Goals and Letting Go

I’ve been a storyteller my whole life. And I’ve been good at writing since we started learning to write paragraphs in elementary school. Combining the two was pretty natural. And I discovered a love for story structure and all things writing advice related. Clearly I was a writer.

But maybe not. Or not exclusively. And, what I haven’t admitted until recently, maybe not primarily. I always wanted to make art. I bought all sorts of art supplies and these thin and pricey books about how to draw and paint the ocean and how to draw trees and so on. But I didn’t have a natural talent for any of it. And I thought being an artist meant painting portraits or drawing sketches. That was all, and I wasn’t good at those. I was good at writing. So I was a writer.

But I was a writer who kept taking art classes. And then I found out that I had a talent for oil painting. I was in a workshop for a couple of years, and I improved, and my instructor encouraged me to keep painting. He even let me come to workshop when I didn’t have money for it because he said I should keep painting. But I stopped. Lots of reasons. But I stopped. It didn’t really matter, right? I was a writer who was interested in art, not an artist.

I’ve been holding onto that narrative for 20 years. I’m a writer who does art things. But the writing became more and more of a struggle because I really wanted to pour myself into the art stuff. But I’m a writer, I told myself. I’m a writer! I can’t just go around doing art all the time. I have to give my time to writing.

Sometime back in January? Early February? Sometime recently I had to open my eyes and admit that I want to spend most of my time on making things. I had to acknowledge that just because I’m good at writing and stories doesn’t mean that has to be my primary creative work. I had to admit that in some ways clinging to the writing was the easy path.

Am I stopping writing? No. I’m changing it, though. I think writing is crucial to my psyche. It clears my mind, opens my eyes, lets me see what I’m thinking and make new connections and build new ideas. But this isn’t from stories. It’s from writing practice, a beloved and very important part of my creative life. So I’m going to dedicate the writing part of my creative life to writing practice.

I’m going to stick with ROW80, too. I love the community and the connections I’ve made. It’s an important part of my life, and I want to stay with it. So here are my goals for Round 2:

  • Re-read Writing Down the Bones
  • Set up a dedicated spot for writing practice
  • Do writing practice at least 3 times a week (starting small with just 2 minutes and building as it starts to flow)
  • Write a weekly blog post for MuseCraft
  • Write at least 3 blog post check-ins for ROW80

Now

I’m not sure what to check in about these days. I’m not writing except for an occasional blog post, although I keep meaning to write more. I guess that could be a goal, but right now I’m feeling really good about just doing what calls to me in the moment. Setting goals for my blog posts is something that I’ll need to do at some point, but now doesn’t feel like that point.

I guess I do have some goals. I’m doing a different 30 day challenge every month–this month is about brush lettering. So that’s a goal. And I have exercise goals every month. But what does that have to do with ROW80? I’m exploring being something instead of a writer (in additon to? alongside of?). So maybe I need to at least take a break from ROW80? I don’t like the feel of that, though, because this has been a big part of my online life for years now. I like being part of this. But I do feel like if I’m going to be part of this community still, I should have some sort of writing goals.

So, writing practice? I do still feel like writing, especially the freeform thought flow of writing practice, is for everyone. It enriches and expands creativity, acts as a form of meditation, lets you figure out what you’re thinking. I haven’t been really regular in my writing practice for a long time, though. But that might mean that some writing practice goals could be just the thing. I do want to bring it back into my life more regularly, so maybe that’s my direction.

I realized just before I started to write this (it’s what prompted this whole post) that it’s been a long time since I’ve done writing practice the way I used to when I was really regular and prolific. Just a few minutes ago it occurred to me that I need to find my way into a writing practice that meshes with who I am now.

This round of ROW80 is ending in a couple of weeks, so this is a good time for me to figure out how writing practice fits into the life I have now. I’m thinking about things like a space for my notebook and pen more out in the open where I see them all the time. A ritual to get each session started. This is a good starting place, and the more I’m writing about this the more I feel like this is the right direction.

Goals to wrap up this round: set up a space to keep my notebook and pen to put my writing practice closer to the forefront of my thoughts. And one short writing practice session a week to try out a couple of possible locations to do my practice regularly. Small goals, small steps, feeling like enough. That’s a pretty good place to be.

Goals and Wants

Last week on Sunday I set goals for the week. Somehow, I forgot (or disregarded) the fact that I had a big event this weekend where I was running a meeting, arranging and manning a display table, presenting projects and documentation of my own, and helping evaluate projects and documentation for two other people. I actually did not have time for the goals I wrote up last week.

They were really nice goals, though, so I’m using them again this week. I should have time to actually work on them even! I think it will go better this week. So, this week’s goals:

  • Clean out my working pouches of embroidery floss and detangle it all
  • Do some writing about writing practice to figure out why it’s feeling dull
  • Write a blog post for my MuseCraft website
  • Create a page for a MuseCraft offering I want to put out in the world, find an image for it, and do a list of things I want to include in the copy
  • Continue the declutter project

One thing I did do this week was continue my 30 day 5-minute declutter project. That is actually going really well, and I have some clear spaces and a fe things organized now that weren’t at all that way on January 1. I’m really happy with this 5-minute decluttering because I know I don’t have to do a lot so I don’t feel overwhelmed, yet it’s getting things done. I don’t think I’ll continue an every day version after the 30 days, but I’m definitely adding this into my weekly schedule.

