How Then, Shall We Jump Start Our Writing Goals for the New Year?

We’re coming up on two weeks into the new year. Ack! Wasn’t it just Christmas? Didn’t we just do Thanksgiving? Soon we’ll be talking about fireworks displays.  I’m still seeing a lot of posts about how to plan to make this your best year yet. I confess, I read almost every one.  Because I love me some planning, yes I do. And then of course there are the requisite posts about how you really shouldn’t plan or create new year’s resolutions because you’ll just fail at them anyway.

To which I say, pish-posh.  How are you supposed to get anything done if you don’t know what you need to do? So here we are two weeks in and I actually think it’s a good time to review your goals.  January is either all bright and shiny and new for you or it’s a terrible slog, but either way the luster might be off some of those goals.  But, the world needs your voice. You need your voice to be heard in the world. It works both ways.  So, herein are some thoughts for how to reconnect and move forward with those writing goals.  17 of them, in fact. Because…oh never mind. You get it.

  1. Write faster.  I’m putting together a….hmmm, what shall I call it? Book? Mini-book? Maybe report. I loved writing reports in school. I’m putting together a report on how to write faster and better and you can get it if you’re on my list (see sign-up to the right). It won’t be out until February so between now and then write as fast as you can. Because its better to get something on the page than nothing. So I say.
  2. Create an activation trigger for your goal.  This is a simple action that will make it easier for you to reach your goal. So, in my case, since I want to write first thing in the morning, an activation trigger would be to shut down all my inboxes and other distracting tabs the night before.  But let the all-mighty and wonderful Michael Hyatt explain it to you by going here.
  3. Clean up your crap.  Bwahahahahaha. That’s the sound of me laughing hysterically because my office is such a mess. And organizing it is the one thing I can’t seem to get myself to do. But sometimes I start to feel overwhelmed and look around and think, no wonder. I know I would be able to think better if my space were cleaner. And I also know that money likes to come where there’s room. So I’m working on it. How about you?
  4. Study. I love learning new things. And there are certain areas that I need to brush up on, for sure. Like marketing and money. So I’m setting aside time to study those topics this year.  Years ago I read a book that stated committing thirty minutes a day to a subject is enough to become expert in it. I’ve never forgotten that. Learning marketing will boost your book sales, so if that’s one of your goals, have at it.
  5. Quit worrying about what other people think.  You said yes to the PTA bake sale because you were afraid the other mothers would think you a slacker if you didn’t, but now baking cupcakes for 500 is going to take up your writing time? Stop doing shit like that.  Who cares what they think? We do, I know. It is one of the hardest things to get over.  But your writing is more important than your sister’s best friend’s cousin’s opinion of you (and this includes Facebook posting/jealous, too).
  6.  Don’t do crap you don’t want to do. Okay, into each life some rain must fall. We all have things that we don’t want to do. Like cook dinner when you’d rather be writing. Taking the garbage out when its snowing. Cutting back on wine because you want to lose some weight. (Oh and none of these items are autobiographical. Uh-uh, no way.) But we do make ourselves say yes to plenty of things we don’t want to do. Case in point: I just finished knitting a pink #pussyhat to wear at the Portland Women’s March.  The idea of this is to knit hats to keep the women marching in Washington warm and also create a great visual image. Everyone on Instagram is knitting one hat after another and I thought I would, too. But after casting mine off I realized I really don’t want to knit another one. Usually I’d force myself. Because, I have to be the most perfect activist ever! But I have no interest in knitting another one. (I get bored really easily.) So just today I gave myself permission not to knit another one.  More time for writing.
  7. Stop with the perfectionism. It doesn’t serve you and it doesn’t serve the people you love, either. Here’s a fun little exercise: force yourself to write one bad page. One really, terrible, horrible, very bad page.  There. Doesn’t that feel better?
  8. Find a planner or some kind of system that works for you. I’m old-school paper when it comes to this. Don’t bother sending me a Google calendar notification cuz I don’t use one.  It took me a long time, but I recently figured out the best calendar for me is daily calendar. I bought the daily planner from Danielle LaPorte (affiliate link) and I LOVE it. They sold out but are coming back in stock on January 15th. Highly recommended. (News flash addendum: I’ve used and recommended the Leonie Dawson Your Shining Year workbooks and planners in the past. She’s having a 50% off clearance sale at the moment. Go here, which is an affiliate link, to see.)
  9. Meditate. Quit your bitching and just do it. I get many of my best ideas during meditation sessions.
  10. Write morning pages. I know you don’t have time, but do it anyway. Gets all your crap out of your head and onto the page and is another place I get brilliant ideas. You know morning pages, don’t you? Popularized by Julia Cameron, they are three pages of long-hand stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning. Sometimes mine are shorter than three pages, sometimes longer. Doesn’t matter.
  11. Automate. I think we used to call this delegating. Whatever. Look at what stupid things are getting in the way of your writing and figure out a way to make someone else do them. Miniature adults, i.e., your children, are great for this. Make them set the table and do laundry, etc. Yeah, right. Hopefully yours will be better at this than mine were. Failing that, hire an assistant. Or at the very least, order your groceries online and go pick them up (or send your teenager who just got his license and loves to drive to do it). We live in a miraculous world, people. Take advantage of it.
  12. Hire a coach. I have my eyes set on two this year. One for writing and one for business. And, ahem, if you are a writer looking for one you could consider me. (If you would like to schedule a connection session to chat with me about it, just click here and you’re all set.)
  13. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Gee, what a great title. Someone should use it for a book. Oh, never mind. But don’t worry about the stuff you can’t control, like the weather. We’re currently working on our fourth winter storm in a city that usually just gets rain. I get so distracted looking out the window, turning on the TV for news and so on. Dumb. Wasting precious time.
  14. Use things you love. For instance, I love writing with multi-colored pens.  The Pilot G-2 Gel Rollers come in a luscious array of colors and I use them on my planner and in my journals. A bit teenager-ish, but I don’t care. It’s fun.
  15. Read. Some writers don’t like to read when they’re writing, but I say, words in, words out. Reading inspires you, it instructs you and it teaches you. Read everything you can get your hands on and think how it relates to your writing.
  16. Get very clear about what you want with your writing.  Yeah, I know you’ve been figuring out goals and so forth, but are they shoulds or wants? This business we are in is not an easy one, and so I think you should do what makes you happy in it, not what someone else thinks you should be doing.  With all the things I do, I have to constantly remind myself that fiction comes first.
  17. Do we really need a #17? Kidding. Here it is: launch. That happens to be my word of the year, but I think it is apropos. Think of it as rising up or upleveling.  Because if ever there was a year to stand up and stand out and do your thing as fully and wholely as possible this is it.  Recalibrate your mindset so that you truly are going for it. Let’s do it together.

