Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Motivating change, creating goals

Well its a few days before the new year, hopefully everyone is thinking about, writing down, and or actually getting a jump start on their 2012 goals :).

Studies have shown that the more concrete the goal, the more likely the person is to complete it. So saying, “I want to lose weight”, “I want to get published”, aren’t valid goals. Well, they might be valid, however, they have two things wrong with them 1) too vague, 2) the goal is not directly controllable for the person.

Define the goals:

Work backwards. Where do you want to be in a year from now?
If I want to lose 30 pounds, and I break it up into nice little x-pounds per month chunks- I could still be messing things up because my body may not lose weight at that ratio. There are many different variables that make up weight loss- such as our body type, our fitness level, genetics, age, etc. So to say, “X-pounds per month” is setting things up for a big disappointment. Then you get depressed, give up, and go eat a pint of rocky road. The trick is to make as your goal something you CAN control. For weight loss this could be “I will work out for 30 minutes a day 3 days a week, and go for 45 minute walks 6 days a week.” This is something YOU have control over- if you fail, regardless of the reason (no time, things came up, etc) the onus is on YOU to fix it. Plus, in terms of weight loss- when you get enough healthy goals lined up you WILL lose weight ;).

For the goal of getting published- again break things down. For most folks still looking at the traditional model, an agent is a good idea. (Not going into the whole agent thing right now. ;))Now saying, “I’ll get an agent this year.” isn’t a viable goal either. The agent does have a say in things- after all, free will, etc. So the better goal is one in which control comes back to you. Something such as, “I will submit a query to 25 agents this year.” That is in your control completely and hopefully will lead to an agent, which will lead to a sale, which will lead to being published. Making life happy and joyous all around until the anxiety over the next book starts.

Develop control:

The problem for many folks is that they place the “success-o-meter” for their goals in the hands of something other than themselves. Psychologists refer to it has an external locus of control. My happiness, or success, is in the hands of someone else, whether it be fate, luck, some higher power. If a person has an external loci of control, they see that their happiness, sadness, success, etc is out of their hands. "I'm not happy because (outside action, person, event)." Or I’d do that “wonderful thing to change my life” BUT. These could be called the ‘because’ and ‘but’ folks.

It's also true for responsibility of ones life and actions- external locus of control folks are never to blame for their own failures or mistakes. It’s not their fault their life isn’t what they want, or they can’t reach their goals- it’s always the action of something far beyond them.

Folks with a more internal locus of control see themselves as the steering action for their lives. If they succeed at something- it’s through their own hard work. They fail at something? It’s them who dropped the ball. And it's up to their to get back on course.

Now guess which group has more control in changing their behavior?

Like all personality and social behaviors, people range from one end of the spectrum to the other- probably no one is at the extreme end for either side. But as people who want to gain control of our lives, one of the first things we need to do is take responsibility. Develop your internal locus of control ;).

Future Time Perspective:

This is a psychological theory about people’s ability to delay gratification now, in order to achieve a goal or desire in the future. Aka, how much are you willing to suffer now to reap future rewards. Like locus of control, people range on this scale. Some folks are close to zero. They’re the 'I want it now, I don’t want to set aside time to advance my goals, I want to watch tv because it gives me immediate enjoyment' bunch. Those folks have a hard time making the reality of those future goals concrete in their heads (and most are going to be on the external locus of control end of the game too- if you can’t control your future, why should you give up current pleasure for it?).

People with a strong sense of future time perspective have trained themselves to see what they want (define their goals), adjust those goals as needed, and can connect their current actions with those future goals. They adjust to dealing with getting up at 5am, to watching less tv, playing less with social media, giving up some time with friends (not too much, social contact is vital for mental health ;))-because their future goal is real to them and they see they have control over it.

Notice I said train themselves. Through upbringing people may be at one end or the other on both of these scales. BUT they can train themselves to be better. To realize they have control over their lives (both good and bad events), that sacrifice now is important for success later on.

Now this was a very long blog for me-LOL- but hopefully it gave some folks stuff to think about, just as it did for myself while writing it.

Succeeding at our goals is far more than just making wishes. We need to define them, we need to realize that we have control over them, and we need to connect our current actions (or restrictions of actions) with that future success. And I forgot to add flexibility- which is also important. Your goals should never be carved in stone. As you move and grow throughout the coming year- your goals might change too. You need to be willing and able to adjust them as many times as needed.
Hope everyone has an amazing 2012!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Just a wish for all of you folks out there to have a wonderful Christmas if you celebrate it, and a beautiful Sunday even if you don't.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Goals for 2012

Yeah, yeah, yeah- these should be posted in January. But my way of thinking is that January is when you’re jumping into your new goals, not thinking them up ;). So I do them now then have a little over a week to work my way into them.

