Taking Stock of 2013

champagneAnother round of New Year’s resolutions and goals. This normally includes taking stock of the previous year.

This past year, I had 1 primary goal: Go with the Flow. It was the first year I didn’t have a list of concrete, measurable and trackable goals.

Considering the circumstances, I think I did pretty well. It was a very challenging year (we knew it would be), with good days and bad days. But my personal goal was to go with the flow when the really trying moments came up.

And then a whole bunch of things happened:

*I sold my first novel, after years of rejection and shredded manuscripts.

*I became pregnant, after several years of no success.

*My 5-year-old would finally have a conversation with me about his day.

There were a million other little victories that happened this year too, mostly centered around my son. I learned more about the world of ASD, and met some truly talented and wonderful people. I learned even more about the madness of insurance, claims, appeals, and benefits depts. I learned how hard parents have to fight to get their children the services they really need, not just from insurance companies. From people who are ‘supposed’ to work in the best interests of the child.

More importantly, I learned how strong my son is. How strong my husband is. I already knew he was an incredible man (that’s why I married him!). But I have a much more thorough appreciation for his hard work, dedication and perseverance after going through something like this. Just proves to me more I really did pick the one man who broke the mold.

There’s one very big lesson I learned this year, on top of all the above. I learned how to ask for help. In certain situations, outright demand it and not take ‘no’ for an answer.

This feeds in really well to my writing. I finished another manuscript and am halfway through it’s sequel. I’m able to shrug off rejections easier, and at the same time identify the difference between criticisms that are nuggets of gold, versus lumps of coal.

2013 was a year full of lessons, and some incredibly wonderful surprises! Undoubtedly great successes. I think my plan of non-measurable goals worked out well. Thinking of going the same route for 2014. But I’ll save that for tomorrow.

My grand plans for a farewell to 2013 includes spending a quiet evening with my family, and probably falling asleep before the ball drops (I have a valid excuse: preggo!)

Happy New Year, everyone!new-year-2014

 

Sequel-Hell: About to Commit Manuscript-icide

I’m in that horrible, gut-wrenching place called “Sequel Hell.” Where you frustrated-writerquestion everything about the plot, the characters, even the overall plausibility of the trilogy. My confidence is near bottom on this thing.

I’ve finished the first novel in the trilogy and sent it out to several publishers (it’s a romantic suspense). I have the plot outlines on both the second and third stories, and I’m not quite halfway through writing the second. And I want to rip it to shreds already. Not just rip it to shreds, but make snowflake chains of it and watch it float over the edge of a massive canyon. Call this the edge of Manuscript-icide.

I’m hoping this is just a case of the ‘drastic willies.’ I’ve told a few of my friends who visited “Sequel Hell” recently that they were just overreacting. I helped talk one of them off the ledge of manuscript-icide as well. The stories were fantastic (because they are!!! *Cough* Kim and Chrissy.) But I’m not so confident that’s the case with mine.

My goal was to have the first draft of this novel completed by Dec 31st. Not going to happen. Mild panic attack set in last week when I realized there was only 2 weeks left until that deadline, and I still had a crap load of non-writing related stuff to do. Which takes away from my fragile writing time. Throw in a few minor complications with a pregnancy that requires more doctor visits…bottom line is that deadline is just unrealistic at this point.

So now I have a more realistic goal: finish the first draft before this baby comes.

That is, if I don’t have to start all over again. Which is very possible with the way my brain is functioning right now. *manuscript in hand, approaching the freakin’ ledge*PaperOffLedge

Go With the Flow

Normally my new year’s resolutions include very concrete goals. Measurable, cut-and-dry with no gray areas. Goals like ‘blog twice a week’ or ‘1000 calories per day, max.’

I’ve been that way most of my life. Planned, organized, driven and directed. I owe a lot of that to my parents, my discipline with diving, and of course my husband.

But I’m changing things up this year.

Because I have to.

Now, for the entire year, I have 1 goal:gowiththeflow

Go with the flow.

And mind the rocks.