What are your writing goals for 2017 and how do you propose to help yourself reach them?  And seriously, I’d love to hear about your goals and your writing.  Let’s! Go here and schedule a time.

Photo by robchivers.

Three Words for 2015

I'm a bit late with my words this year.  It's sort of because they have been rolling around in my head and sort of because I was doing other things and not thinking about it.   But here we are at last.  We got here. Or more to the point, I got here.

Wine_glass_toast_612541_h

At least I didn't choose wine as one of my words of the year.

Some backstory: Every year I choose three words to guide me in the new year.  Most people these days choose just one word, but ever greedy and grasping for more, I follow Chris Brogan's lead and choose three.  

Some years the words stick with me and guide me all year long and others I tend to forget them by mid-January mid-February.  But I still think that even if they aren't front and center in my mind, they are invisibly guiding me.  Which reminds me of a story.  (You probably knew there was one coming, right?)

Years ago, when I was a fledgling writer, I was involved with a local writer's group, and it was my job to accompany an at-the-time famous author around at her workshop.  This actually turned out to be complicated and confusing because she was married, and not just married, but married married, as in one of those people who is always spouting off about how great her husband was and how fantastic their marriage was.  Said fantastic husband was due to accompany her to the workshop. But then she called us and explained that no, the husband would not be with her, but another man would–her lover.  But then when she appeared for the workshop, she was with the husband.  Like I said, complex and confusing.  I never did figure out what happened there.  

