365

365

I hit a milestone yesterday. According to my Bullet Journal, I’ve written for 365 days in a row.

Think about that. Three hundred and sixty-five days. One year.

A big part of doing anything is sticking with it. Last year, I watched the Rita and Golden Heart Finalists be announced, looked at my own writing output…and got very depressed. I love writing. I love putting those words down on the page, giving life to the people and places in my head. But it isn’t my full time job or what pays the rent and puts food on the table. For that, I’m a cog in the corporate wheel, like many of you who read this. I’ve also got family responsibilities that take time and energy, like many of you. And, like many of you, there are days that I just felt too stretched, too tired to do something I loved because I was busy taking care of everything else.

So I looked at those announcements rolling across Twitter and I decided that needed to change. I’d told myself I would get a book out in 2016 — or I’d have to sit down and face the fact that maybe I was never going to be doing this for more than my own amusement. So I grabbed my journal and made a note: Writing Day 1. Yes, words got written that day, just like we stick to the first day of the diet. Same of Day 2 and Day 3. Day 4? That’s when I stumbled. Work was crazy and there was family stuff and I wanted to watch something on TV and I was tired — you know the excuses. I figured one day wouldn’t hurt. Nor would two. It was several days later that I realized I’d fallen back in the rut of letting everything else push the writing aside.

So I started again. Writing Day 1. That’s the streak I’m celebrating now. It hasn’t been easy because, well, life and we all have too many things on our plate and too many things that demand our time and attention before we can get to that which we do for ourselves. But if you keep going, things happen. I’ve gotten not one, but two books out, with two more to come this year. I’ve written on days when I was assured I wouldn’t have time because I needed to be at the polls by 6 AM and it was going to be a long, hard day. I’ve written during the last month of the year when my job required much more than forty hours in a week because we were prepping for the year to come and the materials I needed arrived later than they should. I’ve written in a cubicle in the Emergency Room, sitting at a bedside. Some days it’s been several thousand words. Sometimes, it’s been notes for an idea or something to solve a plot problem. And, yes, there have been a few days I would have rather been anywhere else except at the keyboard.

I did it, though, because if you want to do something that you love, no matter what it is, you have to work at it. Maybe it’s just five or ten minutes a day most days, carving out little niches of time, but you keep working at it. If you do that, it becomes natural to carve out that time for ourselves, to do the thing we want to do. Will you be guaranteed fame and fortune? No — but it’s better to spend time doing what you love, even if it is only for ourselves. Much better than looking back and saying “I wish I had at least tried.”

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m working on balance for Lent, trying to find that sweet spot where I can get the work done, be who I need to be for my family, do all the things I need to promote myself as an author, and write. It’s not easy, but getting the writing done every single day for a year wasn’t either. So I keep trying. And I’m asking you to do the same. Write down a goal — not a big one, but a little one, something you can chip away at for ten or fifteen minutes a day. Something you’ve been saying “someday” about. Write “Day 1” behind it. Carve out that tiny sliver of time because that’s often all we have. Do it tomorrow, and the day after. If you stumble one day, the next day, write “Day 1” and start the streak over again. Given time, it’s amazing what can come from that sliver.

40 Days

40 Days

This is not a religious post.

The reason I say that is because I would like to note that today is Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar, the start of the Lenten season. Forty days of fasting and prayer as the faithful mark the period when Jesus wandered in the desert before turning his feet toward Jerusalem.

It is tradition that during this time you give up something indulgent as a sign of the sacrifices made. Many folks give up chocolate or sweets — and then whine about it, trying to find loopholes in the rules so they can have some.

About ten years ago, I decided that was fairly counter-productive. Yes, I eat chocolate during Lent. Cookies as well. Do I try to cut down? Well, yes, because I should. But what I started doing instead was making these forty days not a time to deprive myself of something, but to add to my life. Make this season a positive instead of “How long before I can have a Snickers again without feeling guilty?”

