Tag: failure

An Author’s Writing Resolutions

Another new year is here, and millions of people have made resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, save money or eat more healthily. Statistics say that by mid-February, a large percentage of those resolutions will already be broken.

As an author, what sort of resolutions should I make for the new year?

Goals, Not Resolutions

First off, I don’t make resolutions. Not personal ones and definitely not ones for my writing career.

I learned the hard way that breaking resolutions is easier than keeping them.

Does this mean I let a “new” opportunity to make changes leave me in the dust? Nope. I decided to set goals instead.

You’re wondering, “What’s the big difference?”

The difference is in mindset and planning.

Goals are written down (or should be if you’re serious about meeting them). More intentional thought goes into forming goals because we WANT to meet them.

No one wants to say, “I set these goals, but I didn’t reach them.” It sounds like failure and it feels like failure.

Failure is no fun.

Some writers make a resolution to:

  1. write every day
  2. finish their novel,
  3. submit their novel

or other reasonable sounding things.

But do they have a plan?

If their GOAL is to write every day, they might get out their appointment calendar and block out time each day for writing. Since they want to meet that goal, they form a plan to do it.

Resolutions are generally vague and abstract which is why they’re hard to keep but simple to break.

Goals need to be finite and measurable.

Maybe an author is going to finish a novel. They need to pull out their calendar and block out time to work on the novel. Maybe they’ll do a little math to figure out how many words they’re going to write so they can set a FINISH LINE.

Who wants to run a race when they don’t know where it ends?

Not me. I don’t like running that much.

So, how do I meet my goals?

Tracking My Baby Steps

I’d love to say that I have met every goal on time with finesse and verve. But that would be false.

However, in the past five years since I’ve being “doing this writing thing for real,” I’ve learned what helps me meet goals. And what doesn’t work for me.

First, I lay out a plan. It includes a step-by-step list of what it will take to meet my goal. And I track the markers I meet along the way.

This is like watching the mile posts go by on that run I mentioned earlier. It lets me know I’m making progress, and it reminds me that there is an end in sight.

I also like to reward myself for meeting these markers. It’s an incentive plan, which is something writers probably need more than the average non-author.

Why? Because you get a regular paycheck from your job (one that probably meets your expenses) but many authors get sporadic and often anemic paydays. Not that I’m complaining. I write for the joy not the money.

But it’s human nature to produce better results when an incentive is involved.

For example:

I know I can write 1,000 words per hour once I get in the groove. I’ve been known to write up to 1,700 in an inspired hour dedicated solely to writing. I give myself a word-count goal every day I write. Then I plan the “reward” for when I finish. It might be, “You get to read that awesome fantasy novel you checked out from the library.” Or it could be, “You can sit outside in the sun.” It varies depending on WHAT I WANT THE MOST that day.

I’ve also started keeping checklists on a free site called Workflowy. You can mark things off your lists there (which feels pretty amazing) and you can lay out every step in the writing process. Such as first draft, rewrite, first edits, submission deadlines, editing deadlines and publication dates.

This same strategy works for me if my goal is to lose (or maintain) weight or save money for a vacation.

Why not try these simple steps for your “resolutions”:

  1. Make the plan.
  2. Work the plan.
  3. Reward yourself for the baby steps along the way.

What about you? What resolutions have you made for 2019? What plans do you have in place to help you KEEP those “best intentions”?

 

**This post first appeared on the Roane Publishing blog in February 2018. In honor of that wonderful small independent publisher, I’m reposting it here. Share the love. Spread the word.

Epiphany on the TP Roll

It matters if the toilet paper rolls from the top of the roll or the bottom. Articles have been written on the subject. Memes have blasted around the Internet. Not long ago, I had my own epiphany thanks to a roll of toilet paper.

From the Top

I once read in a reputable magazine that more successful people make sure their toilet paper rolls from the top.

In fact, I think they made some cool-sounding quip like: over-achievers roll over the top. Get it?

I recall checking out my toilet paper the next time I was in the restroom. And switching it from its under-achieving state of being.

“My husband must have put that roll out.”

That under-achieving man! Everyone knew a Type A perfectionist like me would go far in the world.

If that meant getting my toilet paper from the top of the roll instead of the bottom? What could it possibly hurt?

From the Bottom

But you know how different experts have differing opinions about everything. This includes the issue of how toilet paper rolls.

Somewhere at some point after my roll-reversal, I read there was another reason people might let toilet paper dispense from the underside of the roll.

This genius claimed that cat owners rolled their paper that way. Apparently, it made that tempting paper more difficult for cats to unroll. Or maybe it made the paper a less-attractive target.

It’s been many years since I discovered this amazing news.

I could put my toilet paper back to under-achieving mode. And blame it on my cats. For real.

And of course I did it. Not even blinking at how this might make me look in the eyes of people who knew about the over-over quip.

I didn’t even work this new information about cats with toilet paper fetishes into the conversation. Too often.