Believe it or not, that's not the story I meant to tell.  The story I meant to tell is this: the famous author mentioned that when naming a character, it is a good idea to consider the meaning of the name.  Not because your reader is going to necessarily know that, but because that meaning subtlety imbues the character with that meaning and the reader will subliminally pick it up.

And that's how I feel about my three words of the year.  Even if I forget them in my conscious mind, they are there guiding me in my subconscious.  And I can use all the subconscious guiding I can get. And now, since this post is going in directions I didn't anticipate, let's just cut to the chase, shall we?

My three words of the year are practice, possibility, and permission.  Yes, all Ps.  Isn't that great?  I love when that happens.  

Practice.  I mean this in terms of a writing practice, as you likely guessed.  A writing practice that I do every day.  I pretty much do this now, but it is something I want to do more of.  At the moment, I get up early and write–most days.  Every once in awhile a ringer thuds in and I find myself cruising the internet for an hour before I realize what's happened.  I'd like less of that in 2015.  As I write this, I'm realizing that this is the best word for a year ever, because really, practice is everything.

Possibility.  Because, duh.  I want 2015 to be rich with possibilities.   Splendid stuff I've not even yet thought of.  Wonderful surprises.  Glorious opportunities.  Fun and festive events.  Got that, universe?

Permission.  Okay, so this one takes some explanation.  I kept thinking that my third word would be rejection.  I know, but hear me out.  My thinking was that if I was putting work out in the world, asking people for things (like to host a book signing or a reading, for instance), and creating new products a lot, as is my plan for 2015, I would be sure to get some rejection.  And this would be a good thing, because it would mean I was putting stuff out there.  But then I realized that stating I was looking for rejection was not the best message.  So I spent some time looking up likely antonyms that would get the idea across and came up with permission.  As in permission to put tons of stuff out there without worrying about failure and rejection.  Plus, permission starts with P.  So its perfect.  And I will stop now.

There you have them.  My words for the year.

Here are posts from previous years:

My Three Words For the New Year (2011)

Three Powerful Words For an Amazing New Year (2012)

It's One Powerful Word For the New Year (2013)

Three Words for 2014

And a post on why you shouldn't choose a word or words, just for fun.

Are you choosing a word?  Or words?  Care to share it?

Photo by jurvetson.

What’s Your New Year’s Resolution for Writing in 2015?

Ukulele1_HiResGood morning.

It's 6:35 AM and I should be writing.  My main character, though, is in the middle of a somewhat dicey scene during which she not only sees an unpleasant side of her love interest but she must also confront him about it.  And I don't do confrontation well.  So I thought I'd leave her for awhile and head on over here and write a blog post instead.

Yes, I'm avoiding.  But at least its better than combing the internet for useless stories.  Which I was doing a couple minutes ago, in truth.  And in all that uselessness (Kate and William in New York! Big storms to hit both coasts! Asteroids!) I found something of value–a story on Writer Unboxed about New Year's resolutions for writers.  I've been thinking a lot about how I want to approach 2015 and so I stole the idea to write my own post.  (Happily enough, #3 on Keith Cronin's list is "steal something." Do go read the rest of it, the post is worth some time.)

As usual, I have tons of ideas about resolutions for my life beyond writing.  Such as lose weight, walk a lot, do yoga, learn to play the ukulele, cook more, finish all the half-done knitting projects I've started, and on and on and on.  But this year, I have two goals for writing.  I think of them as underlying goals, or themes, if you will.  Because I do terribly when I give myself specific goals.  So, here we go:

1.  Write Fast.  I experimented with this last fall, taking a class called Book in a Month, wherein you were supposed to write a book in two weeks and then revise it the last two weeks of the month.  I got on an airplane to Paris in the middle of the class and that pretty much ended my participation.  But I loved the idea.  Its the same idea that propels Nanowrimo.  You quit kvetching, quit moaning and groaning, and just write.  Throw freaking words at the page.  Get the draft done already.  The most productive writers I know do this.  And I want to get better at it.  I still find myself sitting at my computer staring off into space too often.  I want my hands to be worn out by the end of the day.  (I figure it will also be good exercise for my ukulele playing.  I had my first lesson yesterday.  TOO MUCH FUN.)