These are not necessarily large things, though the result is often larger than the action, but something that I’ve wanted to try or learn or do. I’ve done intensive readings of authors or subjects that were on my “someday” list and worked to speed up how fast I knit. (That one was a moderate success, but there was progress.) Some of it is spiritual, some intellectual, much of it, these last few years, devoted to my writing.

This year, I’m focusing on making the balance of getting the writing done and filling my creative well work. I love writing and greatly enjoy much of the time I spend in front of a keyboard drafting a book. But I know I need to also spend time resting and doing other things I enjoy doing. Too often in these last few months, I’ve found myself drained as I’ve promoted one book, drafted and revised another, then promoted that. In fact, I didn’t do anywhere near as much promotion on my latest book because I was simply exhausted. Remember, there were family commitments and the day job during that time as well.

So here’s challenge this year: struggle toward the balance I need between being a producing writer, the other commitments in my life, and finding time to just relax.

Even if you don’t “do” Lent, what can you do in the next forty days that will help you toward who you want to be? I’d love here your thoughts and brilliant ideas are always welcome. Let’s check back in a few days to see how it’s going.

Featured photo by SoloTravelGoals/Unsplash

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 19: Possibilities

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 19: Possibilities

“With self-discipline, most anything is possible.” — Theodore Roosevelt

My counter on the NaNo site tells me that if I write 2,010 words every day for the rest of the month, I’ll make 50,000 words. At this moment, due to illness, I’m feeling lucky if I get 700. But I trudge on, working when I can, and since most of this weekend will be spent tucked up in bed, I’m going to try to put a dent in that.

My husband lifted an eyebrow at me (like any good romance hero should) and asked, “Isn’t the idea for you to be resting?”

Well, yes, but one of the ways to rest is to take stress off your plate. One of the ways for me to do that is to stick to the self-discipline of getting my words done as best I can. Here’s the thing, as much as we cheer on the idea of “thirty days and nights of literary abandon,” a big part of getting NaNoWriMo done is having the self-discipline to sit down each day and do those words. There are going to be good days and bad days, but it’s the doing it every day that counts the most. And, if you want this to more than just a one-time or once a year thing, it’s a good idea to cultivate a little self-discipline.

I write commercial fiction. I have three books planned for 2017, one of which is supposed to be released in 2 months, 18 days. The second in 6 months, 24 days. The third in exactly 11 months. In addition to that, I need to plot and start writing future books in this series. It’s…not a light schedule, especially when you factor in the day job, elder care and the usual ups and downs of life. Self-discipline is the only way I’m going to be able to do this. Because I’m self-publishing, I have some leeway and can shift the dates somewhat, though the first book is themed, so it really needs to not slip. But that means self-discipline is all the more important because the only person I’m answering to is me.

Ever tell yourself, “I’m going to do X every day!” — only to find reason not to within a week of starting out? Yeah, I know that feeling. That’s why, sick as I’m feeling — and, yes, I am going in to Urgent Care today — I’m trying to stick to that particular self-discipline as much as I can because this is important to me. 2016 was the year to get myself published. I did that. 2017 is the year to go bigger.

You took this on because this is important to you. Maybe it’s a life goal, maybe it’s a need to get yourself back on track. If you’re struggling, tell yourself that you’re doing good by sitting down in front of that keyboard. You’re building a habit that will see you through this month and beyond. Even if you use the writing as an excuse to avoid doing the exercise you also told yourself you would do regularly (not that I would know anything about that), keep at day in and day out.

Because, yes, most anything is possible is we dream it and breathe life into it with our words.

Word Count Goal: 31,673

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Preparation

Preparation

“Perpetual anticipation is good for the soul but bad for the heart.” —Stephen Sondheim

prodcal-bodyaI spent the weekend planning. Most of it was for NaNoWriMo, which is now only 22 days away. I’m still figuring out the plot for Home and the Heartland, which is this year’s story, and the third book in the Henry’s Mills series, contemporary romances set in a fictional small town in Connecticut. Yes, I like Gilmore Girls.

