Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…oh my!

Deadlines, and funerals, and a computer virus…oh my! It’s been one of those weeks!

(Photo courtesy of http://the-english-spot.blogspot.com/2009/11/cartoon-idiom-to-be-swamped.html)

A Few Days Later

It’s the weekend, and I’m more tired than I’ve been in a good long while.  And with the holidays coming, I’ve plotted my deadlines and weekly/daily writing “must do” lists on a giant calendar.

And something’s got to give. I won’t make my deadlines if it doesn’t. 

One thing that is going to be put on hold is this blog. I’ll be back when the calendar turns to 2015, but I need the next five weeks to just hunker down and write. I may not be on social media much until then either.

So…Happy Thanksgiving! Have a blessed Christmas. And Have a Happy (Writing) New Year!

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When Deadlines Meet the Holidays

I love having deadlines. I really do. It means money will be coming in for my daily writing, as long as I meet those deadlines. But when overlapping deadlines meet Thanksgiving and Christmas (and all the dinners, shopping, cards and company that go with it), I feel my internal panic button set to go off.

Missing the holiday fun isn’t an option to me. I love the family get-togethers, the grandkids’ Christmas concerts, and the church events. I’ve already streamlined cards and shopping over the years.

Even so, I look at my calendar on the one hand, and how much revision still needs to be done on the other hand–and GULP.

What To Do?

It’s been a few years since I had multiple contracts to juggle, but I’m no stranger to the panic that can hit a writer at ANY time. If this applies to you–or just being able to write at all during the holidays–I’ll direct you to some easy solutions. [Yes, it's true. When I'm stuck these days, I read my own blog or writing books to help myself "remember" what I already know will work.]

Deadlines, Holidays, Writing and Fun!

Just re-reading my posts defused my inner panic button. I remember! Mini habits…easy starting…daily success… Bring on the holidays!

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Voices of Self-Sabotage

[This is a repeat post because I'm out of town. I think the message is one we need to be reminded of.]

You’ve often heard the phrase “you are your own worst enemy.” Does this apply to you when trying to create a writing life you love? It certainly applies to me!

How does this enemy within keep you from moving ahead with your writing dreams? By telling you lies. Some are bold-faced lies. Some are wrapped in soft wool. Some lies ridicule you, while others sound downright comforting. What do all these voices in your head have in common?

They’re instruments of self-sabotage. They convince you to give up.

Who’s Talking Now?

There are many voices inside your head. You must listen and decide who’s doing the talking at any particular moment. Some voices are easy to recognize; some are so subtle you’ll be shocked. First, you have the…

Voice of the Inner Critic

It whispers words like “What makes you think you have anything interesting to say?” “You’re no good.” “That junk will never sell.” “You’re actually going to show that story to somebody?” The Inner Critic beats you down with criticism. Sometimes this voice bears a remarkable similarity to that of your mother, your spouse, or your junior high English teacher.

As Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way at Work, creativity requires a sense of inner safety, something like a fortress. “In order to have one, you must disarm the snipers, traitors and enemies that may have infiltrated your psyche.”

I spent years fighting my Inner Critic’s voice with positive affirmations and gritted teeth. “Oh, yes, I can!” was my motto. In time, my Inner Critic was quieted, only speaking out when I got an unexpected rejection or bad review. Yet I still wasn’t creating the writing life I dreamed of. Something was holding me back. It took me a long time to realize I still had voices in my head, because the tone and words had changed.

Do any of the following voices live inside your head and keep you from fully pursuing your writing dreams? Listen and see.

Voice of Responsibility

This voice sounds so adult, so sensible. It tells you to grow up, to get your head out of the clouds and your feet back on the ground. “You’re neglecting your children (or your job),” says this voice. “Look at your messy kitchen (or yard or garage).” “You have no business hiring someone else to mow the lawn so you can write!” “You’d better walk the poor dog first.”

Guilt is piled on by this voice, and you crumble under its weight. You put your writing dream on the back burner until a time when you’re less burdened by responsibility.

Voice of Intimidation

This voice is snide and cryptic. It slaps your hand when you try to crawl out of the box that is your life and declare yourself a writer. “Who do you think you are?” this voice asks. “You’ll make a fool of yourself!”