I'm curently in the middle of rewriting a novel that I'm greatly enamored of (during which I'm also doing my best not to get bogged down, this morning nonwithstanding) and once that is done by the end of January, I'm going to return to the mystery series I started for the Book in a Month class and finish it fast.  It is now going to be more romance-ish, because I'm not good at killing people.  Oops, I just realized I committed to a specific goal, finishing this rewrite by the end of January, and worse, wrote about it. Well, you guys will just have to hold me to it.

2. Quit Hiding.  Now, most of you would not think that I hide.  But sometimes I do.  There are degrees of hiding.  I'm quite visible on the interwebs, for instance, but not as willing to put myself out in real life.  I'm better known in Nashville then my home town of Portland as another for instance. (Though this is not that unusual–sometimes you just aren't appreciated until you go away.) This tendency is so ingrained in me that often I don't even realize I'm doing it.  So I'm making a list of ways I can Not Hide.  Suggestions are welcomed. 

(And, I do have a couple of in-person events scheduled for 2015.  Besides the writing workshop in France, which you really should come to, I'm going to be doing a workshop in Nashville on May 1st and 2nd, at Scarritt-Bennett Center.  Details to follow soon.)

Next week, I'll write my three words of the year post.

But for now, I've written enough about me.  It's time to go practice the ukulele (I've mastered the C chord! Don't laugh.) Or knit.  Or perhaps rescue my protagonist from her predicament.

What are your goals for 2015?

How to Make 2014 Your Best Writing Year Yet

Fireworks_firework_night_226231_lHappy New Year!

We're two days into 2014–how's it treating you so far?  Yeah, I know, it's a bit soon to tell. But I've been cheerful the last few days.  Why? Because I took time to review 2013 and work on goals for 2014.  I've spent a lot of time doing this, actually.   And I can tell by how happy its made me that it is a worthy endeavor.  Thus I will inflict it upon you.

In case you haven't spent time reviewing last year, go do that first.  (Doesn't matter that it's 2014, I figure that just as you have a year after a wedding to send a gift, you have until the end of January to review 2013.)

Now take a deep breath, get up from your chair, and dance around the room for a bit to shake all that old-year energy out.  Okay.  Sit back down, grab your journal and have at it.  Bear in mind a couple of things: you can answer as many or few as you want.  And sometimes I ask similar questions in slightly different wording because often coming at an idea from a different angle opens it up for you.

Questions and Prompts for Your 2014 Writing

What do you most want to create in 2014 in your writing life?  In your creative life? (Because one bears on the other.  They enhance each other, they don't take away from each other.)

What do you want to let go of in 2014?  (i.e., fear, procrastination, etc.)

What is your most important writing project in 2014?  Second most important?  Third most important?

How many words will you write a week?

When will you write?

What other genres might you try, just for fun?

How many things will you submit or self-publish in 2014?

Will you take part in a writing community (online or in the real world)?

How will you relax and rest?

When will you take time to daydream and think? (Vastly under-rated activities for writers.)

My biggest goal for 2014 is…..

At the end of the year, I'll be satisfied if….

The thing that will make me happiest with my writing is….

This year, I vow to….

If I could have one wish for my writing, it would be….

My perfect writing day would be….

My perfect place to write would be….

Okay, that ought to keep you busy for awhile!  And while you're at it, why not share one of your answers in the comments? 

Photo by kiplantt.

Reviewing Your 2013 Writing Life

Infodesign-calendars-design-52489-hSo, we've got two days until the new year, and I don't know about you, but I've been busy thinking about 2014.  I have so many writing goals I want to accomplish–novels and stories to get out in the world, and classes and products to offer here on the blog.  So this year I'm trying to approach it logically (not my strong suit, as I'm about as right-brained as they come), and write out my goals now.  (I'm using this workbook that my daughter got me for Christmas.)