First, let me address those folks who don’t like “resolutions”. There are lots of reasons not to like them, which is why I call them goals. It’s always easier (at least for me) to start a new habit or behavior at the start of something. A week, a month, a year- these demarcations of time make handy little starting points for changes. So I like using this time period to reflect and move forward- if you do as well, great. If not- no worries ;).

Even though this is a writing blog, I’m going to list all of my plans here. Writing really is part of my life and as such can’t be pulled out and kept separate.

1) Fitness: I did get off to a good start in the second half of 2011- and got into the habit of working out every day. The last month or two has been spotty due to health issues and NaNo messing up my sleeping (and thusly messing up getting up at 4:45 am to work out). My plan for 2012 is to get back up to my 7 days a week, with increases each month. So extra workouts later in the day on a few days, changing things up, much longer walkers/ workouts on week-ends. I ain’t getting younger, and the fight begins now.

2) Food: ok, this too took big strides forward in the latter half of 2011- then sort of slipped during the holidays. I’ve got way too many health issues that I really want to get rid of to keep messing up eating. Back to tracking food and weighing in regularly.

3) My writing itself-

a. Take myself seriously as a writer- fake it until you make it. I may be under published, but I AM a writer. If I don’t believe it, how will others?

b. Really attack the publishing end of things. No more hit and miss of sending out (in terms of quantity- not who I’m sending to- I do my research ;)).

c. Develop a thick skin. Ok, easier said than done, and I hear lots of laughing from you folks. But a big part of having a thick skin is how rejection is perceived. Successful people often don’t see it as bad, it’s a stepping stone to their goal. I plan on working on my perceptions a LOT this year.

d. Push myself. I love to write, and will always do so. But, I do want to share my work with others. I want other people to share the worlds I’ve created and get to know my characters. Art of any kind grows when it is a shared experience-so I need to get to a position of being able to share. To do that, I have to be constantly pushing my boundaries on what and how I write.

e. Constantly work on improving my craft. I plan on picking one topic a month and focus on it. I figure you never can have too much knowledge!

That's it for now, another aspect of 2012- I want to have a mini goal session each month. Little changes can have big impacts.

What about you?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reflecting on 2011

I’ve been thinking about the end of the year and where I am as a writer right now.

This year has seen some wonderful friends sell great books, first releases, upcoming releases, agent contracts. I did some submitting, but not very much. Got a few nibbles, but in the end the project wasn’t write for this time.

So I does all that make me feel? If I am totally and completely honest about 10% frustrated and 90% ecstatic for my friends who burst through that plateau this year.

The frustration is natural, I was hoping to have submitted a lot more by this time and found my perfect agent. But various things happened and I didn’t get many submissions out for a plethora of reasons which I won’t go into now. But if ya don’t submit, ya ain’t going nowhere.

I did some good things this year though, some craft building things, re- wrote some projects, did more editing of others. And I have the bones of a new book thanks to NaNo- one I’m excited about diving into next year.

But still, a wee bit of frustration that I haven’t hit that point, that right story+ right author+ right agent/editor spot-yet.

And, also if I’m honest, part of my frustration is at how others see me. Those looks of, “Oh really, you write…how…cute.” Until there is a contract, or even better, a book in print, there will be folks reacting that way. Even when they don’t, there’s still that feeling that they are thinking it.

But I write because I have to. I’m not writing for accolades, or status, I’m writing because I love to create worlds, and people. Sometimes though, just sometimes, it’s easy to forget that ;). And it’s something I really should NEVER forget. My love of writing is all I have to protect me from the slings and arrows of rejection.

As for my friends who went to that next level – who got those contracts- they give me hope. When you see REAL people around you making it, actual friends that I can I say “I knew them when”, it makes the whole process real.

Plus- this way they get to go through it all, and when I’m there I can be running to them for words of wisdom.

Monday, December 12, 2011

GUEST BLOGGER- Cathy1967 Post NaNoWriMo and Fanfic writing

Today I'm welcoming a friend from the NaNo Wars (and the Farscape boards), Cathy, to come blog about her adventures in NaNo and her experience as a fan fic writer (Fan Fic is fiction based on characters from TV shows, movies, or other authors books).

Welcome Cathy!

Post NaNoWriMo – Thoughts and ruminations on what it took to get there and what comes after

By Cathy1967

It's funny (and I think I use that start in a sentence way too often, but hey ...), but now that I sit here, almost two weeks after completing NaNoWriMo on time (that's a load off my shoulders and a bit of a surprise too), trying to think of something to write, I draw a blank. Well, okay, not a total blank. I'm writing this, after all. :)

My dog is moseying around in the background with a chewed-up plastic bottle, making noise because I'm not paying attention to him; probably because I didn't pay much attention to him during November either. Poor puppy.