Wrapped up in this 1 goal are a trillion little things to help achieve this. Not sweating the small things, don’t fight the rapids, take one day at a time, keep smiling… all those clichéd statements.

My mantra: I am not in control, and that’s ok.

Do what I think is right and see what happens. That’s all I can do.

Because when I think about, I already have everything I need. The things that make me a better person are already in my life. Why change that?

2012: Roller Coasters and a Sweet Tooth

2012 was another roller coaster year for us. Great highs, a few tumbles, several rollerviewwhirl spins and whip lashes, and in the end we’re still here (sorry, Mayan apocalyptic enthusiasts). And just like fresh off a roller coaster, I’m breathless, excited, nervous and full of anticipation for another round.

I’m certain next year will bring some struggles for us, and we’re ready for them. But at the same time, I’m grateful for every minute I have.

I learned a lot this past year. About myself, as a mother, a writer, a friend- what I’m made of, things I can take, and areas I’m not as strong as I thought I was. And, incredibly, areas in which I’m stronger than I gave myself credit for. I may kick, scream, cry, beat myself to a pulp, but in uncertain situations in which I have no qualifications or control, by God I can adapt.

I have an amazing family and forgiving friends who put up with me during those moments. Who build me up when I need it and have a drink with me when I celebrate.

I know now is when most people create goals for the next year, and in previous years that’s exactly what I did. But right now I look back on 2012 and shake my head in amazement.

I cry for the losses of loved ones (still), I rejoice in magnanimous moments of others, and I marvel at the capabilities of the human spirit. How resilient my son is and no matter how difficult something is or how sick he feels, he’s still such a happy kid who loves with his whole heart without reservations. And how much better a person I am because of him. Because of my family.

toastSo instead of a toast to 2013 and what is to come, I raise a glass to 2012. You threw a hefty test as us, and we’re still here. I’m still trudging forward with writing, with the plans our family made, and handling the curveballs you whizzed at us. With the sours, there were plenty of sweets. And I have one hell of a sweet tooth.

 

Checking My Goals and Cringe

I checked on my goals that I created earlier this year, knowing the progress wasn’t going to be pretty. Then why did I do it? Several reasons came to mind.

Self-punishment addict? 

Clicked on the file by mistake?

Needed to change them entirely to make myself feel less of a failure?

Reinvigorate my motivation?

Maybe a little bit of all the above. Over the last 3 weeks, I’ve hardly reached any word count goals per day or per week. Blogging has fallen off the radar. I threw the calorie-counting out the window. And my exercise goals? Ha!

But I need to cut myself some slack. I’ve been sick. A LOT. 2012 has started off much the same as 2011 ended.  And will probably remain so as long as my son remains in preschool, thereby bringing home every ailment known to toddlers. And giving it to both his exhausted mother and over-worked father. It’s hard to go to the gym carrying an entire box of tissues and toting along my coughing, pink-eye infested son into their daycare while I hack out a lung in the middle of Zumba. Hardly health-conscious. Or attractive. (Not that women go to the gym to look attractive WHILE they’re there. Unless you’re in college.)

Which means I haven’t had much time to write. Or plot. Or think about writing. Or blog. But I’ve been able to read a bit. So here’s what I’ve been reading over the last several weeks (other than books and medication directions):

As We Were Saying…

Babbles from Scott Eagan

I Make Stuff Up from Kim Packard

Short Stories from CA Szarek

A Lucid Reality

Miss Snark’s First Victim

The Artist’s Road

The Creative Penn

Janet Reid Literary Agent

Jeff Goins

And a ga-gillion other writer/publisher/agent websites. I can’t list them all here, or you’d be stuck on my blog for hours (*wink*). Not that you’d want to go anywhere else.

Diet Coke for Coffee

One of my resolutions this year was to reduce my Diet Coke intake. (Not just the caffeine, but also the fake sugars and carbonation).

Now I realize I’ve created a problem.

I seem to be substituting coffee in place of my Diet Cokes (at least when I’m at home). And unfortunately, it’s not decaf.

So I think I’m going backwards in my attempt to increase my natural energy level.

Maybe I need to alter this resolution a bit. At least clarify.