The difference for me this time around is that I'm actually taking the time to review 2013.   Yeah, I know, brilliant idea, right?  Anyway, as I was working on this project earlier this morning, the thought occurred that maybe you would like some guidance on looking over 2013 as well.  So herewith, I offer questions to ponder and answer in three areas: writing, motivation and putting it into the world (also known as marketing).

(And by the way, I'll be back on Thursday, newsletter day, with guidance for planning your 2014 writing life.)

1.  Writing.  

We start with this because it is the basis of everything.  Duh.

–What was the best thing about your writing in 2013?

–What was the worst thing?

–What are you most proud of?

–What is your biggest writing accomplishment?

–What felt good around your writing?

–What felt off?

–What lessons did you learn around your writing?

–What do you want more of?

–What do you want less of?

–What was your biggest writing problem?

2.  Motivation

Yes, one could argue that this could come first, but I maintain, as mentioned above, that when you're a writer, writing is the starting point of everything.  

–What inspired you?

–What motivated you to plant your butt in the chair and write?

–What de-motivated you?

–What got in the way of your writing?

–What is your biggest issue in finding time to write?

–What time of day were you most inspired?

–What books inspired you?

–What blogs inspired you?

–What magazines inspired you?

–What other creative pursuits inspired you?

3.  Marketing

I know, ick, but if you want your work to go out in the world, you've got to consider it.

–How did you market your work in 2013?

–What were your most successful channels?

–How many times did you submit your work in 2013? Or, how many pieces did you publish yourself?

–Which social media outlet did you rock?

–Did you blog or maintain your website consistently?

–What did you learn about yourself and your writing through marketing?

–Do you have a mailing list?  Did you grow it this year?

–How did your off-line marketing efforts go?

–Did you get media publicity this year? In what venues?

–What areas of marketing did you most enjoy?

Okay, there you have it–30 questions to answer about 2013.  I'll be back on Thursday with thoughts to ponder for 2014.  In the meantime, would you care to comment?  What was your biggest writing accomplishment in 2013? 

Image by eliazar.

It’s One Powerful Word For the New Year

For the last two years, I've been in the habit of choosing three words to guide my next year.  (You can read the posts explaining my word choices for 2012 here, a check-in post here, and the words for 2011 here. For another blogger's take on the process, check out Sandra's post at Always Well Within.) 

But this year I'm doing something a bit different–choosing one word.  That's because this one word has been pulling at me for a month, insisting it is the word, and the one and only word that will mark my 2013.  In general, I am a "more is better" kind of person, and such is the case with choosing words for the year–why choose one when choosing three is so much better?

My word won't let me do that this year.  And so, with no further introduction, here is that pesky word that won't let go of me:

Fearless.

I want to be:

Fearless on the page.

Fearless in my personal life.

Fearless in my career.

A Course in Miracles says that you've got two choices: love or fear.  So, by definition, this year is going to be about offering a whole lot of love.  But to me, the opposite of fearless goes even deeper than love, if that is possible.

To me, the opposite of fear is faith.

Faith in my ability to splash words on the page.  Faith that this is the bottom line of what I need to do in the world.

Faith that good will triumph over evil.  That somehow, someway, we will transmute horrendous events like the Newtown Sandy Hook massacre.

Faith that love really does trump fear.

I'm not at all sure I know how to be fearless, and I'm guessing that's why the voice within was so insistent that I choose this word for 2013.  Because lately it seems that little things have made me anxious.  That fussing over my writing is easier than just letting the words flow.  That obsessing over the possibility that something bad might happen is more common than enjoying the moment.

And, somehow, that wise voice within knows that striving for a practice of fearlessness is the antidote to all of the above.  I'm not about to go jump out of an airplane or climb Mt. Everest.   The kind of fearlessness that most interests me is the kind where I meet the demons within.  The ones who say the words I put on the page are silly.  That nobody will think my novel is funny.  The ones that remind me how many other talented writers there are in the world.

Yeah, those.  Responding to them fearlessly is my number one task this year.

So that's my word for the year.  Are you choosing a word or words for 2013?  Please share it or any thoughts you might have about this in the comments.

