Category Archives: Goals

Finding Better Balance in 2017

The Universe has a way of sending me exactly what I need, when I need it. As I wrapped up 2016, I reflected on the year. While I had stayed on top of all the things I’d said yes to (and then some that I inherited out of familial duty) with most of my sanity intact, I hadn’t accomplished as much as I wanted to or had set out to do. Keeping up isn’t always the same thing as being effective, I found.

Confession time: I had a really rough January.

I spent the last half of 2016 teetering at the edge of losing all the things I was juggling just trying to stay on top of everything. I volunteered enough hours in my several roles within the League of Utah Writers that I won a really prestigious award (when I’ve officially been awarded it, I’ll share details!) but I hadn’t completed the novel I’d been on track to finish when the year started.

I still haven’t.

A lot of this is because I decided (almost on a whim) to return to college to finish my degree. However, that wasn’t the only reason if I was being completely honest with myself. In the darkest moments of January I actually resented my shiny prestigious award. It represented concrete evidence of over 500 hours that I’d given to people besides me and my writing.

I spent 2016 doing things that were amazing. Don’t get me wrong. But much of it was at the expense of my own dreams and goals. I had done it all, except what made me happy and what meant the most.

Here’s where the Universe comes in. I follow a blogger and fellow writer who is a productivity expert. She supplies me with my yearly statistics and writing progress tracker and I’m in an online writing group she started. I don’t know her personally but she changed my life by writing about her own similar struggles last year. When I read her blog post reflecting about it, I realized just how ineffective I’d been last year at the things that really mattered to me.

I got to take a turn with my friends receiving, rather than giving, support and talked through a ton of these things with Hubby. Hard as it is to hear “I told you so”, he HAD been telling me this was where I was headed all year long. I just hadn’t believed him, thinking I had it in the bag and could handle whatever life threw at me. I was wrong.

Yes, me. Wrong.

Mark your calendars. This might not happen again for eighty years, folks!

What I realized from all of this is that my personal productivity was suffering because I was not focusing on the right things. I was doing everything believing I was being successful and effective and in reality I was neither. I started taking stock of things I did and evaluating if they were the right things to be spending my time and energy on based upon whether doing them would bring me happiness or achieve my own goals. When I approached things from this place, it was much easier to say no to things without my FOMO (fear of missing out) rearing up.

I spent February implementing changes and am in a much better place because of it. Here’s a rundown of the subtle changes I made that had the most impact.

FACEBOOK LAST

I moved Facebook (and all the other social media I do) last in order of things I do each day. I thought I was already doing this since I usually set aside specific time every day for that. The small change I made was to stop getting notifications that popped up when I would get a new message or someone would interact with me online. I was getting them so I would know if something pressing came up that I could handle easily. These things I thought kept me on top of things were actually Unscheduled Interruptions. Once I eliminated them, it was easy to see how much. I still can see the total number of notifications as a passive thing if I happen to glance at my phone over the course of the day. But not knowing the details of what I’m missing gives me the freedom to “do” my social media on my own time after the things that matter most are done. I do this even for email – which surprised me. But, the idea of keeping up on email and being reactive to requests doesn’t support the reality of getting the right things done. Let’s face it, email was created as a way to communicate without the need for instant response.

SHORT STORY A MONTH

I knew when I enrolled in school that my writing time would be cut in half at best and I was right. I lost steam on the novel and found it harder to pick up seamlessly when I only had stolen moments to write. But I still have stories in me and I’m much happier when I’m writing. So I committed to what’s left of my writing group to write a story a month with specific deadlines. We’ve only been at it for a month but January was successful. By the end of the year, I’ll have at least twelve drafted stories that I can have at my disposal when that perfect opportunity presents itself without stressing about how I’ll find the time. Making my writing the first thing I do when I have free time has kept the focus on my own creativity.

DELEGATION

This one is a tough one for me. But it’s been a year with my fellow leaders within the League and I’ve discovered others who are just as anal and committed to getting things done as I am. Knowing what each of their strengths (and weaknesses) are and who has what specific skills has allowed me to trust more and more things to others. I also get to be in charge of building a team to split up the work of putting on conferences and it’s going extremely well. Much more so than where I was a month ago when I was ready to quit completely so I could spend all my free time on my own writing. Bottom line, I love the work I get to do to help others achieve their dreams and find opportunities within the writing community to grow. I wouldn’t trade it but I’ve also found a way to make it work better within the boundaries of my life.