Still keep my intention of reducing DC intake, but commit to one additional rule:

For every cup of coffee, I also drink an additional cup of water.

Maybe, after a week or two, I’ll feel so full as if I’ll float away on the next rainfall, that I’ll naturally reduce my coffee intake as well.

But if I think that through, I see one inevitability:

Caffeine Withdrawals

Headaches. Jittery-ness.

Hmm… maybe I need to keep thinking.

On Track for NaNoWriMo

Hooray!

Hooray!

I’m stunned to say it. Yes, I admit, I didn’t think I would be anywhere near this far along in my writing goal for National Novel Writing Month just four days in.

Not that I was rooting for myself to do poorly, but I’m impressed with what I’ve done. I’ve had three GREAT writing days (great for my record anyway, with a 3 year old constantly needing attention). I hope my son doesn’t suffer any trauma by having a slightly less than attentive mother for the next few short weeks.

Granted, I knew I had to over-deliver on certain days because I know there will be times during the month I won’t be able to write at all. (Thanksgiving, for example. What writer can deny that incredible feast and time for reflection. And perhaps a weekend here-and-there for precious time with my hubby). But 16% to goal in just four days, that makes me happy.

And so ensues the Steve Carrell happy dance!

Now back to breakfast. Maybe some writing later. I hope so.

Bring on the Novel Writing Marathon

The novel writing marathon has begun! My first ever participation in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I’m off to a decent start. So far, I’ve written 2500 words today, on track to reach the goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month. However I know there will be several days during the month I will not be able to write anything, so I’ll have to make up those words along the way.

All in all, I think I’ll be really happy with myself if I reach 35,000 words by the end of the month. So 50,000 would just be gravy.

So if you don’t hear much from me over the course of the month, that’s why. But I’ll update my word counter on my main page as I go along, so you can keep track with me. And keep me motivated! I’ll need all the help I can get!

Now to bury myself in more words.

Action Plan for 2011 (Not Resolutions)

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup miniatures

Image via Wikipedia

The start of a new year brings many to the dreadful task of creating resolutions to better themselves.  But I completely disagree with forming resolutions at the stereotypical time of pledging to reform oneself.  Instead, I believe in action plans.  Goals, really, but with more specific ‘instructions’ on how to achieve what I want.

So here I go- action plan for 2011:

Write 2500 words (or 5hrs) per week: This helps me achieve my goal of completing my second manuscript, Rip It.  Instead of writing “Complete Rip It” by the end of the year, I write something much more measurable- a small goal I can achieve every week (also makes me feel better about myself, and not get too hard on myself if I fall short a week).  A bunch of small action plans seem much more attainable than 1 large goal that’s so far into the future I’m not motivated to work every day.

Write 1 Blog Post per week: I just started blogging, and I’m really enjoying it so far.  But I have to keep reminding myself to do it, find something to write about.  But a blog a day is way too ambitious for me.  Setting an action plan that I know I won’t achieve is like setting a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on my desk and willing myself not to eat it.  Masochistic.  Blogging keeps me constantly in practice, which is extremely important for a newbie such as myself.  But its important not to overdo it. PostAWeek2011 is a new feature that WordPress is offering for this very sort of thing.  So I’m participating in it.  They will post reminders on my homepage to tell me to blog, and provide helpful tips and ideas on how to keep blogging, and keep me on track.

Partake in NaNoWriMo in November: I just heard about National Novel Writing Month this past year, but was way too unprepared to participate.  But I fully intend to participate this year with a third manuscript I’m currently brainstorming.  This is by far my most ambitious action plan, but it is achievable if I keep on top of my other manuscript action plans.

Now the other most important thing to making sure I follow these action plans every week/month is to put them in a place where I can see them every day.  Since these all of these plans involve my laptop, I’ve posted these action steps on my desktop.  Since I have a Macbook, I’ve used my dashboard feature, posting every one of these on a ‘stickie’ note so I can see it every day.

Well that’s the start of 2011 for me.  Didn’t start off the right way with catching the dreadful strep throat, but I won’t let that side-step me.  I’ll just keep writing forward.