***By the way, if putting words on the page is a goal for you in 2013, you might consider giving yourself the gift of coaching.  My current clients are accomplishing great things.  Wouldn't you like to join them?  Check out my coaching page here.  It's a wonderful present for yourself.

Are You Cultivating Your Creative Seeds?

Everystockphoto_174008_mAnd forgive me if that title sounds vaguely obscene.  I'm not sure if it does or not, and I don't mean it to.

So, that out of the way, let's talk about ideas.  And goals.  Awk!  The two don't go together.  Or do they?  Well, yeah, kinda they do.  Because you can have tons of ideas but they remain just that, ideas, unless you wield the hammer and create yourself some goals, too.

I know you're cringing now because you're a creative type and the idea of setting goals is anathema.  (Good word, eh?  And the definition is pretty fabulous, too:  a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction. Doesn't get much better than that.)  But hear me out, because goals can be good.  Goals can help us turn our ideas into projects and then get them out into the world.

Ideas are the spark, goals are the engine.

And here's the deal: I'm teaching a 2-session class on ideas and goals beginning December 6th.  I purposely scheduled the class for December so that you would be ready to go when 2012 rolls around, which is going to come much faster than you think.

And here's the other deal: I just halved the price of the class, from $97 to $47.  My business coaches hate it when I do stuff like this because you're supposed to charge high prices to make it look like you're important.  I actually thought that $97 was a pretty decent price, but let's just say people aren't lining up around the block to sign up.  (My business coaches hate when I admit stuff like this, too.  Oh well.)

Here's the bottom line: I think this information is really good, and I want you to have access to it.  I know people are struggling with finances and a class devoted to your creative ideas may not be high on the budgetary list (do remember that the goal setting portion of the class may actually help you with your finances, though).  So I dropped the price of the class.

It's going to be juicy, I promise.  Two one-hour sessions, with lots of tips and exercises to throw at you, both on the idea and the goal-setting side. 

You can go here to read more and sign up.  Oh, PS–its a teleclass, so you can be anywhere in the world and take it.  And even if you can't make the times I have set, it will be recorded so you can listen to it any time.

‘Fess Up and Rise Up

Do you want to write a best-selling novel?  C'mon now, tell the truth.  Or perhaps it is a memoir you have your heart set on penning.  How about a collection of short-stories, articles for national magazines, a blog entry for the Huffington Post?

Or maybe its a different kind of creativity you have your heart set on.  Maybe you want to paint.  Or knit.  Or tat.  Or climb mountains, or go spelunking (nobody will ever, as long as I draw breath on this planet, convince me to contort myself into a cave, but you can go without me).

Dream_poor_goal_235581_l

Whatever it is you want to do, confess it now. I'll wait for a minute.

Did you have a hard time admitting your desires?

I thought so.  Many of us do.  I've pondered this a lot and come up with the following reasons why this is so:

  • Our desires and goals feel precious and fragile, as if they will dissolve with one harsh word or raised eyebrow.
  • Life and work are supposed to be hard, dammit.  What's all this balderdash about desires?
  • If you have a desire/goal, and you tell someone about it, and then you fail (or even just take awhile to accomplish it) people will give you those I knew you couldn't do it looks.
  • If you have a desire/goal, and you succeed at it, then that will mean, oh God, change.  Life will be different.  Yikes!
  • It's sort of embarrassing to want more.  Because, shouldn't we just be satisfied with the status quo?

I'm sure you can come up with your very own reason not to admit what you want.  But right here, right now, I'll give you one excellent reason why you should:

Because if you don't honor your desires, you'll shrivel up and die, at least on the inside.

Since I do not want this to happen to you, I'm declaring 2011 the Year of 'Fessing Up and Rising Up.  Yes, when I'm not busy being fierce, radical, and profound (you yourself may choose your own words) I plan to keep active by working hard on achieving my own goals.  And you should, too. But in order to do that, first we have to confess what they are.

You know that words have power.  Spoken words have even greater power.  And written words, to my mind, have the most power of all. Once you speak or write your desire, a natural sort of rising up begins to occur.  So join with me now in welcoming the Year of 'Fessing Up and Rising Up by confessing your desires.

