Category Archives: Living Deliberately

Goals vs. Objectives – Who is Really In Control?

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” ~Helmuth von Moltke

I am highly motivated by progress and will often get frustrated when I feel like I am spinning my wheels in a task. This probably explains my penchant for lists. I know that I’m not the only one who gets a sense of satisfaction by drawing a bold stroke through a particularly challenging line item. However, I have found that it is all too easy to focus on the list itself and forget that it exists to serve my objectives. Recently, I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into living a purposeful life, driving towards and realizing my objectives to the best of my abilities. Through trial and error, I have found that the key to effective progress is self-aware honesty, maintaining a life balance, and having the courage to change course when results do not line up with what was intended when I set my goals.

The first step to living deliberately is to determine what you truly want out of life. There are countless voices in the world, some benevolent and others selfish, that seek to guide our desires. Many people never look past what society, advertising agencies and our loved ones tell us we want. If they are happy that way, all the better for them. It takes work to quiet all the voices and achieve the self-awareness necessary to decide what you really want free from the influence of others.

Once your objectives are set, it takes practice to be able to manage all the distractions and necessities that the world demands of us. Though there are a thousand obligations competing for our time and attention, many things that we view as “essential” can actually be minimized or eliminated entirely. It is a matter of understanding one’s priorities. Once you achieve the self-awareness to determine your life’s objectives, sorting the essential from the non-essential becomes much easier.

Finally, I have found it necessary to be proactive in evaluating and adjusting my goals. Though it is easy to simply stay the course until things start to fall apart, it is a much less effective strategy than taking time periodically to honestly evaluate the results of my efforts. If a course of action isn’t working, isn’t supporting my objectives, there is nothing holding me to them. Try to make a change and see what effects come. I look at it like sailing by the stars. Having a heading does no good if you don’t look up every so often.

I started out my blogging year with the Fictorians by describing the system we use to set annual goals at work. Though I stand by the idea that goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time bound), I have come to realize that they need to be adaptable as well. Action is not progress unless my objectives are being achieved. Therefore, goals should be designed and maintained to support objectives, not the other way around.

Identify Yourself

A Guest Post by Anton T. Russell

In this writing game, the whole literary world and all that, I’ve listened to many discussions and have read many articles on the subject of being an author vs. writer vs. novelist … etcetera. For the life of me, I couldn’t find the title that best identified me. Many others involved in the discussions also could not quite agree on where they stood.

Since I’m not a bestseller, or widely known, finding a measure of success was very difficult for me, as I didn’t have those good days where I sold X amount of copies. As a result, I had always thought I was failing. I mean, really … I had just published a book and was also contracted by a publisher. Surely I could do better than that.

Uh, no. Write it and they will read it? Yeah, that wasn’t working out the way I had planned it. Clear failure, right?

It wasn’t until I talked with some trusted friends that I was able to understand that I wasn’t failing. Oh, they didn’t tell me what to look at, or how to measure my efforts. All they did was have that same ole discussion about being an author vs. writer vs. novelist … etcetera, and I was actually a part of it. Then it hit me.

I am a storyteller.

Beginning—plot twist—middle—plot twist—plot twist—end, and any other formula you’ve heard can be thrown in. It’s part of why I call it, “The Writing Game.” But that’s a-whole-nother-topic.

At any rate, by defining myself, I can now measure my successes and failures. See, I know where I stand, what I’m trying to accomplish. And let me tell you; I can pen one helluva story. That’s how I determine my successes, of course. The failures are just as clear. They’re the revisions that feel a whole lot like re-writes. The reader doesn’t know this happens, though. Still, when I have to re-write nearly a whole story, I’m not the easiest person to get along with. It means dumping more than 20k to 50k words. It that ain’t failing…

Yeah, so I tell stories. It’s a passion that grows within me each time my hands are idle and my mind wanders. Sometimes I find myself running to grab my super-secret notebook and adding details to a story-line I’ve yet to start working on. Then, when I’m in the writing groove and my office door is closed, I am as focused as a surgeon. For me, that’s winning. It is a tremendous victory, I tell you.

Succinctly, know what you’re doing, know how to get to where you want to be, and know what you are. Until you do those three things, you will forever measure yourself against others. The thing about that is; they WILL have had different experiences and backgrounds than you do. Oh, and success might mean something entirely different to them.

Although setbacks, stumbles, and missteps will seem hound your every effort, if you do YOUR thing to the best of your ability, you will find true measures of success.

What Color Should an Introvert Wear?

unnamedCrowds wear me out. As do conventions and even large meetings. At first, I thought I was an introvert but that didn’t always make sense because I like people and I like conventions. But they tired me out and so I searched for coping strategies. How could I even enjoy myself, let alone talk to anyone, especially agents and publishers, if I wasn’t on my game?

