Rinse and repeat

Rinse and repeat

Gwynn Scheltema

Okay, I know; I know. New Year is yelling out “GOALS” and “RESOLUTIONS”, and no one really wants to hear it, least of all me. But when I got to thinking about it, I realized I have a few ongoing goal-setting and goal-achieving tools in place already. And they work! So I thought I’d share them with you.

Little and often

While I’m a great supporter of having big long-term goals and a vision of where you want to go in life, I find that sometimes the big picture can be overwhelming. I believe that those big concepts should be the background canvas on which you paint in the details as you go—and re-paint them if you choose.

The writing critique group I belong to understands this perfectly. We meet every two weeks and at the end of each meeting we all set a writing goal for the next two weeks only. We each set our own goal depending on what we are working on at the time and what is happening in our lives.

We encourage specificity— “5000 words” or “edit 3 chapters” or “fill plot hole in Chapter 7 or “four meaningful bum-in-chair sessions”. At the next meeting if we miss our goal, we pay up to a charity fund. But we also encourage life balance. It’s okay to not set a goal if your life dictates. We also recognize that sometimes “thinking about” a plot or character qualifies as long as sooner or later that turns into “writing about.”

This system works because it is frequent, achievable, and there is accountability. Small goals and small successes that add up over time.

Eat that Frog

Mark Twain once said that if you start the day by eating a frog you will have the satisfaction of knowing that this was probably the worst thing you had to do that day. The frog is a metaphor for your biggest and most important task of the day and has become a popular procrastination-busting technique.

When I’m trying to avoid that “frog”, I play solitaire, disappear into social media or sort the kitchen junk drawer or….. I’m sure you have equally pointless—and time consuming—avoidance tactics.

Learning the skill of attacking the most important task first (writing related or not) and getting it out of the way frees you up. You’ll have more time, less guilt and a clear mind to be creative. It’s a skill that helps you accomplish whatever you set as your priorities—including your goals.

It does take practice, but like anything in life, the more you consciously do it, the easier it becomes. Most writers can perform to a deadline. Perhaps putting your own deadline on your “frogs” will help?

 

Make your bed

Now this may seem contradictory to the “eat the frog” principle, but getting through your to-do list and achieving your goals begins with making your bed.

Your mom probably drilled that in to you, but the idea came back into popularity with Navy SEAL Admiral McRaven’s speech to grads in 2014: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.”

All I know, it works for me.

Your frog for today

So there you have it.

Today, go make your bed, then sit down and decide on a reasonable achievable goal to be accomplished within the next two weeks. Then break it down into what needs to be done first, and then next, and next after that….

Tomorrow, make your bed, look to see what is #1 on that list and eat that frog.

Day after tomorrow, eat frog #2

Rinse and repeat…rinse and repeat…

DID YOU KNOW

A writing retreat is a great way to focus on your writing projects and goals and registration for Writescape’s Spring Thaw 2018 is now open, and already half full.

This all-inclusive writing retreat is held at the fabulous Elmhirst’s Resort on Rice Lake in Keene. Stay for the weekend or treat yourself to an extra two days of writing.

    • 10-page manuscript evaluation with written feedback from Ruth and Gwynn
    • one-on-one manuscript consultation with either Gwynn or Ruth
    • private writing time
    • optional daytime creativity sessions to fire up your pen
    • a companion workbook with inspiration, prompts and supports
    • optional evening activities to network and share ideas and inspiration with retreat colleagues
    • comfortable cottages with wood-burning fireplace
    • first-class amenities and delicious meals

Brochure-Spring Thaw-2018

Writing Positively and Successfully in 2017

Writing Positively and Successfully in 2017

Gwynn Scheltema

We are all familiar with setting New Year’s resolutions, or resetting the same goals we set last year and didn’t achieve. So what other positive things can we do to motivate ourselves to move forward?

Switch to a positive perspective

Never underestimate the power of positive thought. Someone once said that if you think your glass is always half full, then pour it into a smaller glass and quit whining. What they mean is: stop complaining; learn to see things from a new, more positive perspective. Don’t focus on what you haven’t achieved, but celebrate what you’ve accomplished. Don’t bemoan what you can’t do, but feel proud of what you have learned and mastered already. Self-confidence is half the battle.

Document progress and small successes

Pat yourself on the back often. My good friend, Ingrid Ruthig, introduced me to the habit of keeping a document file on my computer desktop called “Things I’ve Done in 201_” (add your own year). In it, I record every small accomplishment as it happens.

I include a record of submissions that I send out —whether they come to fruition or not— because even the act of submitting is a positive and motivating step for any writer. I list writing events I attend. I list open mic opportunities, readings, interviews or panels I participate in. I paste copy from encouraging emails about my work. I record the completion or start of writing projects, or even segments within writing projects— “finished Chapter 3!”. I record workshops attended or given, and retreats and writer’s breakfasts. I fill in the dots on the calendar for every B.I.C session I complete.

As the list grows I get a satisfying sense of what I’m doing to further my writing journey or project—or a self-kick-in-the-pants if there haven’t been any recent entries.

At the end of the year I have a real record of accomplishments and areas that need focus. I also have a decent record to refer to when completing my tax returns or updating my writing resume— but that’s another blog.

Have elastic expectations

Seeing where you were a year ago and where you are today can be revealing. Priorities and goals can change over the course of the year. Projects can fizzle or get sidelined by new projects (and life) unimagined at the start of the year, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Just because something on your goal list doesn’t get completed doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Reflect on what you’ve learned. Adjust and move on. Go with the flow.

If you like to set goals, perhaps plan to start with short-term (monthly, quarterly) goals. Make some targets easy to complete to keep you motivated. Display them somewhere to nudge yourself and stay on track.

Also balance that with longer-term (2-year, 5-year, lifetime) goals where you reach for the stars so you have something to aspire to and something for your subconscious to envision. They say that the first step to actualization is visualization.

Strive for balance

Achieving writing goals is all very well, but if they are achieved at the expense of your health or your family relationships and other important aspects of life, then perhaps you need to reconsider your life balance.  As Ruth said in her blog, make time to not write. Take time to live. Take time to indulge in growth through retreats, conferences, workshops or just hanging out with writerly friends. Take time to notice. Take time to read. Take time to exercise. Take time to love.

Above all, be kind to yourself. Look for the good in everything. Enjoy the writing journey you’ve chosen for yourself. Enjoy life. Be positive and you’ll get there.

Here’s to your positive and successful 2017.