Press Pause Please

My home office came into existence March 16, 2020. Before that date, the dining room table worked just fine for the occasional stay at home days. I bought the cheapest monitor from Walmart since a laptop screen is too small for continuous work. I set up a “desk” using two folding camp tables. But work doesn’t go on pause just because a setup is make shift. It was full steam ahead, trying to keep track of files, documents, take video calls, eat lunch, with a crazy set-up.
Since I go into work a few times a week, I had to pack my notebooks and files in my backpack and then take them back and forth. In a very short time I was surrounded by chaos, but still to stop and organize, get the equipment and strategy that would make work easier, wasn’t an option. At the end of every extended day, there isn’t anything left to continue another fifteen or thirty minutes to improve the work environment. Until, my brain said, “stop!” and so I did.
One morning when there were no meetings scheduled I took an hour to clear out everything and start over. I used a vanity desk with drawers and a folding table. I positioned my monitors (added another compliments of the company) toward the window so my view was a tree and the garden instead of the neighbor’s deck. I consolidated files and tossed stuff that I no longer needed. I vacuumed and cleaned and made the bed that crowds the space (it’s a guest room) when all was said and done, I started back to work, behind thirty emails but feeling a lot more sane.
Why am I saying all this? Because there is a parallel with my writing projects. I’m so driven to write that even though I know I really should stop, take some time to plot out where I’m headed or listen to that inner editor that asks if a character really needs to be in a scene, I don’t slow down. Take a break? Spend some time researching if the setting is accurate? Not a chance, I’m red hot I can’t stop or else I’ll never get done. That’s the way it feels, always this sense of urgency. But if I take a lesson from my ‘work at home’ situation, I might realize taking time to employ the tools (books on how to write better), or even find the right tools (software for plotting) or just get my workspace and files organized, will result in better quality the first time. If your project is starting to be a cloud of ‘things I’ll fix later’, it might be time to take a morning off, do some planning, tidying up files, taking advantage of tools and finding out, a short pause is not a waste of time but can turn into the energy and drive to finish well.
Write on!

10 Ways to Stay on Track with Writing Goals – Part 2

Points 6-10

6. Have some cheerleaders. Find a writer’s group. There is likely one in your town or at least your state/province. It’s especially easy to be a part of a group now when most are meeting remotely. Having like-minded people that you can share your progress (and setbacks) with can be key to staying on track and keeping your motivation high. I’m starting a newsletter this winter (one of my more ambitious 2021 goals) and it will feature the opportunity for writers to share their goals and brag on progress reports – a shameless segue into point seven…

7. Set-up progress check points. Making a note on a calendar or agenda book is one way. Or programming an Event in Google calendar or scheduling emails to show up in your in-box with a reminder of where you intended to be at first quarter, second quarter, by the end of summer, this time next year! It’s like sending a message in a bottle to yourself. It’s also rewarding to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and even what changed and why. Don’t forget point two…no guilt, no worries.

8. Have fun. I know when you’re trying to get published or trying to stay published (no famous authors following this blog but if you’re incognito, please leave a hint!) it is not a hobby. For me it’s a pursuit of passion that won’t let go and I’ve been working on it forever though never more focused than now. Even so, it’s important to make sure that, as much as I take my goals seriously, I need it to be fun, something I look forward to.

9. Stay balanced. Goals are healthy; stretch goals even better to promote growth. I’ve learned this especially when it comes to fitness. (See post “Running the Writer Race” November 10, 2020). But there comes a point where writing and writing goals can become obsessive. That’s when something good starts nibbling away at other good things in your life. I dare say there are times when I’m in the middle of creating and I don’t care about a single person around me. I feel as though I don’t need them at all, that they are infringing on my self-expression. If I’m not careful, feelings of resentment can creep in and find cracks to fill and sever relationships. Writing for me has all the signs of an addiction. I find myself willing to manipulate, to throw off responsibilities, to squander a beautiful day outside to stay typing away in my closet, all things that are not indicative of a balanced mental state. I pay attention to the snippets of advice I hear or read about how addicts overcome the tyranny of drugs. Truth be told, addictions lie. They overshadow and diminish what is healthy and good in life and become the task master that they accuse everything else in our lives to be. The give and take of relationships, the joy of giving the best to the job and the humility of serving God on His terms, never abuses us. Point being, don’t let the goals, the writing, become too big in your life.

10. Write down your goals. Wait, no, that was point one. As point ten, this is different. After the year is over, reflect back on your goals and where you are at. Make a list. Learn from it so the coming year’s goals can keep points two through nine and end strong the following year.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me on this adventure in the blogging world; official followers and those that send “Likes” to my in-box. You are all much appreciated mostly because I see your blogs and your quest to communicate and it makes me happy to be part of this community.

Happy New Year, Happy writing!

Running the Writer Race

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m a wanna-be marathon runner as well as a wanna-be published novelist. I run almost every day a mile or so. Not enough to give even a mini-marathon a chance…yet. I’ve been going faster and further for about five years. Sounds ridiculous to some of you but progress is progress. I’ve found that I can plateau and feel good at where I’m at but when I remember what my goal is, then I’m ready to push myself again; deal with the discomfort of going beyond, when I’m willing again to pay a price that feels like loss at the outset.

The work, the trouble, the aches and pains come before the joy, the bliss, the deep satisfaction of overcoming my own weakness. I was running with a bunch of runners, on a video (ha! ha!), pretending to be the runner who was videoing a race. I found my self rooting for my guy, urging him to pass person after person. It was a seven plus mile run so I had to drop off, live a day of work and pick up next morning. The second day, my runner passed everyone.

How great to be the lead runner, the one who left everyone else behind, the one who had to figure where the trail actually was through pastures, over hillocks, through gates and muddy paths. It occurred to me that being out front has its glory but eventually it feels a little lonely. Running with the group felt like we were all doing something. Making a stand for resilience and strength of the human body. Running out front, it was just the open space ahead. I’m generally not happiest in a crowd but maybe small crowds focused on the same goal are okay. Just when I was missing the sensation of being part of a united people, in the true fashion of real life, suddenly there was a person in front me, then another. They must have been just a few steps behind but out of view. (I run to my own music track). Isn’t that the way it often is? We think we’re alone in our successes, alone in the ground we have to cover, figure out, alone if we fall or fail. But then, just like that, the very reality we’re struggling in shifts and it comes to light that we were never alone.

When I get back to running with this video I’ll learn if the videographer wins or not but I’m a fan anyway. Why? Because I’m feeling like I can run this race and if not, I can cheer on those who pass me and love every mile of it.