Monday, December 31, 2012

Writing Goals - Why bother?

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Mental Game"

These guys: probably stick to goals.

No, the question isn't rhetorical, and people, I'm only kidding a little with this title. I'm having to expend extraordinary energy to keep from rolling my eyes at the idea of setting my writing goals for 2013. Call it my bad attitude or call it cynicism after a bust 2012, or maybe I'm just lazy. However, I know, and you probably have figured out, what this rolling-lurching sensation in my gut is really about, and that, my friends, is fear of failure.

You see, the first step in coming up with some reasonable professional or personal goals is to take a good, hard look at where you're at right now. (At least) one of the links below, mentions reviewing goals and progress towards goals and adjusting accordingly. Eek. This is where I'm struggling a bit. I didn't make much progress last year. I submitted ONE story out of my goal of twenty-four. One out of Twenty-four, folks.

And my novel, well, let me tell you a little story about that. I picked up the Beast Binder yesterday(that's what I've named this WIP, The Beast), and found the camera charger underneath it. We've been looking for that charger since May. The binder hasn't been moved (or dusted around - gods I'm a terrible housekeeper) since May!

How am I supposed to set goals after such a poor showing? Yes, yes - it was a trying year. But, I've got to start looking at this as my day job, and you can't take nine months off from your day job due to bereavement and stress. Without making a punching bag out of myself, I have to find some way to keep working, even when life serves me a couple of backhanded zingers (or twenty) between the eyes. I think it's called being an adult.

Then, there is the point (waving its little hand from the back of the room and begging to be noticed), that even though I didn't make great progress, I still made some progress. Look at me being all the-glass-is-half-full, it must be the yoga training.

Seriously though, I did submit one story, which is more than I've submitted since I was eighteen. And, I joined a writing class where we read out loud our stories every week, which has been a tremendous experience. Can't recommend enough the value of a writing group. I've written six new stories since September, and a couple of them received rave reviews from the readers. It is something.

So, I'm going back through my blog roll and trying to find some inspiration for Goal Setting 2013: The Wrath of The Beast. Below you will find my list of must-read blogs for goal setting 2013.

Anyone have some great articles or posts on writing goals? Link 'em up in the comments, please.

Freelancer's Survival Guide:
Kristine Katheryn Rusch's blog is a new one to me. Her "Freelancer's Survival Guide" has inspired and comforted me, and I can't recommend it enough, especially if you have left your day job to pursue writing (or whatever your passion) full-time. It is available on her blog, but you are going to want a copy of your own. I think that the tips in this guide can apply for writers, even if you haven't left that day job. There are some great sections that apply for goal setting (Goals and Dreams, Business Plan), but the guide also gives tips on how to meet your goals, too.

Taking stock and setting goals:
This series of three posts (well the whole site is fantastic) from Dean Wesley Smith, has helped me to clarify where I should be spending my time as a beginner writer. Great summary of the world of writing/publishing in 2012, and smart, sensible tips for the beginner writer planning their 2013.

Konrath's Resolutions for Writers:
Inspirational, funny, no-nonsense and practical. The "2006" resolution list covers it all, but read through them all for inspiration.

Moira Allen's Setting Effective Writing Goals:
Does just what it says on the tin. Step-by-step on how to set effective writing goals.

Goals are Worthless If..:  
Brian Jud's checklist is great for refining your goal list.

For when you're sick of blog posts on goal setting, a little comic relief from The Character Therapist.
Topical and funny cat pictures for the writer....need I say more?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Everything but the writing

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Mental Game

Christmas hangover = cranky writer and cranky cat
 My husband returned to work, today, leaving me home, all alone with my new writing resolutions and one very cranky cat. I've caught up on my social media for the day, read some blogs I've neglected, washed some underwear and shooed cranky-puss off the keyboard about a dozen times. I even sent a short story off to a beta reader in order to prepare it for submission in January.

But, the one thing I haven't done: add one single, solitary syllable to my daily word count. Neither have I so much as cracked open the binder that holds The Beast (aka: WIP1). So, make that two things I haven't done today.

Instead, I've been searching Dr. Google for information on "weird muscle twitches." I'm pretty sure I've got some terrible disease or something.  Then, I downloaded some self-pubbed books from Amazon, since my to-read pile isn't quite deep enough to drown in. Speaking of reading, I spent about an hour on Goodreads, 'cause it's a good place to get in touch with future readers.

Ha! Future readers. What good are future readers if you don't ever write anything for them to read?

I think I'm suffering from sort of post-Christmas hangover. I don't want to return to plain old, holiday-free winter. I guess I still have New Year's coming up, but that is not promising to be a fun holiday this year (no plans). It is dark and cold and rainy, and I just don't feel motivated to write anything. No, I'd rather pull a blanket over my head and drag the laptop underneath and play Angry Birds Star Wars. Dude! Have you seen it?

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon

Friday, December 21, 2012


Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Mental Game"

The End comes for us all - ask the ancient Greeks.
I met with my therapist earlier this week. We were talking about feeling anxiety, and she mentioned that their was a general sense of unease in the world, and for some this was especially magnified as we approached the end of the Mayan calendar. What? I had no idea.

That should tell you the size of the rock I've been living under. I mean, I knew about the end of the Mayan calendar, vaguely recalled that somewhere I'd heard it mentioned some time ago and that there were some doomsday predictions around it, but I had no idea how much some people were seriously freaked out about it. When I got home after my appointment, I looked around on the Internet and found out that there is a more than a little hysteria around today's date. Apparently, as I write this, we have about 2 hours until the world ends.