You can start in the comments, if you would like.  But if that is a bit too public for you, grab your journal and start writing.

Oh, and by the way, if you need help gaining clarity around your desires and how to achieve them consider booking a Get Your Writing in Gear session.  (And remember, even if you really want to sculpt or create a beautiful garden, the sessions will work for you, too.)  They are on special through January 15th.

 

Bringing Full Attention to Bear

Do you ever get certain phrases ringing in your head?
Fountain_pencil_writing_238392_l

My latest is, "bringing full attention to bear."  As in full attention to my creative work, though it could be applied to just about anything. 

It was brought on by reading an article written by Christine Kane, in which she talked about how important it is to cherish your attention.  To show up to write when you say you're going to, and then stay present and focused on your writing.  In other words, to follow through on what you aimed to do.

I think the phrase has been repeating itself in my mind because I'm working on a new approach to setting goals for my writing and this casts light on it.  I used to set word count or page goals.  I've been known to advocate showing up and writing something, anything, in your allotted time.

But that can lead you down a dark road. You can write and write and not really know where you're going and be unhappy with what you are writing and continuing to write doesn't solve the problem.  (And yes, I know that you can also continue to write and the light will turn on.)

So now I'm setting a time goal.  As in, I'll work on my novel for one hour a day, every weekday.  I like to get up and write first thing and so the deal is, if I don't get my full hour in, I have to finish it up sometime during the day.  So far so good.  And the best thing about writing first thing in the morning is that I get the work in my head and it sticks with me all day.  My subconscious chews on it and I'm ready to go again by the next day.

But here's the deal: when I show up for my hour, I have to be there.  I have to be present.  I have to set aside thoughts of checking email or what I might eat for breakfast or what I need to accomplish during the day.  I need to just be present and write.  Or if that fails, think about what I want to write.  In other words, I need to bring my full attention to bear on the creative project at hand.

What kinds of writing goals do you set for yourself?

Getting Up At 5 AM

Last week, I set a goal with my friend and fellow writer Roy, that both of us would rise at 5 AM in order to write.  The goal was to do it twice last week and three times this week.  Since he's in Nashville and I'm in Portland, with a two hour time difference, the idea is that we each email the other when we are up and working.  Usually this consists of a terse message along the lines of "up."  (Hey, we save our creative energy for the page.)

So, I've managed to rise at 5 AM three times now.  In typical fashion for me, today, even though I told myself I could sleep in, it being Monday and all, I woke up all on my own at a little after 5.  I have a strong circadian clock, I think.

Since I've now managed to rouse myself from bed three, count 'em, three, times, that makes me an expert.  And because I am an expert, I have pronouncements.  So here goes:

1.  The worst part is the first moment when you open your eyes and groan.  Keep your eyes open and get your feet on the floor.  It gets better from there–especially when you get some coffee in you.

2.  Speaking of coffee, make sure you have some waiting for you, either made by a spouse willing (or having no choice) to get up early also, or via automatic timer.  Trust me, you are going to want coffee immediately.

3.  Drink a couple big glasses of water before you start on the
coffee.  Its good for you, and it'll help keep your brain focused. 
Plus, it will give you an excuse to get up from the computer and use
the bathroom.

4.  Have a plan.  And don't make the plan the morning of, figure it out the night before.  This morning, because I didn't really plan to get up so early, I wasn't prepared with a plan and consequently I didn't get as much done. 

5.  Have a big goal.  Mine is to once and for all finish the rewrite of my novel and get it out the door.  I want this desperately, so desperately that I'm willing to get up in the dark to write. 

6.  Be prepared to kick ass and get tons done.  Its magical, really.  Since I work at home and can generally stay in my jammies all day long if I want to, I usually don't have to quit my morning writing session until 7:30 or 8, depending on what pressing assignments I have.  When I get up at 5, I feel like I have a vast expanse of time in which to work, and my brain opens and eases and it is much easier to focus.

7.  Don't let those pesky night owl types talk you out of your plan to rise early.  It is worth it, trust me.  Really, really worth it.

And now, excuse me, its nearly 9 PM and time for me to get in bed.  Kidding!  Sort of.