Doubt and low self-worth take these statements as the truth, and that of course only serves to further lower your self-esteem. Cowering, you crawl back in the box and close the lid on your dreams.

(The rest of the article on self-sabotage (which also includes the voices of fear, compassion, and procrastination) is here. It’s from the “Creating the Writing Life You Love” section of my Writer’s First Aid: Getting Organized, Getting Inspired, and Sticking to It.

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Dismount to Find Writing Time

Several years ago, when I took on a two-year writing project, I knew that something had to give. I already was spending my life constantly trying to squeeze out five more spare minutes. To make the deadline, something (or several somethings) in my schedule would have to be weeded out.

“Where’s the dead wood in your life?” a writing friend asked me. “What can be cut?”

Take a Closer Look

Nothing, I thought. It’s all important stuff. I had a couple of weekly writing jobs, I held offices in a couple organizations, and I led a couple small church groups. Some of the responsibilities had been mine for years, and they all seemed important.

I was clueless about what to cut–until I heard a pastor talking about this very dilemma. And this was the bottom line: if the activity has run its course and you no longer enjoy or even want to be doing it, you may want to weed it out. In other words, he said,

“If the horse has been dead ten years, dismount.”

Put It Out to Pasture

I started over. I looked at my commitments again and made a list of my paid and unpaid jobs.  Which job or position that once was fun and satisfying and productive was now just an unproductive time drain? Which things had run their course? Which lifeless “horse” was I still trying to make gallop? Where should I “dismount”?

This wasn’t as difficult to spot as I expected. Some of our time drains are just habits we’ve had for years. Or they’re community or school obligations we took on for a year or two, and somehow they turned into life-time commitments. Some things we used to be so enthusiastic about, but now we resent the time it takes.

What’s Essential?

Take a close look at your stable of horses. If you have trouble finding time to write–if your schedule is truly too full–I hope you will dismount a couple of dead horses so that you have time to ride a new one!

And if you have difficulty deciding what needs to go, I highly recommend a book I read this year. It’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It will help you get rid of the dead wood now, plus develop a lifestyle where you don’t add in commitments or activities until you take something out first to make room.

Many of us are too busy to enjoy the very full lives we have. Chances are, if you want a writing life too, something will have to go. Don’t wait. If you’re trying to ride a dead horse (or several!), DISMOUNT!

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Climbing Out of a Writing Hole

“How does a project get a year behind schedule? One day at a time.” ~~Fred Brooks (IBM computer software developer)

While I’m not behind a whole year on my current writing project, this question has been ricocheting around in my mind lately. I have writing deadlines stacked up for many months, for which I am truly grateful.

But I am sorely behind where I had hoped to be at this point. Some things happened which I could not have foreseen–like happens to everyone. That’s life. There’s probably a lesson there on building more “what if something happens?” time into my schedule.

Right now, I don’t really have the time to do some big analysis of how this happened. I just need to get dug out of this hole and back on schedule. But how?

Faster, More, Hurry!

Our tendency is to look at how behind we have gotten with our writing projections (including you ambitious writers who are doing NaNoWriMo this year) and determine to buckle down and write 10,000 words every day till we are caught up. Then by Day 3 we feel rotten from no sleep or exercise, by Day 6 we are sick, and Day 7 we throw up our hands in despair and take necessary time off.

That has been my usual “catch up” method in the past. And it doesn’t work. It has never worked! And yet that is my inner urge, even as I write this. Stress, stress, stress!

Another Way

But this time I have decided to do it another way. And the minute I made the decision, I noticed my stomach settled down, I stopped hunching over the laptop, and I began breathing deeply again instead of hyperventilating. I will be climbing out of this hole differently.

What will I do? Use my writing GPS system and “recalculate.” Pretend that today is my starting point and I am right on schedule today, then figure out how much I need to do daily to make my deadline. I am relieved to see that it’s not 10,000 words either. It’s not nearly as bad as I was figuring, in fact. That’s often the way it is.

One Day at a Time

The quote at the top of the page shows how we all get behind in our writing projects: one day at a time. But the answer to the problem is also in that quote. We climb out of the hole one day at a time.

And if I concentrate just on the amount I need to do today–and each day after this–then I’ll make the deadline. And I should stay healthy as well. Then I can go out and celebrate when I turn in the book!

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