Now about those wants mentioned in the subject. I have so many things I want to try or do or make! I am constantly enticed by new and fabulous things (mostly crafts, really). I want to do so many things, and I gather too many supplies and tutorials, and I don’t do much of any of it most of the time because there’s just too much. So I’m having a notion, not solidified or ready to be a plan yet, that I need to decide on my primary crafts and get all of the supplies and tutorial and books and whatnot gathered in one spot for each of them. Everything else needs to either get given away or stored away for the possible, occasional use in the future. I don’t know how this will look, but it’s a direction I want to move in, so at some point some of these tasks will go on my goals list.

That’s about it for this week. I hope everyone’s having a lovely Sunday. Have a great week ahead!

What’s the Plan?

It’s already time to start the first ROW80 round of 2019! And I don’t have goals set. I’ve been sick for three weeks, so that’s really sidetracked me. Last week I was so sick I didn’t even get to go to the family Christmas. I’m back to the base level congestion and headache that started it all, but the cough from last week is lingering, too. Bleah.

That’s not actually what I was planning to talk about, though. I wanted to talk about all the things I want to do. The list is huge. So I’m going to start with a general list and say that I want to work on all of these areas:

  • Writing practice
  • Writing fiction
  • Blogging (for MuseCraft and here)
  • Putting up coaching offerings on MuseCraft
  • Art journaling
  • Embroidery
  • Sewing
  • Decluttering

Getting more specific, I am going to try out setting some quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals. The new planner I got for the year is set up to help with that kind of planning, and I think it will be useful for me. I’m also going to set weekly goals for myself in my Sunday check-ins.

This week’s goals:

  • Find all the stray embroidery floss that’s roaming around the house
  • Set up a project pouch for the next embroidery project I want to work on
  • Do writing practice at least twice between now and Sunday
  • Spend 5 minutes a day decluttering studio things (this is to go with my first 30 day challenge of the year, decluttering every day; I’m keeping it small and simple)

My overall goals are a little bit amorphous right now, but I feel like since I at least have categories that will let me set weekly goals. I’m going to take the next few days before school starts again to get clearer on these goals and work on those quarterly and monthly goals to help me keep with the weekly goal setting plan. Hopefully Sunday’s check-in will be all about how I got that all set up–that’s the plan, anyhow.

Pre-planning

Is there actually such a thing as pre-planning? I mean, isn’t it just planning? You’re planning what you’re going to work on, right? Pre-plan is actually in the dictionary and means to plan in advance. Isn’t all planning done in advance?

I didn’t mean to start off on a tangent, but as I was thinking of titles, the whole pre-planning weirdness really caught me. Still, I guess I’m pre-planning right now because I’m working on figuring out what I want to work on in 2019.

I have a list of nine (NINE?!) novels in some stage of progress. Some of them I had completely forgotten about, but when I went to the NaNoWriMo site to see what I’ve worked on over the years, there they were, titles just hanging around waiting for me to remember their stories. 

So, nine novels to choose from (if I can find all of the relevant notes and drafts for all of them–there’ve been some computer changes over the years). And four short stories that I’d like to get finished. 

My plan is to pick one of the novels to work on for the year. I don’t know if that means I won’t do NaNo in November. I think that will depend on how work on the chosen novel goes. I don’t know exactly how I will go about diving back into an old, partially completed novel. That will probably depend on which one I choose. But for right now I have the list of titles for both stories and novels all in one place, so it feels like the start of getting organized. 

Next step (after Christmas) will be to find the files and documents and notes for the various novels and see what exactly I have to work with. Then I think I’ll be able to set some good Round 1 ROW80 goals. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash.

I’ve had a bit over a week of resting up after the NaNoWriMo marathon, and now my mind is turning toward the future. I’m always making plans and setting goals and working on projects and thinking of next new projects, but this time of year really brings that out in me. 

Right now I’m mostly focused (yeah, focused, not obsessing over, just focused a lot all the time) on two things. Thing one–what stories do I want to work on in the coming year? Thing two–what non-writing creative projects do I want to do next year? Tied into these is the overall question of how I can keep myself moving forward. Consistency has always been a problem for me, and I’m brainstorming ways to make that better.

Over the next two weeks I want to continue doing writing practice, not working on any stories, just writing to let thoughts out. I want to set up supplies for doing a vision board and for setting up my planner for 2019. I want to get all of the stories I’m thinking about onto one drive, and then I want to read bits and pieces, fine my old notes if I can, just play with them to see if one of them really jumps out at me as something I want to spend a lot of time with. 

And then it will be winter break, and I can spend time working on my planner and vision board and looking at the story and doing some jigsaw puzzles and generally recharging so I can maybe calm down from the really stressful and hectic months I’m coming off of, and hopefully I’ll have good, clear goals and a plan for how to reach them when it’s time to start Round 1 of ROW80 for 2019. 

