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Archive for the ‘getting started | keeping going’ Category

We hear it all the time… if you want to do something (like exercise every day, or lose weight…or write) make a public commitment. Because you can’t help but hold yourself accountable.

Well, it works. It really does something to your brain. How do I know? In a post this week, I talked about snatching time to write and mentioned (rather foolishly, I thought) that I was going to do it this week.

Of course, I didn’t believe myself – knowing I had another mad week to contend with (I blame us all racing to the end of the Mayan calendar!).

But something strange happened. It kept niggling at me. ‘It’s Tuesday, girl. You haven’t written yet’ … ‘no, writing articles for your clients doesn’t count’… ‘It’s Wednesday. Just do it already’. So this morning, when I realised I was busily avoiding doing it, I gritted my teeth and said, right, only half an hour.

About 55 minutes later, I snapped the lid of my laptop shut and – yes, I admit it – felt pretty pleased with myself. I did it. I beat la résistance. So I’m an accountability convert. And apparently it takes two weeks to form a habit.

Watch this space…

Lou

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celebrate your achievements... even the little ones

It’s Friday – so we’re celebrating. We’ve decided to STOP beating ourselves up about all the things we don’t achieve, and start celebrating the things we do.

Even the little things. Like getting through a week that’s left us feeling more like an Emergency Response Team than a couple of writers…

So in the spirit of kindness (to ourselves), here’s some of the things we’ve achieved lately:

  • We’ve written three blog posts… (a new world record for us!)
  • We’ve (almost) finished the ‘Bible’ for our children’s TV series. Just a couple of tweaks and we’re done
  • Louise is midway through a complete re-write of that dusty old manuscript (and it’s come full circle, back to the original story after a detour…of about two years)
  • Sandra has finished an early reader manuscript and it’s ‘incubating’ – along with lots of new ideas
  • We’ve been madly tech-editing a huge pre-feasibility study – we call it therapy (so does our Bank Manager. He’s feeling much better.)
  • We’ve both been working on our family businesses (instead of avoiding them)
  • We’ve both got a clearer picture of our goals
  • We’ve taken time to hang out with our blokes and our kids
  • We’ve fitted in some ‘me time’ (surprisingly) and even booked ourselves some indulgent moments (mine was the most delicious Thai foot massage yesterday, mmmmm).

I think that’s pretty good for one mad week. What have you achieved this week? Written 500 words or more, started working on that website you’ve been thinking about, gone for a run or to the gym, written a blog post? Whatever it is – big or small – it’s a celebration.

cheers

Louise and Sandra

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As the song goes – some days are diamonds, some days are stones. (Well I hope that’s how it goes. I’ve only just convinced my daughter that the words to another song are ‘Deep Water’ rather than the ‘Pete Waller’ she was singing.)

Yesterday was a stones kinda day.

But today is better. Why? I think it’s all about your mental approach and having a system to deal with these things and get yourself back on course.

For me, one of the first things I try to do is get my mind thinking in a way that’s helpful to me. I picked up one of the many, many inspirational books on my shelf and looked for help. The first page asked, ‘Where will you be five years from today?’ (It happens to be the name of the book too.) It was all I needed. That one line gave me my problem and my cure.

Problem – I’m not exactly where I want to be.

Cure – Make a plan to get there.

The other thing was that it reminded me that I had made a plan, I had been sticking to it, and I am slowly getting there.

Where I want to be is published in fiction. Where I am, is writing stuff for other people to make money. (A good substitute, because I do like eating and paying my bills.)

My plan is to give myself two years to continue this way, keep finishing all my half-done projects and put them out there. I’m not starting another new thing until they’re done. Everything new gets jotted down and stuck into the ideas file.

It didn’t turn my day into a diamond, but it made it possible for me to keep on going rather than getting stuck in a rut.

So next time your day is stones, inspire yourself. You know what to do. You’ve done it before. You will do it again.

And finally, here’s another piece of inspiration from the 5 book – Give yourself permission to aim high in work and life. Take time to dream and plan.

 

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Many writers will tell you that you need to write every day. It’s something I beat myself up about regularly. (Just add it to the list. I’ll do anything to procrastinate a little longer.)

A perhaps slightly lesser known piece of advice is to begin typing something that’s already been written. You know, you grab a piece of writing – yours, or a copy of War and Peace you happen to have lying around – and you simply type it out. The idea is that eventually your mind will begin to wonder towards its creative side and you’ll start typing some new words. Your new words.

I guess it’s a kind of, ‘if you build it they will come’ thing. You’re saying to your brain, ‘Okay, I’m here at my desk. My fingers are typing away. Now bring it on.’