How it Made Rejection Okay

Fast forward to a recent day in the life of an author who reached the twelve-week point of no return.

What I mean to say is, the publisher that asked for my dystopian young adult novel still had the manuscript well beyond the promised eight-to-ten week notification window.

It had been a couple weeks since the publisher’s editor said that the manuscript was at the top of the pile. It would be read next. The publisher was giving it due-diligence.

And the toilet paper rolled from the underside of the dispenser.

At that moment a light went on.

I was getting rejected because I had allowed my cats to dictate my success.

Rather than demanding that I step up and succeed, I’d compromised by flipping the toilet paper rolls.

It wasn’t my lack of writing credentials. Nothing about my story lacked.

I just needed to flip the stupid toilet paper roll over. And BAM-success would follow.

As I reached to do the deed, it occurred to me that once I flipped the toilet paper roll around and claimed my right to over-achievement, my scapegoat for failure would no longer be available.

Decisions. Decisions.

I told you this whole issue of how to roll your toilet paper was of utmost importance.

So, what do you think? Did I flip it or not?

The Art of being a Hostess

Like with most things in life, exceptional hostessing is an art of fine degrees. Some women have the gift of creating a warm welcoming atmosphere and fine food, all at the same time. Others are willing to get the book and do the work to make it appear they have that touch.

I am neither of those women. In fact, the idea of hosting a large quantity of people, even family, in my home and being responsible for their every comfort sends me into a semi-comatose state. You can find me huddling beneath my covers babbling nonsense.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at hiding that reaction. Still, it circles like a vulture over the corpse of my first failed attempt at being a hostess.

I was a young wife and younger mother. My husband and I had three other couples over to our 1200 square foot home. I was preparing a fine dinner (and I didn’t even know what that meant).

For weeks, I had combed through recipes in the volumes I owned. (Yes, before the days of Google searches, we thumbed through books). I found an exceptional recipe for an appetizer and a savory sounding meat glaze.

I decided to keep the side dishes simple: baked potatoes and green beans. I needed to focus on these new recipes. I didn’t want to press my luck by overreaching my culinary skills. (I asked the ladies to bring salad or dessert.)

The sweet and sour chicken wings were labor intensive. There was double dipping in egg and flour and basting during the extended oven time. I made them in advance, and was pleased by their appearance. My husband gave the thumbs up after tasting one.

The glaze for the pork chops took some time and effort, but I could taste test it along the way. It seemed appropriately tangy with a little sweetness.

I set the oven to 400 degrees and scrubbed the potatoes. I opened cans of green beans (don’t frown; I sprinkled them with freshly crisped bacon bits and minced onion). All seemed in order.

People arrived. Laughter mingled with the succulent smell of roasting pork. Everyone snacked on the wings, licking their fingers. It boggled my mind: finger-licking good chicken – that I made from scratch.

Dinner time arrived. I set everything on the table. Guests gathered round, passed the dishes and served up their plates.

I picked up my fork and knife to slice open my baked potato. I had all the necessary toppings lined out in pretty crystal bowls: sour cream, butter, chives, bacon bits.

Rather than a rush of steam, resistance and a decided crunch greeted my utensils. I pushed open the clamshell halves and noticed the middle of the potato had a wet sheen. I poked it with my fork without satisfactory results.

Perhaps I was the only one whose potato wasn’t cooked completely. *Shakes head* Such an innocent, still prone to wishful thinking.

The obligatory compliments began as everyone sampled their food. The pork might have been slightly dry, but the flavor was exceptional. Green beans are so much better with bacon. And on and on.

“I like my potatoes crunchy,” one of the men said. To demonstrate his honesty, he sliced off a chunk and popped it in his mouth. What was that sound? Was he eating potato chips?

My appetite fled along with any desire to ever cook for a group of people again. At that moment the idea of eating anything plagued me worse than morning sickness.

Needless to say, I have cooked for people from my husband’s office (nerve-racking to the ultimate), visiting evangelists (you expect preachers to be polite) and large family gatherings.

Every time I experience the same panic beforehand. At least for Thanksgiving dinner this year, I knew what food was on the menu. Of course, my turkey baking skills are mostly limited to turkey breasts, since that is what my husband prefers.

Fortunately with a few keystrokes, I can Google “easy turkey roasting” and find a bevy of step-by-step instructions, complete with photographs. Some of them even have videos.

Being a great hostess is a mite easier these days. I have yet to master the art, however.

I can’t imagine Martha Stewart looking to Google for help. I know my mother in law, hostess extraordinaire of the authentic kind, uses the Internet from time to time, but mostly to add something new to her tried and true.

What I enjoy about Mrs. Hughson is that she can sit and visit with her guests or work them in the kitchen with the confidence of a professional. If something is done early, she never panics. She makes plenty of food (enough for the entire county) so there’s no worry folks will go hungry.

What do you think makes an excellent hostess? Is it the food or the atmosphere that you believe takes the most skill to master?