NaNo happened by chance this year. I wasn't going for it, hadn't planned to participate. I was over at Terra Firma (a forum about everything Farscape, a sci-fi tv-show), browsing around for something interesting to read, and someone mentioned NaNo. And suddenly I thought it might be the thing to do. My life has been a bit shredded lately. October had been a bit of a nightmare for various reasons and November was looming ahead, promising to be almost as bad. Yeah, I'm psychic. *L* Okay, maybe not, but I was in a funk and knew that there was no way out of it until I made a decision with a heavy heart. Sick, old cat equals heartache in this house. I decided to try my hand at original fic and do it through NaNoWriMo. Ambitious under the best of circumstances, since I generally tend to write fan-fic and have only very few and very short original tales under my belt.

Anyway, from the moment I got up on Tuesday, November 1, things just went wrong. I was caught in a month of everything going wrong, of having gotten up on the wrong side of the bed every day of that blasted month. My one cat was not doing well and I knew where it was going, but had a hard time acknowledging it. I made the decision, booked a time with a vet who could come to my house, and had a week before that dreaded date. Finishing NaNo should have been the furthest from my mind, but writing has always had a therapeutic influence on me and, by jove, I needed something to go right. Just one thing. So I wrote whenever I could and I needed to reach the deadline of 50,000 words by November 30 so badly, it spurred me on.

Of course, the support system on Terra Firma helped immensely as well. The encouragement over there was heartwarming and it helped me accomplish what I sort of had given up on. With everything just crumbling around my ears and the loss of my kitty ... I think writing was a lifeline. It kept my mind off things, made me focus on this make-believe world and characters I had created from the ground up.

Writing original fic sure is different from writing fan-fic. Mostly because in fan-fic, you know that as long as you stick to the true and tried versions of the characters, others will recognize them and just see your tale as another adventure they're on. Original fic leaves you high and dry with characters that aren't fully formed (for the beginners among us) and a story-line that may or may not appeal to someone else. Of course, in NaNo you don't actually need anyone to read your stuff to participate. But it is a diving board for the start of a tale and it forces you to concentrate on telling a story as fast as possible. The first time I tried it, I failed. I had a plan, I had a layout for a story, and I was gung-ho on getting it written. But not much came of it. This time around, I was unprepared. I had an idea, yes, but I had no outline, no plan, no nothing. I jumped in feet first and it turns out I actually could swim.

And, what more is, I'm still interested and I want to finish it. Whether someone wants to read it is a totally different matter, of course. But I'll worry about that when it's done. Right now I just need to finish it, but I think I'm going to let it lie and soak up the atmosphere a little before I start working on it again.

Usually, when I write fan-fic, I do it in parts and post each part. I reread until I'm blue in the face, I try to fix mistakes along the way and fix those my readers kindly point out to me after the post. This experience has been ... different. I wrote 80-odd pages and I never reread, I never stopped to correct. I did skip back a bit to get a name or a situation right, but mostly I just moved forward, intent on getting those 50,000 words written so I could get on with this hellish month with at least one thing that had gone right. And I managed. Don't ask me how, but I did. When I hit the finish line – and not even on November 30, but on November 29 – I was at first stunned, then deliriously happy. It raised my spirit in spite of all controversy.

I don't know how others feel about writing in general, but to me it's therapy. I get rid of a lot of pent-up emotions – something you can tell clearly in some of the stories I've written – and that helps me to move on. I've written fan-fic since I was 12 and I intend to write until I can't write anymore. Will I ever be a published author? No clue. I may try. I aim at finishing this story and offering it up as a free e-book for others to read. Hopefully I'll get feedback on it and hopefully it'll be positive enough that it won't discourage me from trying again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


It’s hard to believe that at my age, I’d be considered a virgin. Well, I conquered that label recently when I attempted for the first time the NaNo challenge. For the entire month of November, I wrote my fingers to the bone (not really), making certain to reach the 50,000 words (almost didn’t) by November 30th. The experience was…stressful.

I’d always wanted to do NaNo. I felt a strong sense of community with other writers while challenging myself to write during the start of the holiday season. I don’t know what I was thinking. It was hell!

Except for a short story I wrote earlier this year, I haven’t written a new full-length book in 3 years. Life was a major reason for the lull. Losing my confidence was the other. And yet a third came in the form of brain death, which I had mourned far too long. When I decided to finally take the plunge, I was nervous, uncomfortable and terrified, and that was just the day I entered my book before the November 1st start date. There was still a month to go! I’ve had a horrendous 2011, health- and otherwise, so why was I intentionally setting myself up for more stress?

