Wildly Improbable and Wildly Inspiring Goals for 2016

 

Once again, I’m going to start writing my list of goals for 2016 by thinking about how I want to feel about my writing this year. Once I decide how I want to feel, I’ll try to identify the thoughts I need to think in order to feel that way.

Last year, I wanted to feel enthusiastic, motivated, and confident about my writing. I decided I needed to think thoughts like: Slow and steady wins the race, and little and often in order to feel these feelings.

When I look back at the past year, I can see how that thinking helped move me forward. I didn’t accomplish some of my goals for last year (some of them really were Wildly Improbable!) but I did develop a habit of writing more, and more often. I didn’t realize it until I looked back at the entire year and re-read my post from this time last year.

This year, I am determined to move forward in my writing. Determined seems like a good feeling for 2016. Also: joyful and easy. Joyful, as I really do find joy in writing, but I can sometimes berate myself into feeling like sitting at my desk to write is a prison sentence. It’s not; it’s a privilege. Add the joy back and I can remember that fact more easily. Easy, because I have created habits that make writing every day easier and I want to continue that trend.

So what do I need to think in order to feel determined, joyful, and easy about my writing life and my writing goals?

I need to think: I got this, and, Just write for a few minutes, see what happens. I also plan to ask myself this question every morning: What would make it easy for me to get some writing done today?

Here are my writing WIGs for 2016: 

  1. Blog regularly for my blogs and for NHWN.
  2. Write a short story and submit to Level Best Books.
  3. Submit an entry to the 24-hour short story contest as least once this year.
  4. Contribute to my critique group (with my writing and my critiques) thoughtfully and consistently.
  5. Complete a draft of my nonfiction book.
  6. Host 2 writing retreats in 2016.
  7. Go on a writing retreat in 2016 (other than those I host.)
  8. Write 250 words 5 days a week.
  9. Write a love letter once a month.
  10. Create a cartoon for fun.

I’ve left out a few concrete goals, such as “Win NaNo,” to focus on developing a daily writing habit, which will serve me better in the long run. While these goals are not easy, I’m hopeful I can achieve most of them this year. I’m determined!

What are your writing goals for 2016?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon is a writer, blogger, master life coach, and family physician. I love New Years and new goals! You?

Weekend Edition – A Writer’s New Year

silhouette sunrise sunset

A new day rising … or perhaps one ending. Endings and beginnings often turn out to be much the same thing.

The New Year is a time to reflect and plan. It’s a time to reevaluate our priorities and our progress toward our goals. Midnight on December 31st marks the seam between the old and the new; it is the boundary between the past and the future – the threshold over which we must step in order to enter the next phase of our lives.

Damn. That’s a lot of pressure.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of a fresh start. I also relish poring over the old year’s journal entries looking for thematic patterns in my thoughts and dreams. I love the creative process of finding the perfect word to embody my intentions for the year ahead, and the more arduous work of drilling down to discover exactly what those intentions might be. I love the myth and magic of the many New Year’s traditions that help us whisk away the old and ring in the new.

But, we all know that New Year’s resolutions rarely stick; and while I’m a big believer in cycles (especially creative ones), I doubt they conform to the constraints of the calendar. Our lives and our creativity exist on a continuum. They are not parsed out into 365-day units with hard stops and clean slates inserted at regular intervals. That would be too neat and predictable; and life and art are anything but neat and predictable.

With this in mind, I’m experimenting with a different approach to how I enter the New Year.

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The trouble I have with the usual New Year’s schtick is our tendency to devalue the past in favor of a presumably better, and more perfect future. Though I’ve spent most of the last week happily unplugged from the Internet, a few visits to my usual digital haunts left me with an overwhelming sense that most people are relieved to see the backside of 2015 in a don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out/thank-the-gods-that’s-over kind of way.

I get it.  From global warming and international terrorism to cultural racism and political insanity, 2015 threw a lot at us. Add to that any personal and creative challenges you may have experienced, and it’s natural that you’d be more than ready to slam and bolt the door on the last 365 days. But before you walk away with nary a backward glance, perhaps it’s worth a few moments to consider what the year has taught you – for better or for worse.