On most days I do write a lot of words, but very few of them are for me or my creative works. But you know, somehow, even the act of writing and editing technical documents, business copy and all the rest of it does help me in my own daily writing. I mean, I don’t want to pump out garbage on any job I’m doing. So I try to be as creative as possible within the confines of the work. And by taking this approach, it means I rarely have the problem of sitting down and confronting a blank page.

When I reach for my creative work, all those hours of writing other people’s stuff have been my training. My mind and body have been here before. They know what has to be done.

You can do it too. The secret of success is it to keep it simple and start slowly.

If you hadn’t walked further than your letter box for years you wouldn’t expect to compete in a marathon. Writing’s no different. If you’re a really unfit writer, use somebody else’s words to get you going and get your body used to the idea of sitting and typing words.

It might be the ultimate cheat, but hey, whatever works – right?

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This cartoon is by Dave Walker.

Thanks to Naomi Dunford at Ittybiz, and her insightful newsletter, I’ve been motivated to get my act together. As usual, my paid work is all filed and prioritised but my personal work is a mess.

So I went through all the dark and dusty cupboards on my hard drive and discovered a far more significant body of work than I ever imagined I had. And most of it was, you guessed it, unfinished. But most of it was almost finished. What a waste.

I made up a new folder on my desktop (so it couldn’t escape my eye) and put everything in there. Then I went through it all and chose the smallest (word count wise) project I had and I finished it.

Now I have an early reader manuscript sitting on my desktop. I’m going to let it brew for a week before I look at it again and get it ready to submit.

The amazing thing was – it was so easy. And now I’m feeling great about my writing, instead of feeling like I’m failing.

If you want to feel great about your own writing, go finish that short story, essay idea, whatever it is. Choose the one you know is going to be easiest and stick with it until it’s done. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it in a day. It might take a week, it might take a month. But make that project your priority whenever you do have some time to spare. If you have other ideas, jot them down and stick them in an idea file for later.

They’ll still be waiting there in that dusty cupboard when you’re done. But in front of you, you just might have a shiny new manuscript as well.

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Start. Do anything. Do something. Act.

If you can do one small thing today, you are one step closer to your goal.

Do you have a goal?

Perhaps today is the day you work out what your goal is. Because that is enough to take you one step ahead and how to make progress. (Well don’t just sit there. Get a piece of paper and do it now.)

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What happens when you put yourself out there – and your ‘baby’ (non-fiction book idea, fiction manuscript, idea for a tv series or screenplay, whatever it is) – and not only does your pitch fail, but you get the distinct impression you should really crawl back in your hole and stay there? It happened to me this week – and, not surprisingly for a sensitive creative type (read neurotic!), it really knocked me around.

All the crappy things in your head come up – things about self-worth, past failures (somehow your successes diminish at a rapid rate) and whether you should give up now, because rejection really hurts (ouch!).

So, after a quiet meltdown, I realised some ‘deconstruction’ was needed! I’d written a blog recently: The Upside of Failure, so I decided to take my own advice. And I know my writerly readers out there will relate to this, because we have to risk exposure and rejection in order to reach for that elusive publication dream. Here’s the lessons I took out of my failure:

  1. Hold things lightly. Don’t wrap up your entire self worth with the outcome. Because it may just be that you don’t appeal to that person’s area of interest or taste.
  2. Take risks – but take the risks that involve reaching for your dream, not the risks that are about things you don’t care enough about, don’t really want to do, and aren’t worth wasting your precious energy on (like thinking you need to go for a particular job to be seen as successful, even if you know you’d absolutely hate it!)
  3. Before you give up – work out whether you’re just going through a dip (so it’s worth sticking at it) or whether you’re actually on the wrong track and headed for a dead end (Seth Godin’s The Dip is a must read…)
  4. Work on the things you can change, but hang onto the things that are essential to who you are (aka authentically you). Don’t change you to fit anyone’s mould or idea of success.
  5. Take lessons from failures, then let them go (the failures, not the lessons)
  6. Last but not least: stop doing what what you do (paint, write, create) just to get a result (like publication or money). Create from the heart. Do it because you love to do it and it’s vital to your wellbeing. Love the process, and you are already a success… the money and recognition will be a (nice) bonus.

And remember, some people are just plain rude. Their ignorance is a reflection on them, not you. If all else fails, crank up a Alanis Morrissette’s I see right through you and sing your heart out. You’re not the first one to feel these things, and you won’t be the last. It’s what you do with how you feel that matters.

So power up your dreams and go for it… I know I am.

Lou x

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