Spending time on what is really important to me and focusing my efforts on activities that drive my goals, not just crossing off things on a list, has made a huge difference for me. The key for me is mindfulness about what each thing I’m doing and how it is contributing to those things that matter most to me.

Shout out to Jamie Raintree, without whom this journey out of my dark place would have taken forever! Here’s to a fantastic and productive 2017.


Bittersweet Priorities

It was exactly a year ago I was making official appearances at events like Steamfest and gearing up for Comic Con – approaching now in three weeks. Instead of being at Steamfest this weekend with many of my writing friends, I was fulfilling commitments to family and friends. It’s tempting to look at a small snapshot – this time last year vs. this year – and be sad that I’m missing out.

In the past year, I had another story published, became highly involved in the League of Utah Writers, and continued writing. I was promoted at my day job, returned to college and now have two competitive dancing daughters instead of one. But I’m not at Steamfest and I’m not scheduled as a special guest at Comic Con.

It is tempting to wallow in all the fun that I’m missing. Fear that my absence at these events this year will look to the public like I was some kind of flash in the pan that has already faded away. All very human nature reactions.

I’d be lying if I didn’t have moments of these kinds of fears.

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However, I’m also a realist who is very good at pulling myself up by the boot strings (or putting on my big girl panties if you prefer that cliche over the other) whenever those moments creep up on me.

No, I was not a guest at Steamfest this weekend. No, I am not a scheduled guest at Comic Con this year.

BUT…

I AM almost done writing one kick ass novel – if I don’t say so myself. One that at least one acquisitions editor already wants to see when it’s finished. It isn’t my first novel, but it is the first I’m proud enough of to find an agent and a publisher for. This alone is epic.

I just successfully facilitated one of the premier events of the summer for the League of Utah Writers – an advanced workshop on querying that brought together professional agents and editors to give inside secrets to others like me ready to find homes for their work.

I am on the planning committee for the League of Utah Writers Fall Conference coming up next month. It will be a two-day conference unlike any the organization has put on before. Two full days of presentations from industry professionals with new and exciting content that no one has seen before in the Utah writing community.

My chapter of speculative fiction writers is still growing and folks who come to check us out seem to stick around. It’s a sign that we are offering all the things that I was looking for in a local community group several years ago, back when I was at the cusp of being published and needing to leave my solitary writer existence. This writer gig is a lonely life but it doesn’t have to be. I’m thrilled that, for some, our group is a beacon in the dark while on their own journey.

I’m going to attend Comic Con, helping represent both the League and our local chapter of the Horror Writers Association, but I have to pay my way in the door. So what. I’m also not obligated to dress up in cosplay which was never my thing to begin with.

My husband, who is not only supportive but exceedingly indulgent when it comes to all the time I take away from our family to make my dreams of being an author a reality, is also my voice of reason. Recently, while I was lamenting that I wasn’t going to be at all the events this year, he reminded me that I’ve been doing more important work that none of the rest of it would matter without: I’ve been writing. And I need to keep doing that more than I need to go to events.

The life of a writer is a mental exercise of self-motivation, full of more rejection than success. The drive to keep going when the odds are stacked as highly as they are against every one of us is enviable. If you have it, even a tiny inkling of it, it must be nurtured.

Instead of worrying or obsessing about all the differences that this weekend has over last year, I’m focusing on what my main goal is: novels with my name on the cover. As long as what I do every day, every week, puts me further down the path that leads there, then I’m doing the right things.

As bittersweet as it is, I know that not being at Steamfest or Comic Con doesn’t mean I’m not still doing the things that matter. Without having written books that people want to read, there’s no reason for me to be there anyway. So I’ll keep plugging along. My fear of missing out be damned!


Testing the Overachiever to the Max

For years I’ve prided myself in being an overachiever. Made it part of my life’s motto. Labeled myself as “Writer, Runner, Overachiever” when I first started writing as a professional. Many things have changed in the past years. Running has been replaced with yoga for a time while I healed. My corporate day job takes fifty hours a week instead of forty now. But I’m still an overachiever. It’s always been hard for me to say no to things if I think I can commit the time required. I could always give up something frivolous, like television and eight hours of sleep every night, to add something I wanted to do. Now, with my responsibilities to the League of Utah Writers I’ve been pushed to the maximum. There is nothing else to give up.