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Reflecting on the year gone by is an exercise that can quickly bring you down if you don’t keep your perspective. As human beings, we tend to be tough on ourselves. As writers, we can be downright merciless. Reviewing what you have accomplished inevitably leads to acknowledging what you have not accomplished, and those realizations can leave you feeling deflated, guilty, ashamed, and generally disappointed in yourself. Or, maybe that’s just me.

Each year, I stride into January with Big Dreams and High Hopes. A small voice in my head cheers the mantra, “This is the year! This is the year!” I can’t help but be swept up in the exhilarating annual revel of redemption and expectation. After all, who doesn’t love a second chance? For as long as I can remember, I have spent the end of December contemplating the same two creative/professional New Year’s goals: writing (and eventually publishing) fiction and developing a new business around my love of writing/reading/story/creativity (vs. around the marketing/copywriting that is my current bread-and-butter).

And, for as long as I can remember, I have so far “failed” to accomplish either of these two goals.

I say “failed” instead of FAILED because while I haven’t yet brought my visions of success and fulfillment to life, I haven’t given up either.  Each year I take a few more baby steps in the direction of my goals, and – equally important – I endeavor to keep my perspective about my accomplishments. Even if I’m unable to check off any items in the Big Goals category, I try to remember the value of lesser achievements in the Learning From My Mistakes and Trials category.

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2015 served me more than my usual share of personal upheaval. For the first time in the seven years since my divorce, I returned to court to negotiate long overdue agreement updates with my still-hostile ex. I took on the daunting responsibility of home ownership, watched my impossibly grown-up daughter enter middle school, and learned a bit about being a grown up myself when my beau’s twenty-year-old daughter moved back in with him after seventeen years away. I had a minor (and, happily, short-lived) health scare that nevertheless made me think, and survived (barely) one of the busiest fourth quarters in my eight-year freelance writing career.

While all of this contributed to a general sense of sustained stress and tension for the year, it was a comparatively minor development in my writing life that brought me up short as I was preparing for the holidays: for the first time in my life, I was fired.

The details are immaterial. That the severing of relations was related to misunderstandings about scope and process rather than to the quality of my work didn’t soften the blow to my ego or lessen the negative effect on my income. One minute I was facing a Herculean writing task that would have forced me to work nights and weekends from mid-December right up until the holiday ( and would have resulted in a nice deposit in my bank account), and the next I was facing an empty calendar and an unexpected revenue deficit. The 180-degree about face gave me emotional whiplash and unleashed a flood of self doubt and anxiety.

But, as the hours passed, I found my spirits not only reviving, but rejoicing. I hadn’t realized how much the project had been coloring my outlook and mood. Even before I’d been fired, I’d been feeling like a failure. The impossible expectations were like a dark cloud hovering over me, siphoning off my confidence, self esteem, and energy. Once I was able to get past the initial sting of rejection, my heart and mind felt immeasurably lighter. Sure, I was out some cash, but the more I played the possible outcomes through in my head, the more I realized I’d dodged a bullet that would have ruined my holidays.

Ultimately, this unpleasant experience proved to me – in real-world, platitude-free terms – that time, happiness, and health are more valuable than money. The payment I would have earned could never have offset the price I would have paid working long hours that kept me from my loved ones and jeopardized my health.

Talk about a wake-up call.

In an interesting twist to the story, a few hours after I learned I’d been fired, I received an email from an editor at WordPress notifying me that my post Writing is My Real Job had been selected as a feature on Discover (formerly Freshly Pressed). I admit that it took me a little while to connect the dots, but once I stepped back to see the Big Picture – being fired off a lucrative job I wasn’t loving and then getting news that work I did for love was being recognized – I felt like the Universe had slapped me upside the head.

I couldn’t have wished for a more appropriate New Year’s gift.

