Category Archives: Self-Motivation

The Goal Post

I’m a football fan. Apparently that’s somewhat rare in the world of writers. I love a lot of different sports, including baseball, golf, basketball and swimming. By some crazy coincidence I am writing this post smack in the middle of the NFL playoffs. And this month’s Fictorian’s theme is all about goals.

So, this post is about goals, ergo, it is the goal post. See what I did there?

OK, I’m sorry. Still, it’s a decent lead in, and the sports reference is useful too. Because I happen to be one of those people who think goals are a critically important part of life. Goals give us something to strive for, something to measure our performance against, and something to appreciate when they are achieved.

Sports is famous for setting goals. If you talk to just about any world-class athlete, they will pepper you with their goals. Each goal achieved is one more step forward in their quest to achieve the greatness to which they aspire. Each goal achieved opens the door to new goals beyond.

I approach writing that way. Well, I approach a lot of things that way. But writing is one of them. That doesn’t mean I always achieve goals, but if I don’t achieve a goal, I don’t abandon my dreams, I re-calibrate and reset. Then I work toward my new goals. The more goals I achieve, the closer I am to the dreams I have.

Goals can be far-reaching and ambitious, like “I’m going to write a novel.” Or they can be direct and practical, like “I’m going to write 1,000 words tonight.” Then, the next night, “I’m going to write 1,000 words tonight.” If you string enough successful 1,000 word nights together, you can achieve your over-arching goal, “I’m going to write a novel.”

When I started writing, I used to keep a spreadsheet of how many words I wrote every night. I had nightly, weekly, and monthly goals for words written. If I came up short one night on a nightly goal, I could buckle down the next night and get back on track for a weekly goal.

Some people give themselves rewards for reaching goals. That’s fine, it probably helps some people, but for me the main reward for reaching a goal was… you guessed it, reaching the goal.

I’m just now wrapping up my fourth novel. I’m already planning my fifth. I remember when my loftiest goal was “I’m going to write a novel,” and that goal seemed light-years away and nearly impossible to reach. In truth, it wasn’t really that much effort, it was mostly all about sticking to my goals until I achieved them.

One of my favorite Robert Browning quotes is “Ah that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” That’s one way of saying that goals can help us achieve great things. It’s similar to “Reach for the stars, if you fall short, you might still reach the moon.”

Set some goals. Make them specific. Make them meaningful. Track your progress. Reward your successes. That’s not a bad way to get through life in general, and it just might finish that novel you’ve been working on forever.

Goals: Can’t Live With ‘Em, Can’t Live Without ‘Em

Welcome to 2018!

We hope your 2017 was full of wonderful words and stories, and that 2018 will be even better. That might even mean giving up on your New Years resolutions.

It’s shocking to think about, isn’t it? Quitting your goals? Almost taboo. Most of us have “never give up” stamped on the insides of our brains, and tell ourselves we’re quitters and failures if we do give up. Sometimes we barrel through our goals even when it’s no longer in our best interest.

This month, we’ll discuss when it’s appropriate to quit your goals. That’s right – when failure is your best option. Are you ticking off items in your to-do list just to do them? Are your goals no longer serving your overall purpose?

Some of us may not agree with quitting your goals, however. Some of us might say complete the goal anyway, because it’ll create a good habit for you to always complete your goals. Perhaps it’s best to modify your goal instead of doing away with it completely.

Please enjoy this month of thinking critically about the goals we set and when it’s best to quit them, modify them, or complete them! We’d love to hear your thoughts on our posts – please comment whenever a thought on the topic comes to mind!

2017 In Review: On Big Wins, New Wounds, and Old Demons – A Guest Post by Shannon Fox

A guest post by Shannon Fox.

There’s nobody who pushes me harder than myself. I set the bar high when it comes to my professional development and I’m constantly challenging myself with new goals. Sometimes I fantasize about what life would be like if I was the sort of person who was content to come home from work, eat dinner, and sit on the couch watching TV for the rest of the night. And then I get itchy thinking about all that wasted time and potential and quickly shelve that idea.

So when life gets in the way and forces me to revise my goals, I have a hard time being kind to myself and not feeling like I failed. Even if I ultimately accomplish everything I set out to do, I have a hard time seeing it as a “win” because I didn’t achieve it on my original timeline. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s just how I’m wired.

As I’m looking back on 2017, I find myself facing a surprising amount of objective wins: I rewrote an entire novel this year and started on the next revision. I attended two writing conferences, had some face-to-face conversations with literary agents, and pitched for the first time. I kept up with creating content for my book review and writing blog, Isle of Books, which saw more traffic that ever this year. I had several blogs and articles published by different companies in the equine industry. I even won a contest with one of those blogs! I started a free marketing resource site, Minute Marketing, and have been creating content for that as well. And Goodreads tells me I’ve read 65 books so far this year.

Yet, it’s too easy for me to focus on what didn’t happen:

My primary book about Nikola Tesla is still not ready for the querying process. So I still don’t have an agent and I still haven’t sold a book. My other books continue to sit around, gather dust, and wait for me to get around to fixing them. If I ever will.

