I hope that I am able to sustain this tingly feeling and enough courage to keep going even when Real Life butts in and Fear and Doubt pay their inevitable visits. I’m ready to bring a little of my own story magic into the world, and this might just be the year that I make that happen.

 

Lastly, a quote for the week:

I have been delightfully unplugged for the past couple of weeks, so I don’t have any blog posts to share. (I’m sure I’ll be doing plenty of catching up this week!) I do, however, have a quote that seems appropriate:

pin your own magic

 

Here’s to discovering and unleashing your own magic – writing and otherwise – on the world. Happy New Year! 

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Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Taking Stock

I have a love/hate relationship with New Year’s and, especially, New Year’s Eve. The expectations involved with getting dressed up, going out, spending too much, drinking even more–those days are behind me. This year I am planning on spending it alone, surrounded by my different journals, prepping for 2015.

I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Life, and the holidays, have been a blur this year. Plus, I find as I get older, I miss the people who aren’t here any more with a more pronounced ache. I am still one of the luckiest people I know, with a wonderful life. But I need to be mindful of thinking about more actively. I blogged about “Finding Joy” on Wicked Cozy Authors, and that is one of my resolutions. The others are the reasons for the various journals. (BTW, Diane and Wendy had great posts on New Years resolutions.)

Notebooks for the new year!

Clockwise–Plot Perfect notebook for Book #2, new Bullet Journal, Clock Journal for book journey, Passion Planner filler

One is my stop gap until my Passion Planner arrives. Since I donated to her Kickstarter, I got a PFG of 2015. I ordered one anyway, but since it is on backorder, I can start sketching out the first six months of the year. I love the visual of the journal, so that I can literally see my day/week.

Second is my new Bullet Journal. AKA a moleskin with a plan. I started using the system this fall, and I love it. All of my notes and to dos go into it, I can keep them for reference, there is an indexing system, etc. The journal goes with my everywhere. I suspect I will add book notes to it for next year.

Third is a larger notebook I plan to use for plotting Book #2. Book #1 (Just Killing Time) was accepted, and is with the copy editor. In the meantime, I have been plotting out Book #2. I need to weave in the subplots, and add another story that will run through to Book #3. Paula Munier’s Plot Perfect: How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene By Scene was an early Christmas present to myself. I am finishing it tomorrow, and putting it into play over the weekend.

And lastly–I bought a journal so I can keep track of this year, my first as a published author. Notes for the future, moments I want to remember. It has clocks on it–my protagonist is a clock maker. I figured it was a sign.

That’s a lot, I know. BUT, per Wendy’s suggestion, it will help me with achievable goals. For writing, I have found that having scenes plotted, with goals for each scene, helps tremendously. Seeing what my week looks like, and scheduling in writing, and exercise, and sleep, is critical. Plus the visual is really helpful for keeping some balance, And the Bullet Journal really helps me keep my life in one place.

So those are my plans for tonight. Writing, color coding, plotting, planning. And getting ready for 2015.

Happy New Year dear readers! See you on the other side!

A Writer’s Year in Review

four seasons treeA year goes by so quickly now.

When I was a child, it took forever to get from one birthday to the next. Time was a slow-moving beast whose sticky paws held me down and made me wait. Now, whole seasons pass in what feels like an afternoon. I turn my back for one minute and Memorial Day has become Labor Day, and then Halloween and the holidays.

When you are a child, you don’t need to do anything today because there is always tomorrow. You have no sense of urgency, no true belief in “The End.” When we grow up, time shrinks. The long, idle days of doing nothing are suddenly filled with a jostling crowd of demands that turn hours into minutes and months into days. We are so busy wrangling whatever is right in front of us that we lose sight of what’s ahead. Suddenly tomorrow is yesterday and all our good intentions have been shuffled into a dusty corner, where they huddle – forlorn and reproachful.

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I am a writer. I have always been a writer. I will always be a writer.

I write almost every day: morning pages, journal entries, marketing content, a bi-weekly column (and occasional feature) for my local paper, lots and lots of blog posts.

And yet, my good intentions are getting restless.

They want more.

They aren’t fooled.

They want the real deal, and so do I.  I don’t just want to be a writer; I want to be a Writer. I’m deeply grateful that I’m able to make a living playing with words to create brands and content for my marketing clients, but in my heart of hearts I’ve always wanted to write a different kind of story – the kind of story that keeps readers up until late into the night because they just have to know what happens next.

That’s what I dreamed of doing when I was a kid and had all the time in the world.

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A year in the life of a writer is not measured in days or seasons; it’s measured in beginnings, middles, and endings. A writer’s year is measured word by word and story by story. It’s measured in truths revealed and true lies told well.

When I look back as a writer on the past twelve months, I am happy to be able to count many small victories, but I am also keenly aware of all the good intentions still waiting in the wings. I have excuses for neglecting them – very good excuses, all very valid and believable. But, excuses won’t stop the years from slipping by like the blurred scenery outside the window of a speeding train. One of these days, that train is going to pull into the station and the ride will be over.

It’s time to pull the emergency brake.

I will not beat myself up over lost time or opportunities and neither should you. The past is the past. We can’t change it. We can only change the present. What action can you take right now – this minute – to bring your good intentions one tiny step closer to being realized? What small choice can  you make to put your Important Work ahead of your busy work? What will you do to keep your promises to yourself?

Each year in the life of a writer is a good year, even the ones filled with strife and heartache and disappointment. Everything teaches us. Everything becomes raw material for the work of putting down words and shaping stories. Sometimes, the deepest tragedies can be our greatest gifts. Sometimes, our own shortcomings can be the fuel that pushes us past our fears and excuses so we can become the writer we want to be.

There is a new year on the horizon. We are rushing towards it even as we look back at the old one. It is good to take a moment to see how far we’ve come, but do not tarry too long with what was. You don’t live there anymore. You live here, right now. This is your time. What are you going to do with it?

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: joiseyshowaa via Compfight cc