Which is why returning to college this fall to finish my degree is probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I’m doing it anyway. I’m now a sophomore at Southern New Hampshire University thanks to my transfer credits from my first two years of college back in the nineties.

SNHU

Why the hell would I do something this insane?

Because after twenty five years as a working professional I’ve finally hit the ceiling of promotion potential without a college degree. Some may say, ‘who cares, you’ve got a great job now, why worry?’ Except I have a development plan that includes promotion into management. Something I can’t do without a degree. So, here I go – back to college at age forty four.

The best part, and what makes any of this feasible in my mind, I’m getting an English degree in Creative Writing.  I’m old enough to know exactly what I want to do when I grow up this time around. While my degree will benefit me in my corporate job (a piece of paper is a piece of paper), it benefits me just as much as a writer. I get to work on writing projects as part of my coursework, which means the next two to three years will be enjoyable on top of all the added stress. Tackling school without having to completely give up my writing is a righteous bonus in my book.

Classes start mid-August. Which is now my deadline to finish drafting my novel so I can get it out to editors and querying it before I have to figure out how to be a college student. Luckily for me, I found a program I can do online while everyone else is sleeping so it won’t take too much adjustment. Wish me luck. Here’s hoping my years of overachieving has prepared me for this ultimate test of my skills.

If any of you reading this are still in school, let this be a lesson to finish your college education when you’re young. Trying to go back later is a mighty pain in the ass and it never gets any cheaper!


Staying Focused Through Temptation

Sticking with the long vision – and hard work – of completing my current novel (the one I hope to be my debut novel) has become more challenging than I anticipated. Especially with the lure of a writing contest.

I knew the minute I heard about this contest that I would be extremely tempted to pause and crank out a short story. After all, I’m really good at them now! That little voice in my head started whispering, beckoning, tempting me with the potential of another publishing credential. That voice is good at getting into my psyche, but I resisted. I vowed not to stop work on this novel until the first draft was finished.

Yes, vowed, I did. (Insert Yoda voice of course!)

This oh-so-tempting writing contest is put on annually by The League of Utah Writers. As a chapter president in the League, it’s my job to promote it among my chapter members. Turns out, I’m so good at motivation, I sucked myself right into distraction.

I told myself that I had two pieces I’d already written which I could enter without having to change anything about my current work plan. I committed to the chapter coordinator that I had a short story (the horror story that I had under contract with a publisher last year who flaked out without ever publishing it, and a personal essay I’d been trying to find a home for but know nothing about that particular market). That’s easy, right? Two things, already done, ready to go.

Back to the very efficiently run chapter that I lead… the one focused on supporting our members in getting critique and feedback to help polish and perfect the entries before the deadline. Yes, because we are that magnanimous and truly care about the success of each other. But also because we threw down the proverbial gauntlet with the chapter who consistently wins most of the prizes and we wanted to make sure we had the best possible outcomes.

Next thing I know, four people had read my non-fiction piece and given me feedback. I’ve never written creative non-fiction before and it turns out that piece was nowhere near ready. So I rewrote it using the valuable critique I had gotten from my chapter group.

It was that easy… to get sucked into distraction.

So easy, in fact, that an entire week went by without having written a single word on my novel. Something I can’t afford during the first draft. If I lose momentum, take myself out of the story, the world I’m capturing on the page starts to fade at the edges. Starts to come apart at the seams so it’s no longer coherent in my mind.

I found myself staring at my project not quite knowing where it was heading or where my mind had been going the last time I’d written. Luckily I’ve trained myself to think like a business person and not a creative person who, left to my own devices, would continue to flit through projects with no solid plan.

I took action…

When asked where I was with my second re-write of my contest entry, I said it was on hold. I know it might only take me a couple of weeks to get it done. I know it would be worth every minute and that I would grow as a writer. (Because everything I write grows me as a writer.) But the truth is, I need to be focused on the plans that I’ve made – like a business plan. I said as much and the response was swiftly accepted with no judgement. It was anticlimactic and I felt great after.

Difficult as it sometimes is, I am the boss when it comes to my writing and I’ve said that priority number one is getting this novel drafted. Stick with it I must – no matter how difficult that is.


My First Royalty Statement

I reached another milestone today in my journey as a professional author: my very first royalty statement! Proof that I’m earning money from my writing. The first story I published has all proceeds going to charity so this milestone is a bit late in coming, but I am still thrilled at its arrival. Of course the money I’ve made in the six weeks since the release isn’t enough to warrant the publisher cutting me a check yet. But I’ve earned money, and that’s what really counts. Especially in this business where getting published is often easier than getting readership, which is the most important part.