I embarked on a journey to find the perfect wardrobe- inside and out. Outside was easy – some interesting jewelry, clothes with a unique flare. Inside I needed to know if I was an introvert trying to maneuver in an extrovert world. Despite doing the research and planning for events, I found I still wore out easily and I began to suspect that it may not be about whether I was an introvert or an extrovert. How could it be? I’ve spoken in front of hundreds of people, given workshops and have been a guest speaker only to now find myself dreading crowds. I was getting tired everywhere, all the time – at meetings, critique groups, writing retreats and workshops. What was going on?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – that was the diagnosis. It crept slowly into my life stretching like a shadow on a lazy summer day, creeping until it melded with the dusk. It eroded my energy, my confidence and my ability to fully participate in events and conferences. Worse yet, it decreased my productivity because I tired easily. My greatest fear now wasn’t what color I should wear, it was about whether I’d have enough energy to maintain a productive and fulfilling writing life.

There is no known cause and there is no cure. One of the current theories is that the mitochondria (our cells’ power plants) aren’t functioning optimally. I’ve learned coping strategies to manage the symptoms and to reduce ‘flare ups’. Writing goals have been adjusted and are being met. I’ve learned to limit activities and to be more strategic about interactions. I’m managing it so it doesn’t manage me. It’s not perfect and I do suffer from over-exertion but I sometimes choose to do things knowing there will be consequences.

When it comes to my writing life now, to being at conferences or at workshops, I know what I need to do to function. Part of it is understanding that over stimulation is tiring, that there is only so much I can do and participate in and then I must rest. It’s manageable and if I’m careful with my energy, I can be as productive and outgoing as I want to be. As for what color to wear? It really doesn’t matter anymore. I know my limitations and whether I wear brighter colors or quieter ones, my confidence is back because I’m in control and I can pick my moments.

My apologies to fellow CFS sufferers because I don’t mean to minimize the effects of CFS or to imply that there’s a simple solution. This blog isn’t about coping strategies, management and symptoms. It’s about letting people know that sometimes when you feel like life is overwhelming and that you don’t have enough energy to do the things you want to or to even enjoy them, sometimes it’s important to step back and take stock. Ask those questions about physical and mental health, consider if you’re taking on too much, examine expectations – take charge so you can choose the colors you want to wear on any day so you can achieve your goals in your writing life.

Finding Courage in a Harsh World

Many stories, from mystery to science fiction and fantasy have inspired and awed me. But my road to writing has been a tough and painful one. It wasn’t so much inspiration I needed as the courage to overcome an environment that discouraged reading, let alone writing for a living. One author gave me that courage.

Imagine growing up in a family where reading was never encouraged and was viewed as being lazy. Where farm chores and homework were the priorities. My father occasionally read westerns and Archie comics and then only after we were in bed. My mother just read recipes. Now, imagine the frustrations of a child whose imagination is so taken by the Dick_and_Janerich worlds in books that she wants to write but must suppress that desire and limit it only to school assignments.

What did I love to read? I still remember Dick and Jane’s antics in the grade one picture books –  “See Dick run. Run Dick run!’ – those first words excited my tiny heart and showed me the power of words on paper. Then came rhyming and Dr. Seuss filled my world – “One fish two fish, red fish blue fish’. nancy drewBy grades five and six, I was sneak reading the mysteries of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys on the bus ride home – a book a day. Somewhere in junior high school, I discovered science fiction, fell in love with it and then got into trouble with teachers because my imagination and verbosity were greater than assignments demanded. When I took a degree in English and drama, I had relatives who shunned me for years.

Perhaps I should have quit then and for a few years life took over and I almost did. But I always dabbled and always loved reading. So, what changed? What gave me the courage to write and to overcome all the discouraging influences? Where did I find the confidence to achieve my goal of mastering and communicating in my second language? Oh yes, English isn’t my first language and throughout my life, I’ve had a desire to master it and rarely feel I have. Yet, one book, one writer gave me the courage to pursue my dream wholly – to throw myself into it with a modicum of hope to succeed. I owe my courage to J.K. Rowling.

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_StoneWhen I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I thought that if she could do it, so could I!”. Her life story, her courage to write and  her perseverance to find a publisher were the inspiration I needed. Since then, I’ve written many wild tales. I can write! My childhood desire to engage in worlds so far removed from reality, to master their voices and breathe life into them in words not my own has blossomed!

Which authors inspire me today? They all do as do the readers who buy their books. Everyone who has the courage to pen their imaginations, to give life to new worlds and voices, and to all our readers who encourage us, I give you my heartfelt thanks.

Cheers and happy writing (and reading too)!