And the worst of all the things that didn’t happened this year? My writing is still not where I want to be. I know that writing isn’t really a thing you master. It’s something you work at for your entire life. But I feel like I’m making glacial progress, which was further reinforced by a few incidents that happened to me this summer.

Simply put, I suffered a blow to my confidence that took me several months to get over. Portions of my book were reviewed in a couple of different public settings and let’s just say that it didn’t go well. The criticism itself wasn’t particularly savage, but it was relentless and hammering and left my confidence completely shredded all the same. Worse than the pain of that lost confidence though is that I really thought I was stronger and tougher than that. That I didn’t let people get under my skin anymore and that I could take criticism with the best of them. I’ve done so much growing over the years and have had to pick myself up and dust myself off so often I thought I had exorcised that particular demon. I guess not.

When I look back on 2017, I see some big wins and a few failures too. But with 2018 looming on the horizon, I’m working on being as kind to myself as I am to other people. I’ve been trying to be consistent about doing daily positive affirmations, which I do think really, really help. Not only do they make me feel happier and more positive, I feel like some really incredible opportunities have been showing up because I’ve been putting what I want out there so much.

In case this would be helpful to anyone else, here are a few of my affirmations that are writing specific:

  • I am working on my craft and growing as a writer.
  • I am refining my personal writing style and voice to make my stories uniquely me.
  • I am focusing on telling the best story possible.
  • I am attracting only those people who will help and support me in my journey and repelling that which doesn’t serve me.
  • I am open to receiving opportunities that will carry me further towards my goals.

If any of you are also struggling with having confidence in your art, I encourage you to try doing some affirmations before you sit down to write or edit – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! I feel like my writing sessions are more productive and successful if I’ve done affirmations before starting.

2017 wasn’t the year to top all years like I’d hoped it would be, but I learned a lot and got more clarity on my career goals. I know 2018 has some really exciting opportunities in the pipeline for me and while I can’t share what they are yet, I am confident 2018 will be my best year ever! I know the journey certainly won’t be smooth, but calm seas never did make for a skillful sailor.

 

About Shannon Fox:

I have a B.A. in Literature-Writing from UC-San Diego. I write novels and short stories, particularly young adult, contemporary, historical, and science fiction. I maintain my own blog of book reviews and writing advice at IsleofBooks.com. I am a regular blogger for Equine Journal and Coastal Premier Properties. I have authored over 200 articles and blogs for online and print publication. I was also a research assistant to the authors for the published novels Teen 2.0 and Against Their Will. In addition to writing, my professional background is in marketing and advertising. I run a free marketing resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners at www.MinMarketing.com.

Game on! Making writing fun 

It’s NaNoWriMo time.

As I said last month, I’m not really a NaNoWriMo participant. I do watch from the sidelines though. It’s interesting to watch writers push themselves to achieve word count goals. I do believe that the hardest part of writing is finishing a story, and anything that gets people to complete a project is probably a good thing.

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But I do worry about people putting ridiculous amounts of pressure on themselves to complete a project. Creating an artificial pressure-packed environment can make writing a chore, and that can give writers a bad taste in their mouths which can lead to less motivation, not more.

So how do you keep writing fun when the pressure is on?

Honestly, that’s a very hard question to answer. Sometimes writing really can be a chore. And if you’re trying to make a living at it, then it’s a chore that you have to do, just as much as if you were a pastry chef getting up at 4am for the umpteenth time and dragging yourself into work.

Here are a few things that might take the drudgery out of your writing as you try to maintain that 1,500 words per day goal that will get you close to a NaNoWriMo success.

  • Remove a significant character, and replace them with a completely different one. You don’t have to go all George R. R. Martin here, you don’t have to kill them. Maybe they just had to move away. Maybe your protagonist got into an argument with them, and they decided it was time to move on. Whatever the cause, this will force you to think about your characters’ personalities and give you a chance to explore how your protagonist deals with adversity.
  • Introduce some weather into your narrative. I can’t even think of the number of books I’ve read where it apparently never even rains, much less storms. Let nature become an obstacle to your characters’ goals. This is a great opportunity to paint a memorable scene.
  • It is apparently very difficult in a novel to get sick. Nobody ever seems to. I’ve read eight book series and the main characters never even get the sniffles. Your macho he-man hero type may be able to stare down a raging fire-breathing dragon, but how well does he handle a migraine?
  • Throw a party. In real life people go to parties all the time. Unless a party is part of the plot, characters in novels never seem to be invited to do anything. I’m writing this the day after Halloween. Maybe your main characters get invited to a costume party. What would they dress as? What would that reveal about their personalities that might not come out otherwise?

These are all things that can reveal new and interesting things about your character, while giving you something interesting and new to write. That’s when your mind is open to new ideas, and when your story can take interesting twists and turns that you didn’t anticipate. And if you didn’t anticipate them, it’s a good bet that your readers won’t either.