Here I've been making plans for the New Year, trudging unknowingly through my daily life, with no notion that it was all for naught. Sounds about right, for me. I do tend to get trapped inside my head for long periods of time, then stumble out into the light, momentarily blind and ignorant to the world around me.

Which brings me to the title of the post: Endings. And, no, I'm not writing about story endings or novel endings. When you've had a rough go, and let's face it we all have crappy weeks, months or even years, how do you put an line under the bad period and move forward toward something new? That's what I've been thinking about these last few weeks.

I used to hate thinking about endings: the finality, the change of what was, and the uncertainty of something new beginning. After this year, I have a completely different perspective. I mean, besides it being a bit useless and all, to resist endings, I've actually been craving an ending for the last five months. It isn't that I think that a new year will begin and nothing bad will ever happen again, but it feels like it is time to transition out of this dark period I've been living through and move back to the land of the living (where people are freaking the frack out about Mayan calendars - seriously, how did I miss all this?).

So, a group of yogis on-line have been meditating with specific intentions in the days leading up to the winter solstice. This gave me an idea - I needed a ceremony. I like the ideas and imagery around the winter solstice, and what date could be more perfect for a little makeshift ceremony? It marks the time when the part of the world we live in returns to light. It is a shift in energy, a slow reawakening begun, a return to life - maybe it sounds a bit hokey to some of you, but our ancestors all over the globe have appreciated and marked the solstices going back a very long time. And, as a writer, symbols appeal to me - I appreciate their power.

The solstice will occur at 11:11am GMT, so I have a little more than an hour to prepare. It is a really simple little "ceremony" I've prepared. I've been meditating on these recent hardships, both my own and some of the more global, and thinking about how to accept what is, while letting go at the same time (not easy - I like control!).  Now, I'm going to write down the grief, anger, disappointments and fears I've experienced this past year - all the things I've been thinking on this past week and a half - then simply burn the list just as the Earth's tilt is at its farthest from the Sun. It isn't magic. Nothing will be resolved or materially different. I just needed to find a way to mark what has happened and provide a place/space to jump off from in order to let go and get on with life. And get on with writing, there's going to be loads of writing!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Back to the Beginning

Posted by Jennifer Baylor at The Writing Cocoon.  
Filed under "The Mental Game"

 I wrote a blog post, quite some time ago, entitled: “Writing Through Grief.” So, I don’t know what you would call the last year of my life, or how to define it in a blog post. Maybe the post’s title should be:  “Hiding from Grief” or “Succumbing to Grief” or “Putting your whole life on hold?” “Major Suck-age” has a certain ring to it, too.

My last blog post was a year ago, today. I didn’t even realize it until I sat down and began to type. A whole year. Where did it go? What a different place I was in this time last year, writing a post about my “plan of attack” for 2012. I have to laugh - the best laid plans, eh? I can’t beat myself up over this past year of grief and despair and depression, though. Life has flayed me enough, even to satisfy my morbid tendency toward self-loathing. 

It started back in January when a friend, who’s importance in my life I can scarcely begin to describe, fell ill and ended up in the hospital. Bad news turned to fear, which turned to waiting, and finally, the worst news of all: terminal cancer. The next month was a blur of anxiety and difficult decisions. Finally, thankfully, I pulled my head out and hopped on a plane. Thankfully because, as it turned out, I would be seeing my friend for the last time. She died the day I left.  

I don’t even know how to describe the next few months. I’ve been mourning one person or another every year for the last five. I couldn’t be alone in my house but didn’t know how to be around people, I forgot all of my lofty plans and goals for writing, and I just tread water in a foggy haze of sadness and depression.

That was just the beginning of the year. I can’t even begin to describe to you the chaos, anxiety, fear, sadness and depression that followed in the latter half. Let’s face it, you don’t want to read the gory details, and I can’t stand the thought of recounting it all here. Maybe one day, but not today. It is all too recent and my new found peace of mind too fragile to risk. I’ll just say that there was more loss, plot-twists, illnesses and despair.

Maybe someone else would have done a better job at keeping the rest of their life together, but I admit that I let things fall apart. I let go. It was all I could do to get through the day-to-day, and I wasn’t very successful in that. Just as I thought my writing life was coming together in 2011, it all slipped through my fingers in 2012.

I made a few attempts at refocusing. There’s a draft blog post from back in May that I never published. I guess I knew deep down that I wasn’t ready.

It is strange to come back to this blog and my various writing accounts, everything seems frozen in time, which is fitting, really, as I’ve definitely glimpsed a hint of Miss Havisham in the mirror at times. Everything in my office has a film of dust, my writing posters and papers hang limply from their nails on my walls, and my white board still has a crazy plot diagram I can’t begin to make sense of now.

The one bright note in my writing world is that I joined a creative writing class back in September at my local college. I didn’t know what to expect, but it has been a wonderful experience. Having that weekly deadline for writing has helped me slip gently back into a routine. Reading my stories out loud and receiving feedback has been enlightening, reassuring, and motivating. After all, I don’t write just for myself, I want my stories to be read.

Then there is the fact that writing is such a solitary venture. I think that is the number one thing that has kept me away from keyboard, paper, and pen. Joining this course has been a way to ease back into writing by sharing my love of the craft with other like-minded people. Not only has it been wonderfully healing to read my own stories out loud to an audience of writers, but I didn't know how much I would enjoy reading and critiquing the stories of others. We’re just a bunch of writers talking about the thing we love. Glorious!

I imagine I’ve lost my readers over this past year, but I hope to look you all up and catch up, soon. Maybe you’re new here, and so you can pick up with me where I left off. In any case, I’m back.