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This is why instead of slamming the door on 2015, this New Year’s season finds me taking my leisurely leave of the past twelve months. I’m still looking forward to the year ahead. I’m still full of my usual Pollyanna-ish ambition, optimism, and hope. But I’m also more aware than ever before that I will be better off in 2016 if I can build on what I learned in 2015 rather than throwing the year’s experiences – good and especially bad – into the trash like a half-baked first draft.

As I look back over last year in the context of planning the year ahead, I am paying particular attention to how I interpret “good” and “bad.” Going back to court was hard, but I discovered an unexpected reserve of confidence and calm. Having our housing in jeopardy and then committing to the financial responsibility of owning property were both terrifying, but we now have a home to call our own. Being fired was a bummer, but it was probably the only way I was going to see – really see – what is most important to me, both personally and professionally.

Processing my New Year this way – looking both backward and forward, layering my hopes and plans for the New Year on top of the successes and missteps of the old one – forces me to take a longer view of things – to look at the “old” year and the new one not as distinct entities that must be judged against each other, but as interwoven pieces of an unbroken continuum.

Likewise, I no longer feel the need to reinvent myself on January first. Like my life and my creative journey, I am not a series of annual iterations. There is no 2015 Jamie vs. a 2016 Jamie. There’s just me. I will still strive to learn and grow. I will still work to improve my craft, increase my success, and explore my potential; but I will also try to remember that I’m not broken or half-baked. What I’ve done in years past is not less valuable than what I will do in the years to come, and vice versa. It’s all part of one life.

I’ve heard it said that we should live only in the present because focusing too much on the past tends to stirs regrets while focusing too much on the future feeds our worries. But, I believe that the present moment exists fully only in the context of both our past and our future. We are who we are right now because of what we’ve experienced in the past and what we hope for the future. Our lives do not exist in a vacuum. They are shaped, guided, and inspired by everything that has come before and everything that is yet to come.

And, as writers, it’s this Big Picture way of looking at things that gives us the ability to bring past, present, future, and all the possibilities contained therein to life in an almost magical way. It’s this willingness to embrace the bad with the good, the triumphant with the tragic that allows us to harness the beautiful imperfection of all our experiences so we can tell the stories that matter most to us.

Happy New Year!

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Being Grateful and Giving Thanks

With the momentum for stress building due to the upcoming (US) holidays, I find it more important than ever to take a few minutes each day to give thanks and be grateful for all that I have – regarding my writing life and my whole life.

Diane wrote about how gratitude is one of the best feelings we human beings can feel. And she opened by talking about how when we’re in a state of appreciation, we can’t also (at the same time) be in a state of fear or lack. She shares some of what she’s thankful for and has great prompts for us.

Julie talked about the gratitude journal after reading Simple Abundance. It suggests writing down 5 things, every day that you are truly grateful for. She gave us a baker’s dozen of writing-related things she’s grateful for.

Being-Thankful

I have a gratitude / thankful journal, but don’t write in it every day.  I do, however, give thanks every day. If I’m not writing the items down, I’m spending a few moments before bed saying my thanks out loud. Sometimes it can be a lot more than 5 things, sometimes the 5 things became the basics: fresh air, clean clothes, food in the fridge that wasn’t moldy, hot water, a new writing project.

I used to find the holiday season stressful: pressure to find the ‘right’ gift, dealing with family dynamics, increased traffic, crowded malls, work deadlines that didn’t account for all the delays due to increased traffic and crowded malls, cards to write and mail, and, oh, decorating! So much to do and not enough time to do it!

It’s this time of year, and during stressful moments, when we need to pause, take a deep breath, and spend a moment connecting with what is good.

Stop. For a moment.

Breathe. Slowly in, hold it, slowly out.

See.

Be still, breathe, and look around.

Look not just at what is around you at the moment in the physical space, but look around inside yourself and discover all the positive feelings, recognize what makes you smile, listen to the sounds around you.

You can be grateful for being able see, feel, and hear. Already 3 things, right there. You may see a mess that needs to be cleaned up. You may feel aches and pains. You may hear a generator instead of silence. But you can be grateful to have those sensations, those abilities — not everyone does.