If you’re a reader partially responsible for this milestone, because you bought and read my story in It Came From the Great Salt Lake, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Part of me wants to stop the hard work of novel writing and pump out another couple of instantly gratifying short stories for upcoming publications. I’m refraining. If I ever want to take the next step: a novel with my name on the cover and no one else’s, I must stick to the hard stuff. Current stats put me at forty percent complete on my first draft (assuming I can tell the story in sixty thousand words). If you need me, I’ll be writing!


All Is Quiet, Or Is It?

I realized that if you’re following me solely on my website that it’s been fairly quiet the last few weeks. You might assume that means not much is happening, picture me lounging on the couch, sipping an adult beverage. Eating bon bons. If only that were true!

The lull in updates and commentary here indicates a far different situation. Once again, I might or might not have embarked on more than I can keep up with. How is this possible? I was just as involved with a writing organization last year as I am now with my new President gig. My day job isn’t any more demanding than last year. My husband doesn’t work nights anymore so with him here at night to take some of the load I should be ahead of the game. I learned how to say No! So what the hell is going on?

SCSteamfest-ARGH

I forgot one giant detail. I didn’t have to do the Dance Mom thing with Big Sister last year. It was bliss which I did not appreciate and now is gone. Welcome back twelve to eighteen HOUR days, every weekend, sitting on bleachers in high school gymnasiums. I could write during that time. Except I’ll have a six year old in tow, who wants to follow in her sister’s footsteps next year, and will have to be entertained. I still hold out hope I can get some extra writing in over the next two months of dance season, even if it means shoving an electronic device in her line of vision to accomplish it.

I have a deadline – self imposed but still a deadline – to get my novel drafted by May. Not only because I want to pitch it to a publisher – a hand-picked publisher via an inside track with one of their editors – who will be a World Horror Con. Which is a big enough reason alone. But, I also need to go back to school and finish my degree so it doesn’t hinder me with the day job anymore. I know I can’t write and be a college student at the same time. I assume it will only take me six months to finish my degree. In that time I could be shopping the novel around for a home. Querying doesn’t take as many hours, right? Wishful thinking? Perhaps. Call me a dreamer.

I haven’t fully committed to the school thing and logistics are far from being worked out on both the scheduling and the financial fronts but it keeps coming up. I think it’s the Universe pushing me into action. To test my theory, or so I tell myself when I wonder why I didn’t say no to this one, I enrolled in a month-long workshop with three classes a week AND homework this month. No, I did not know it was that intense when I enrolled (on a whim of course).  It’s a fabulous workshop taught by a very successful author about the art of revision. The knowledge will not be wasted and I’ll know if I am capable of adding the school insanity if I survive the month and keep up with everything else in life. I’ll let you know how that goes.

If I’m quiet here, know it isn’t because I don’t have anything going on. It’s because I have too much going on and I’m working hard to get a novel out for those of you who keep clamoring for more, more, more. (Something I only ever dreamed of.) In the meantime, if you’ve picked up a copy of “It Came From the Great Salt Lake” and liked my story, I’d love it if you left a review so other people could stumble across it, too.

Thanks as always for sharing this journey with me!


Learning to Say No

I believe I’ve found the next lesson the Universe is trying to force feed me.

I cannot do everything as I have always done. My days feel shorter, my nights more jam packed with activities and commitments, and I’m consistently bombarded with new offers and new projects. My first reaction is to say yes immediately, then figure out how to fit whatever it is into my project plan that somehow, amid all the chaos, resembles a satisfying life.

I’m impulsive that way. I always have been.

Here’s the reality: The project plan is full. Constraints cannot be overcome by throwing more money or resources at them. There are no more resources in reserve. Unless someone has invented a time machine that automatically doubles the hours available to me every day. In which case, I haven’t heard the news yet.

Which means I have to start prioritizing, balancing all the things I want to do and would love to do with realistic expectations of what I am capable of doing without losing my marbles.

Is my volunteer work within a professional writing organization paying the right dividends to justify the time spent away from my actual writing?

Is my time away from my family pursuing my writing career being spent in worthwhile ways?

Was I completely insane when I thought I could have a full time job, be a wife and mother and be a professional author on top of it all?