NaNoWriMo 2018

I wasn’t really sure I was going to do NaNoWriMo this year. I told myself I shouldn’t–I had so much going on! I jumped into a rather strange teaching position this year (cooking and marketing classes, neither of which are my actual subject area), and I’m spending a lot of time reading and finding materials and making lesson plans, just trying to stay one step ahead of my classes. Doing NaNo wasn’t really a good idea.

But the call of NaNo was strong. I really wanted to do it whether I should or not. I do it almost every year (the exceptions being the year my mom died and the year we were renovating our new house and moving in during late October and all of November). In the midst of all of the completely unfamiliar territory of the new teaching job, I think I also wanted that familiarity of the NaNo experience.

So I did it. But I didn’t have time to do planning. I tried. I got a couple of character names and a basic idea of where they would be and what would be going on (paranormal explorers investigating a deserted island once occupied by a mystical cult and said to be haunted). So I decided to be a pantser this year.

As you can see by the graph of my day-to-day word counts, I had a hard start to the month. Parent conferences, trying to work with a bunch of kids who are behind on work, the general constant planning I’m doing to create lesson plans since I’m starting from scratch for each unit.

On day 22, I had less than half of the 50K goal. I tried to tell myself it was okay to not make it to 50K. I actually really do believe that! Except I couldn’t accept it for myself. I said I wasn’t going to make it; I wasn’t going to win this year. I couldn’t accept that. So I pretty much ran myself into the ground the last ten days of November, and I dragged myself over that finish line with about six hours to spare.

I do not recommend this.

This NaNo experience has left me thinking about my capabilities, though. I can clearly put in the hours and do the work. So why do I only do it during November? I do some writing throughout the rest of the year, of course, and I do other creative things. But there’s no regularity to it (I’ve talked about this problem before). I don’t actually know how to change myself, even though I help other people learn new ways to get things done and reach their goals.

Of course, they have me to check in with, to encourage them, to remind them of deadlines. That’s the part I keep trying to do for myself, but I think I might need an external motivator. This coach needs a coach!

Still, I’m pretty proud of myself for the NaNo win. And I know I am capable of doing a lot when I can find the energy and focus. Maybe I just need to start looking for that focus in new places.

Round 4!

I can’t believe we’re already in the last round. This year swooshed by me! But here we are, time for the final round of ROW80 for 2018. At least goal setting for this round is always easy. It’s NaNoWriMo season! The goals practically set themselves.

The only hard part about goals for this round is what to do about December. I have so far never done a good job of keeping things rolling after NaNo, and this year I’d really like to change that.

I am mulling over how to make December not feel like a flop this time around. I’m thinking that separating my goals out by month might be useful, so I’m going to try that out.

So, here they are! My Round 4 Goals:

October:

  • Work on NaNo planning at least 4 times each week
  • Continue writing practice at least 3 times a week
  • Blog at least 3 times

November:

  • Work on my NaNo story at least 4 days a week
  • Run a weekly online write-in
  • Go to or host at least two in-person write-ins
  • Blog at least 2 times

December: 

  • On December 1, write a blog post with more precise December goals
  • Include some sort of work related to my NaNo story
  • Blog at least 3 times

Pretty Close

I came close to my goal of having a name for my character. I’m not quite there yet. I have it narrowed down to two, and I’m hoping that as I do a little work getting to know her I’ll figure out what her name is supposed to be.

This part, figuring out whose story I’m telling, always gets the excitement building in me. I can feel that buzz in my stomach, and I’m starting to see images of scenes. I can’t wait to start the planning on this one!

I still have some work to do on my NaNo planning class, but I am far enough along that I can say it will be ready to start on the 24th. And I will have a registration page tomorrow. So that goal is pretty close to met, too.

I didn’t have as much time as I expected for working on all of this because I got a three-week sub job! I was not expecting that so early in the school year, but I’m really happy it came along. I may have to readjust my schedule a bit, but it’s so worth it. I am so glad to be back in the classroom!

For now, though, I’m going to go out and enjoy this sunny and warm-but-not-hot beautiful late summer day. Happy writing everyone!

Stirrings of Fall

I love fall. I think I’ve mentioned this a million or so times before. But this time of year hits, and I come alive. I have ideas, I’m ready to do things. And one of the things I do in the fall is NaNoWriMo. This year, I’m taking part in their fun Instagram challenge in September. Today’s prompt was “cover art,” so I made this for my horror story.

I’m also gearing up to teach my “Plan Your NaNo” class after a couple of years off, so most of my writing is centered around updating and touching up the materials for that. But I also made a cute graphic for it (apparently this week is for making graphics). I’ll share that below, because I’m kind of proud of it.

So not a lot of writing is happening, but there’s a lot of writing-adjacent activity. But after a really droopy summer, I’m feeling like things are moving again, and that feels very good.

I got a new idea for NaNo just over a week ago, so I need to get moving on fleshing it out. I’m going to set a goal of having a character name and some background on her by Sunday. See you then with an update!