As Thanksgiving comes rushing toward us this week, I hope you can find a minute each day to pause and either write down or say out loud, at least 5 things you are grateful or thankful for.

This morning I’m grateful for technology (to do my work), the sunrise (to light up the room), fresh coffee (need I say more), writing projects (to pay the bills), and fleece (to keep the chill away).

What are at least 5 things you are grateful for right now?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Reflections for the New Year

Isn’t it odd that we haven’t celebrated Labor Day yet? September 1 is the beginning of the year for me. I worked in academia for years, so I got used to September being the start. I also work in theater, and this time of year is when summer seasons are winding down, and regular seasons are heating up. So, with my new year upon me, I am very reflective in early September.

Happy New YearAs regular readers know, my dream of being a published author is about to come true. On October 6, Just Killing Time, written under the pseudonym Julianne Holmes, will be released by Berkley. This is such a thrill, but the details are coming at me fast and furiously. I’m planning a launch party, sending out ARCs, and planning some appearances. I’m also working with my editor on book #2, and starting to plot book #3. A friend reminded me to stop, and enjoy this journey. Hard to do, but something I really need to focus on–I will have other books published, but this is my only first.

Goal for the fall: enjoy the journey of publication

Another writing goal is to chip away at Book #3. As another friend said, on book #1 you learn how to write a book. On book #2 you prove to yourself you can do it again. On book #3, the game is on. I want to continue to grow as a writer. I want each book to be better. That means spending more time editing, which means the first draft needs to get done. Deadlines are actually a blessing, and I am figuring out how to work with them. That said, procrastination and I have a relationship, and we need to break up.

Goal for the fall: keep working on the story, and the story telling. Don’t loose momentum.

I write on a laptop, on my couch. When I get going, I will sit for hours and work. I am terrible about taking breaks, are you? This isn’t healthy on a number of fronts, and I need to develop new habits.

Goal for the fall: make moving around part of my writing routine. Walks for plotting, maybe a standing desk?

Final writing goal? Remember two things: be grateful, and be kind. Keeping these are core values are essential. Writing is a solitary effort that depends on community for success. I have a wonderful community, and am so grateful for them. But as importantly, I need to remember to practice kindness. I should clarify, kindness does not mean I am always nice. I am too old to be nice all the time.

Goal for life: Gratitude and Kindness, always.

How about you, dear readers? Do you think of this time of year as a new year? Any writing goals that you plan on rebooting this fall?

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Julie Hennrikus is an arts administrator, J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories, and Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series.

The First Quarter of 2015

It’s the beginning of the second quarter of 2015, and I took a look back at my goals for the year and at the progress I’ve made. In many areas of my life, I’m plugging away at my goals, on track to accomplish many of them by the end of the year.

Some of my writing goals are not going so well.   Some are.

I’m on track to do two one-day writing retreats this year, which was a big goal of mine. Another goal, submitting to Level Best Books, should have happened by now–but it didn’t. If I’m honest with myself, polishing that short story was not my highest priority.

And that’s okay. Because when I look at my highest priorities, I wouldn’t change them.

I’m not going to waste time beating myself up about it.

I’m looking at the second quarter of 2015 and I’m ready to continue to work on my writing goals, with a little reshuffle in there to reflect where I currently am.

One of the things I realized in the past few months is that it’s important for me to connect with other writers, even when I’m not writing a lot.

Even though I haven’t contributed writing pieces to my critique group as often as I’d like, I’ve continued to be a part of the group, and I’ve critiqued my fellow writers work to the best of my ability.

Being in that group has been such a gift. Two of our members recently submitted rewritten work that we’d already seen in first draft form. The changes were inspiring. Seeing how smooth the writing became with reworking (and reworking) motivated me to get back to my story, which was still in first draft form at the beginning of the year.

Meeting up with other writers randomly and on purpose has also been a gift. I ran into Julie, who also blogs here, last Sunday, at ImprovBoston, the comedy theater where I take classes. We had a short but inspiring conversation about how theater informs our writing and vice versa.