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I wish I had a crystal ball!

I don’t know the answers, I do know that summer has been hectic. I’ve got a couple of short stories to show for all the insanity but the novel is still not finished. Time to ramp up the efforts and get rigid with my time. ‘I can sleep when I’m dead’ has become my mantra.

It’s time to learn how to say No.

The closer I whittle the things that make up my life down to the things that matter most, the harder it is to cut away without damaging the gems underneath. At the end of the day, I’m left with knowing that just because I’m capable of doing anything I set out to do, that doesn’t mean everything I attempt will make me happy. Sometimes it’s too hard to fit it into what I’m already doing and the right answer in that moment will be No. No matter how cool it sounds, or how fun I imagine it will be.

In related news… watch for upcoming announcements about the next big thing I’ve got cooking and currently taking most of my free time. Hint: it’s happening at Salt Lake Comic Con.


Baby steps to achieving goals

My health has settled down a bit lately – still in remission from kidney disease, manageable medications with minimal side effects, still working on clearing my lungs of the last of the blood clots that are holding on for dear life. Most days, life is good and I almost forget that I have a chronic illness that will never be cured. But there is this one reminder that, by stark contrast, shows me daily how my fitness has suffered in light of these struggles. I can’t run a mile anymore, let alone thirteen of them. Hell, it’s hard to walk briskly for long periods of time right now. It is frustrating to look back on where I was – running Ragnars and half marathons and averaging twenty miles a week – and compare it with where I am now.

I know everything is relative. I do. I acknowledge every day that I get to live is a day I may not have had at one point and I’m happy. But that’s on a very basic level rooted in survival. I’m talking about the stuff of living.

How did I get here? On a viscous cycle of cause and effect. I survived the pulmonary embolism because I was a runner and had excellent lung and cardiac capacity. But once I couldn’t run, I lost that all very quickly. Now that I’m in remission, I’m carrying around extra weight – both from the water retention associated with kidneys that don’t work all that perfectly and the lack of running I’ve been capable of for the past year. Because I haven’t been able to run, my cardio and lung capacity has dwindled to where I can barely walk a quarter mile quickly before I’m sucking wind and my chest and lungs hurt from the blood clots.

Not going to lie, this cycle has had me frustrated and down the past few months. Which does not help motivate me to change anything about it.

This week I decided it was time to stop living in the past and lamenting all that I’ve lost in the fitness aspect of my life. Sure I have to start from the beginning as if none of the hard work I put in to get where I was at the peak of my game ever happened, but that’s not the end of the world. I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. There are different hurdles this time around. I have two kids who are active with extra curricular activities, my job is insane, I’m writing like never before and I’m older (and have a kidney disease) with dwindling energy and endurance. I could wallow at how hard all that makes it to work out on a consistent basis or I can get creative.

Today showed me the possibilities of the creative path with several baby steps toward new habits. I still practice yoga twice a week – most weeks – and I’ve committed to challenging myself more to get out of my comfort zone. I am still sore from my practice two days ago so that has proven a positive step. At work, where I used to work out religiously for an hour in the afternoons, I barely have time for a lunch break that doesn’t involve grabbing food and snarfing it down at my desk while I multitask sometimes multiple meetings. Today my counterpart and I ended up having a meeting on the treadmills. It wasn’t planned that way, but we decided to go for a quick break and ended up brainstorming issues while we walked. In the end, it was a meeting rather than a break and I still got to be active. She pushed me to staying on the treadmill for twenty minutes – her minimum. From now on, I’ll suggest a treadmill meeting any time possible. After work, Baby Sister had her tennis lesson where, instead of sitting on the grass with her BFF’s mom chatting for an hour, we both brought our rackets and played tennis in an adjoining court. Both of us used to play but hadn’t held a racket for years – almost twenty for me. We sucked but by the end of the hour we were successfully returning. She played competitively, me recreationally. She got her skills back quickly – including a serve. Mine will take some time but my body is remembering how it feels to play and how fun it was.

I felt energized and fulfilled at the end of the day. It hadn’t taken any effort to increase my activity level almost double (as measured by my fitness tracker in the form of daily steps). The momentum of taking small steps toward a goal, however lofty, should not be taken for granted.