The answer: I needed to find out if I could write again or if I should hang up my keyboard and call it a less-than-stellar writing career. In other words, could I rebuild my confidence in myself and my storytelling? Oh, and could I find my creativity, which seemed to abandon me 3 years ago.

The morning of November 1st, I was up early, steaming coffee at my desk, eyes wide open and staring at a white screen. Blank screen. No words. Had I expected come the start of NaNo I’d sit at the computer and my fingers would fly over the keyboard? Apparently. My little bit of positive thinking bombed, and it was only the first day.

I write historical novels. My research was somewhat complete, although when I write, I’m always referring back to my files and searching the web for answers not in my notes. Unfortunately, to “win” the challenge, I had no time to waste on looking up details I knew were beneficial to the story. Almost immediately, I came up with ways to get around the use of research. In places I needed a name, I’d write “whatshisname” or “whoeverthisis.” For the details of the period (15th century Italy ) I didn’t know, I’d write “lookthisup” or “whatsitcalled.” I thought, okay, this isn’t going to be so bad. That thought came back to bite me in the…well, “youknowwhere.” Why did I run the words together? It would make replacing them with the find and replace easier when the time comes.

I threw some words down on the first page. Actually, it wasn’t so bad. My fingers didn’t fly like a flock of birds with a purpose, but I wrote those 1767 words each day. Until the 4th day. Understand, I’m a detail-oriented writer. I have to know what “things” I can use in the story. For that, I needed my research. Desperately. Remember those substitutions above? I discovered they didn’t work a lot of the time. My creativity already stalled, and I was only 4 days in. Panic set in. I fell behind in word count. But by some minor miracle, I caught up on day 5 and surpassed the count by 500 words.

Until day 6. Yeah, my creativity didn’t last. So for the next 24 days, I developed a love-hate relationship with NaNo. Losing my (NaNo) virginity became as painful as it is for my heroines when they part with their virginity. Of course, in a different part of the body, but the kind of pain I suffered through was real.

The most difficult thing for me to do was turn off my internal editor. She has a habit of sitting on my shoulder when I type. My first draft of any book isn’t submission ready when I’m finished, but editing while I write is a habit I developed years ago, somewhere in the 30 years since I began writing. Every time she crept in, I tried my best to shoo her away. I really hated chaining her to the lamppost. I was afraid the police would notice.

My muse was a different matter. For most of the month, she decided to go AWOL. I could have strangled her for leaving me stranded without a clue. But then, the police would definitively take notice. Instead, I struggled to find motivation and conflict for my hero and heroine. They weren’t helping either. Non-cooperative characters tend to rub my temper the wrong way. To blow off steam, I’d take a break and cook or bake, play with my dogs, decorate for the holidays. And procrastinate.

Being a stubborn Italian, I refused to quit. No matter the rubbish I’d written, I determined to work through memory and creativity lapses (every single day). The stress overtook the enthusiasm I’d built long before NaNo started. No way is my story fit for anyone’s eyes but my own. At the end of the 30 days, I figured I’d trash it all and start from scratch. You know, that blank page.

It wasn’t until a few days before the end of NaNo that I realized my goal was in reach. I turned into a madwoman, just one step short of being committed. On day 29, I surpassed 50,000 words. When I clicked on word count, I stared numbly at the number: 50,423. Whew! I did it! Proudly I followed the links to the certificate I was to receive, filled in the blanks and printed it out. My husband pointed out that I’d misspelled Petska. I had typed Petwska (after nearly 40 years, you’d think I get it right). The perfectionist that I am was not happy with the error. I tried to go to the certificate to fix it but couldn’t. Apparently, once you’ve printed it out, there’s no going back.

I doubt I’ll do NaNo again. The stress combined with other factors in my life became almost unbearable. For a while, I dreamed of finding the guy who came up with the idea for NaNo and dropped it into November. Really? He’s probably single and doesn’t have holiday cooking, baking and cleaning a house for company to do. Holiday shopping for gifts. No concept of how busy life is for everyone at this time of year. Is it bad that I woke up several mornings with my fingers closed around an imaginary neck, squeezing the life out of the faceless creator?

Now that it’s a good week behind me, I can be a bit more objective. For one, NaNo got me writing again. And two, I can say I joined the NaNo challenge and won. It feels good. Now, where is the TV news camera and announcer telling me and the world, “Jannine Corti Petska, you’ve just won NaNoWriMo. You’re going to Disneyland ?”