Lisa, another blogger, and I meet regularly about things other than writing, but the conversation turns, inevitably, to our writing. What we’re working on and what we’d like to prioritize in the next little while. Our conversations always energize me.

So my writing goals have shifted a little since the beginning of the year–I’m writing more website copy than I thought I would–but it’s all writing and it’s all good.

Every word counts. Looking forward to the next quarter of 2015.

How did the first quarter of 2015 go for you, fellow writer?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD, is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and stepmother. I’m in the process of rewriting my website, which is very personal writing, and a good exercise for me as a writer. I’ll let you know when the new website is ready to launch.

Put it in writing and kick butt in 2015

A New Year is just around the corner.

happy New Year hat 4I do for the upcoming year what I also do for my birthdays. I don’t set resolutions, instead I set life goals. I write down what I want to work on and see accomplished in the next 12 months. New Year’s isn’t a time for me to party as much as it is a time for reflection.

First, I start with general goals grouped into categories under:

  • Health/Fitness
  • Career
  • Fun/Hobbies
  • Home

Then I identify major goals in each category. For example, in the career category, I am going to focus my writing on parenting this year. (Don’t worry, I’ll still write about my chickens.) I plan on pitching articles to, and writing for, national parenting magazines.

I also have *two* manuscripts that need to get brushed off, spiffed up and sent out for review. Enough is enough. Time to kick those little chicks out of the nest.

Those are my big goals, but I also have smaller ones, like write more consistently for various blogs, work on cleaning up my social media footprint, and create a self-marketing plan.

One thing I learned years ago when taking a goals class (yes there was such a thing) sponsored by my workplace was that while everyone knows how to set a goal (ex. I’m going to lose 25 pound this year) it’s the lack of breaking that goal down into achievable tasks that virtually guarantees it will not happen.

As a direct result of that class, for each of my goals, I then chunk them into smaller measurable bites. For example, during the month of January, I might do two article pitches and aim to write at least one article each week.

For my manuscripts, I’ll break those two humongous goals down into much smaller bites and will assign dates to each step. Final edits by the end of January, proposals written in February, queries begin in March, (champagne acceptance party in June?)

The final step to my things-to-accomplish plan is that I’m going to be accountable to another person for each of my goals. This means that I’ll state my goals and tasks to that person (and she to me) and then each week, we’ll report on our progress (or lack thereof.)

No shame in not making a scheduled goal, hey life happens, but by stating it, it’s reminding us that we still want to get it done. If we find a task keeps slipping from week to week, then it’s a sure sign we need to think about how important that task really is and if it should even be on our lists. I’ve done this type of teamwork before and it’s a powerful way to be accountable and get work done.

So this New Year’s eve, enjoy family and friends, certainly enjoy a drink or two (but please not too many, starting the new year with a hangover SUCKS) and take some time to honestly reflect on what it is you’d like to accomplish in the upcoming year – especially with your writing. Be accountable and absolutely commit to what you are capable of.

Put it in writing, say it out loud and then kick butt in 2015.

Best wishes for a happy, bright, and successful new year.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

 

Quiet and Productive Time

Ahh, the final two weeks of the year have arrived.

Sure it’s crazy-busy right now with the holiday approaching. There’s last-minute planning and shopping to take care of and, apparently, bad weather on it’s way to challenge the northeast as people travel on Thursday (Mother Nature challenged many of us on Thanksgiving, too).

But, as I mentioned last year, this is generally a very productive time of year for me.

My quiet time started on Friday and other than holiday-related plans, it will be quiet and I’ll be able to catch up on everything that I haven’t paid attention to for the last 5-6 weeks. Other than catching up on year-end invoices, my business commitments to clients are complete.

It’s nice to have quiet time to do what I want, whether it’s to catch up on To Do list items, or simply kick back and catch up on reading or shows in my Hulu queue.

Do you find the end of the calendar year to be quiet or chaos for you in regard to your writing?

 

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa 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 tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.