Ebb and Flow of Life

This week has been soul-sucking busy! Ideal storms collided between needing to update content for training I facilitate and responsibilities for developing and implementing a new process at work. The result? Zero writing time. I could lament, but this is the reality of being an adult with responsibilities. I can’t lie though… I did lament, especially when my late-night writing time was spent catching up on the day-job when all I wanted to do was write. The truth is, there are some weeks that life doesn’t lend itself to being a productive writer. Sometimes it’s the day job, sometimes it’s being a mom with active kids, sometimes it’s just that my hair and lash appointments ended up in the same week because I wasn’t thinking big picture when I found an open spot on my calendar a month ago. I won’t always be this busy, a fact I had to remind myself of in order to get through the week.

I wanted to pout and be mad when I couldn’t go to the park yesterday with Hubby and the kids because I was working. Instead, I poured an adult beverage in protest and kept working. My life feels crazier than normal, but I realized I’m doing a lot more that has to be crammed into the same available hours in a week. My fault alone that I can’t relax on the weekends like I used to, refueling and recovering before doing it all again the next week. I could give up my volunteer work with The United Authors Association, but I believe in their vision so deeply that I can’t bring myself to do it. I could quit my day job, but how would we pay the bills? I could stop writing, but how would I stay sane? I’m only happy when I have that creative outlet, and this whole new level of insanity is because I decided I wanted to write professionally instead of just a hobby.

My fitness tracker keeps telling me I haven’t met my sleep goal. As if I didn’t know! I haven’t sat on my couch in over a week and I’m grateful that I require my children to help with housework or it might never get done. But this is the life I’ve created and it makes me happy (when I’m not pouting). The human tendency might be to wallow in the fact that I couldn’t write this week, let another week slip past without it, and easily get out of the daily writing habit. Instead, I stole some editing time between classes when I was guest presenting at Big Sister’s school Friday. Because half an hour of writing this week was better than nothing. Life goes on, ebbing and flowing, regardless of how we react and deal with it. Here’s hoping next week is better!

What are you doing today to live the life you love?


Priorities – the evolution of time management

I realized that, as much as I am online lately, I have been strangely silent on social media the past few months. It wasn’t on purpose and I wondered how it had happened. When and where did my habits shift? I’m an analyst by nature, and by trade, so it made sense to do so. Self reflection and checking in on what I’m doing to make course corrections in my life path are pretty second-nature to me these days.

So what did I find?

I’m busier than ever before – as a mother and a wife, being a writer, at my corporate job, as a volunteer – and have had to further prioritize everything in my life. This is a trend that started years ago and continues to evolve.

The first thing to go was television. It grew from an “ah-ha!” moment when I heard another author answer a question about how he found time to write with a snarky comment about figuring out what was more important: writing or watching television. These days when people ask “did you see…” I always say no. Thanks to the wonders of Netflix and OnDemand programming, I do watch a little television; mostly the shows Hubby has vetted and deemed extraordinary, but it takes me a year to watch a couple of seasons. The time I got back from my life by giving up regular television viewing is staggering.

Last year I had to change my habits during football season. I’m a huge fan – NFL and college. I’m one of those women who is watching the game even if Hubby isn’t home. (Thank you, Dad, brothers and grandpa!) But gone are the fall Saturdays where I lounge on the couch snuggled with hubby watching our favorite college teams, and the Sundays of NFL games. Not to mention Monday Night Football. And yes, sadly, even Thursday Night Football. The games are still on and Hubby still interrupts with “you’ve gotta see this!” while he’s rewinding live television. But, now I’m usually multitasking in front of my word processor and look up only occasionally for a replay. It was my last hold-out of regular television viewing, and justified in my mind because it is a relatively short season each year. The time I got back from giving it up last year was the difference between having time to finish a novel or not. I’m currently revising that novel.

My social media habits have undergone similar evolution, also influenced by writing. First, I’ve had to change my criteria for engaging with ‘friends’ online. Now that I’m out there in the public eye, people I don’t know seek me out. I’ve had to throw out my cardinal rule: if I don’t know you well enough to say hello if we run into each other at the store, we aren’t close enough to be online friends. Knowing that casual acquaintances are seeing my updates unconsciously influences what I choose to share. Next, I’m heavily involved with professional organizations centered around writing and publishing. Using Facebook to interact with these groups has become my main use of the app. I’m online – a lot – but in secret groups where only those who also belong get to see what I’m up to. My brain didn’t translate that the type of activity I’m engaging in was different and failed to allocate an increase of resources to compensate. Frankly, I just don’t have that kind of time anymore. Well, and my corporate job started blocking Gmail and Facebook, eliminating my ability to multitask in small increments of two to three minutes over the course of the day.