Except…

The way the planning is going, it’s looking more and more as if this book, the third one I’m writing, is actually going to be the first one chronologically. Just the way the story is working out, and while I’m definitely writing each of the books so they can stand alone, there are certain plot elements that arc throughout. Because of that, the book works better earlier rather than later. But if I want to publish it in June, which is where I had planned to publish Only in My Dreams, the first book I wrote, then I definitely need to plan because that date is eight months and three days away.

If doing Surviving 30 Days of Literary Madness did one thing, it taught me that eight months is a heck of a lot shorter time than you think. So this weekend was also spent working on the production calendar, seeing if I could really do this and how it would fall out. Answer is, I can, but I will have to watch the calendar and re-work things if I should fall behind for some reason.

Then there’s my new office, which isn’t actually new but a reworking of space that will let my husband take over our current shared space and set me up what is currently designated as the “living room,” but has only ever been used for guests and holidays ever since my husband and his family moved into the house when he was in middle school. The idea is that it becomes our library, complete with bookshelves along two walls, my desk at one end with a view of the pool (and the small palm tree I’m planning to put in place of the honeysuckle we’ve had removed), and a comfy chair in front of the fireplace. It’s the logistics of not just what goes where, but where we put a few pieces which are already in there, where the books will go while we’re putting up the bookcases and getting those anchored, how we’re dealing with the cords for my computer, etc. Plus, I’ll need to pick out a pouf for the cats to lounge upon. This is high on the list. (Which the cats would swear is is only their due.)

But there’s still the anticipation, the feeling that it’s never going to be done. One thing I have learned this year, though; when you’re working and working and it feels as if the goal line is still forever away, that’s probably when you’re closer than you think. We’re not actually working yet, but it’s coming soon.

Tell me what’s going on in your life that you’re in anticipation for.

Now Available

30dayliterarymadnessSurviving 30 Days of Literary Madness is a daybook of support, encouragement and the occasional kick in the pants to help make the stress more bearable and keep your eyes focused on your goal.

For each day of this mad sprint, there is a quote and essay designed to help keep you going at the keyboard, along with other pieces about preparation and the novelizing hangover that comes in December. There are also pages for those other moments, the ones when you’ve fallen slightly behind – or you realize this may not be a year you cross the finish line. No matter how your November novel experience is going, this book will be a companion for each day.

Available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Bookstore

Out With the Old, In With the New

Out With the Old, In With the New

“There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus

For the past year, I’ve been keeping a Bullet Journal. It’s been tremendously helpful in keeping myself on track, especially since 2016 has not been particularly calm. If you’re looking for a journaling system, I highly recommend giving it a try.

body_copyThe beauty of the Bullet Journal system is that it is flexible to meet your needs, which means I can have my daily tasks and notes, then capture story ideas, revision notes, information that I might need at a future date. Its other beauty is that the only essentials are a pen and a notebook.

I started with a partially-filled notebook but ended up graduating to a nice Moleskine, rediscovering my love of fountain pens and becoming addicted to washi tape. I’ve got colored flags that help me mark pages based on the content. All very efficient, creative and actually quite fun. There’s just one problem: fountain pens and felt pens have a tendency to bleed through the paper. I have one pen I can’t use in my journal for just that reason. It’s a medium nib and it lays too much ink down.

Well, I couldn’t until this week. Turns out that July to September spawned so many notes for future books and editing in progress, I had to buy a new notebook to finish out the year, beginning with October 1. Based on suggestions from folks who do very pretty layouts on Pinterest and Instagram, instead of going for another Moleskine, I moved to a Leuchtturm1917. It’s slightly wider as it’s European sizing rather than the standard 8.5″x5.5″ that we’re used to – and that not only gives me more room to write, the ink doesn’t bleed through the paper unless I lay it down very heavily. It does ghost, as you can see in the photo, but ghosting is something I can live with. It’s much better than have lots of little dots and strokes that interfere with what you’re writing.