Recently I read an article related to how much effort authors should invest in engaging with social media to sell their books. It was well written and had me thinking about all the effort anyone trying to sell a product gives to social media – and how much time it can suck from what is really important. What if we all just used these sites to connect with real people and create meaningful relationships? What if Twitter was really a feed about what’s going on with life and not a constant barrage of people trying to sell me something? It has become so much noise, no one listens anymore. What if all the time we spent online were better suited somewhere else doing things more essential to our happiness? I know I’ve been more productive since my habits have changed even subtly so I’m sticking with the trend.

I wonder what will be next in this incremental evolution in focusing my efforts toward productivity and efficiently in all the areas that I’ve deemed matter most in my life. Or have I reached my full capacity with all the things I’m doing now? Last weekend I was at a family gathering with my siblings and their families. During the reminiscent viewing of a movie we used to watch with our mom – over and over – I found myself reaching for my laptop to work on a certification test I have coming up. Is this just my nature now, to evaluate what the best use of my time is in every moment? Time will only tell. For now, my time management has evolved to a great place where I can commit to saying ‘yes’ to unsolicited invitations to submit stories to publishers. Life is good but only if you make it that way!

 


Business versus Craft – the 2015 conundrum

There are only so many hours in every day, no matter how effective you are at using them wisely. I’m not sure whether it was a funk I was in over the holidays while I grieved celebrating without my mom, or a mild case of burnout. More than likely a tad bit of both. I spent the last week making a conscious effort to get myself refocused. For the first time, I wrote down writing goals for the year. Measurable ones with dates and everything. Which someone said makes them far more concrete. I’m not really a written goal kind of girl but yearly goals are part of my corporate job which shapes my efforts over the course of the year. It was not surprising to find myself in the same kind of mind-set thinking about my writing. I have taken my hobby to a professional level and it just flowed naturally to set yearly targets for productivity.

I have some lofty goals for 2015: two novels and several short stories by the end of the year.

The reality is, if I want to achieve these goals I am going to have to step things up even further this year. I’m going to have to start saying ‘No’ to things… I’ve been involved in creating a new non-profit organization the past few months and it took a lot of time. Time I could have been writing. (No surprise that I’m also on the pro tempore Board of same, right?) But it was because of my involvement with that group that my first story will be published so I have to believe it was worth it. I’ve been trying to juggle so many things that some of the balls I’ve got in the air are bound to fall on the ground, try as I might to catch them. Gone are the days where I could say yes to everything that I spontaneously thought sounded fun and then find a way to work out all the details. Now, it’s called prioritizing and I have to do it before the fact. Instead of lamenting, I’m thinking how great it is to have these business-related problems. It means I’m a professional which will help in getting to the next level. A level I can’t fathom at this point but which I welcome nonetheless.

I’m working on a new ITIL certification at my corporate job called Service Strategy (it’s an IT thing, it’s okay if you don’t know the reference, google will). One of the principles I thought fitting for my current situation is: ‘Strategy is deciding what not to do’. Basically putting what your business plans to do in perspective of what you have time, money and resources for, and what you don’t.  I never thought I’d be using my corporate job skills in my writing career but here I am, doing exactly that. Hours of time to allot for writing is the most precious of commodities right now for me. I can either use them for writing or networking or marketing or creating new and exciting ventures that benefit the community and advocate literacy. But I won’t have the time to devote to each of them that I want. Maybe I’ll win the lottery and I won’t need the corporate job anymore. I find myself day dreaming about how much I could get done at work if my only job was my writing. But I can’t dwell on things as unlikely as wining the lottery.

As a result of my introspection, you won’t see me at FanX, probably not at ComicCon either. Plus, I’m being selective on which writing conferences I attend this year. Because that gives me three more weekends to devote to marathon writing sessions where I practice the craft that helps me excel in my business. Truth is: without my craft, there is no business. If I’m not writing and producing products intended for consumers, all the rest of my networking and marketing efforts will be fruitless in the end.

Now, more than ever, if you need me I’ll be writing. I’ll sure miss watching football, since I’ve already given up the rest of television. Perhaps I should buy stock in a coffee supplier just for safe measure? I will certainly need my share of caffeine in the coming months while I watch 2015 unfold. Stick around, there’s always hindsight when we can’t have a crystal ball!