These lovely notebooks don’t come cheap. The three notebooks for my “simple” journaling system in 2016 cost what I used to pay for a Franklin Covey system. And yet…

A journal is only as useful as you make use of it. My old planner would often end up with lots of blank pages, or nothing but tasks. While there’s many a day in my Bullet Journal that’s just tasks, between the pages are story idea, important information, the map for fantasy world I created, what needed to be done to get Surviving 30 Days of Literary Madness ready for publication, a list of books I read this year. The first six months of the year were a more fallow creative period for me and the one notebook served me six months. The latter half requires two. I hoping that perhaps I can go four months next year, though I suspect I might end up needing one notebook a quarter. But if I go three or four or six months, the system is flexible enough that I’m not locked into “I must change notebooks at this date” unless I decide to. I ended September with less than ten blank pages left in my notebook, so it was definitely time to move to the new one.

Am I going to stay with the Leuchtturm1917? I think I may, but I’ll see how I feel halfway through November. For now, though, the ink is flowing smoothly, not bleeding through, and I just bought several new washi tapes for the fall season. With the start of NaNoWriMo only 27 days away, I’m filling the pages with the notes for this year’s project, along with the outline of a tentative production schedule for 2017. It’s a different way than I was working a year ago, but it’s getting results and that’s the important thing.

So, what type of journal are you using, if you’re using one? What do you love about it? What would you change?

Now Available

30dayliterarymadnessSurviving 30 Days of Literary Madness is a daybook of support, encouragement and the occasional kick in the pants to help make the stress more bearable and keep your eyes focused on your goal.

For each day of this mad sprint, there is a quote and essay designed to help keep you going at the keyboard, along with other pieces about preparation and the novelizing hangover that comes in December. There are also pages for those other moments, the ones when you’ve fallen slightly behind – or you realize this may not be a year you cross the finish line. No matter how your November novel experience is going, this book will be a companion for each day.

Available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Bookstore

And the Circle Comes Round Again

And the Circle Comes Round Again

“I’m always confident when I sign up for a project that it’s going to be good. That’s why I sign up for it.” – Taraji P. Henson

100316bodyIt’s Monday morning and NaNoWriMo 2016 sign-ups begin today. By the time you read this, I’ll have created my novel page, and uploaded the first version of my cover – which will probably need to be re-sized. I never manage to get it right the first time because the dimensions on the NaNo site are slightly different than what you’d use if you were making an actual book cover. The dimensions for your novel page are 230x300, by the way.

Chatter is picking up on Twitter, especially under the #NaNoWriMo2016 tag as folks debate on whether or not to undertake the leap into madness that is attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ll be doing it this year, drafting the third book for my Henry’s Mills series. Which looks like it will actually be the first full-length book to be published. (Tentative date is next June. Details to follow).

If you are planning on participating, hopefully you’ve already begun your preparations. I spent my weekend deep in my plot threads, trying to do a bit more planning than I usually do. I’ve been reading Lisa Cron’s Story Genius, so this year is going to be a bit of an experiment. I’m something of a pantser by nature, so trying a method that requires me to do more plotting before I start is going to be a stretch.

But that’s what NaNoWriMo is about, stretching your muscles. Last year I did a full first draft, some 72K. That was a record for me, and I’m not necessarily expecting to be able to repeat the performance, especially since I’m approaching this November with a different method. But it’s a mark to shoot for.

Today’s photo is a tribute to NaNos past; “New Books” is from the Borders where I spent many a Friday evening writing while my husband was with his gaming group. “Romance” and “Mystery” are from the Barnes & Noble close to my office, which closed a few years ago, and also provided me with a number of writing hours in their cafe. These hang in my hall, a daily reminder of my writing goals.

November 1 is only 29 days away. What are your goals for this year?

Now Available

30dayliterarymadnessSurviving 30 Days of Literary Madness is a daybook of support, encouragement and the occasional kick in the pants to help make the stress more bearable and keep your eyes focused on your goal.

For each day of this mad sprint, there is a quote and essay designed to help keep you going at the keyboard, along with other pieces about preparation and the novelizing hangover that comes in December. There are also pages for those other moments, the ones when you’ve fallen slightly behind – or you realize this may not be a year you cross the finish line. No matter how your November novel experience is going, this book will be a companion for each day.

Available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Bookstore

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