Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

How to Approach Your Long Term Goals

Despite the “how to” title of this post, I’m not going to offer a series of steps to reaching your goals. Obviously, each goal, each person, and each situation is unique, and frankly, you shouldn’t need me to tell you the steps to meeting your aspirations. But what I do want to discuss is the mentality involved in reaching long term (or just plain big) goals.

My favorite tree on my commute
My favorite tree on my commute

Autumn is past its prime in New England. Slowly, the ratio of leaves-on-branch to leaves-on-sidewalk is tilting out of the trees’ favor. Every morning when I walk to the bus, the sidewalk is littered with more and more leaves. And yet, every morning, there is a city worker there with her trusty leaf blower and rake to clear the sidewalk.

The first time I saw her, my thoughts were relatively unimportant. Being from the country, where we just let leaves fall and biodegrade where they will, my reaction was something like, “Oh, yeah, they do that in the city. Strange.”

When I saw the city worker the next day, cleaning the exact same swatch of sidewalk, I thought, “Man, that sucks. She just cleared those leaves yesterday, and the sidewalk is full again.”

On the third day, my brilliant analysis was along the lines of, “I think that would drive me insane.”

But then, realization hit me all at once. I already do that every day. Or, well, I do something extremely similar in my own way. I have my own metaphorical sidewalk and leaves.

My long term goal for my writing is to make a living as a full time writer. I want sharing my stories with the world to be my primary source of income. I want to live my dream. In pursuit of that goal, I have to repeat almost everything I do. You see, in theory, my word count should never dry up. Even when I finish writing one book, if I want writing to be my job, I have to write the next one. There is always a new book to replace the one I already wrote.

Likewise, in my constant battle against obscurity, I have to keep slogging through the internet world. Every day I don’t write a blog post, don’t have a social media presence, etc. a layer of obscurity is reapplied to my name. It never ends. Even J.K. Rowling could fall off the face of the virtual world if she just stopped everything…and one day, long after she’s gone, she just may.

I think is particularly true for those of you who are doing NaNoWriMo at the time of this writing. Today, you write your 1,667 words and clear your sidewalk of all the leaves. But tomorrow, the challenge begins anew and you have another 1,667 word deficit to fill. Maybe one day it rains and the leaves are extra sticky and your leaf blower doesn’t work. All of the sudden, you’ve got to figure out an entirely new way to approach your goal.

leafIt’s exhausting. But that’s how all long term goals are. Whether you want to be able to run a marathon or learn a foreign language or knit a quilt — it all takes repetition. You’ve got to keep at it, day after day, doing basically the same thing over and over until you finally hit that milestone. It takes daily effort, it takes patience, and it takes a hell of a lot of time.

But, if you really want to reach that goal, you have to do it. Moreover, if it’s your actual job (like the city worker) or your career aspiration (like me), you really have to do it.

Don’t worry. There’s good news! You can take it one day at a time or, to paraphrase Anne Lamott, you can take it “leaf by leaf.” Break your long term goal down into manageable, easy (or easier) steps, and just take them one at a time. If you do this, and I mean really do it (whatever your personal “it” is), then eventually the leaves will stop falling. The proverbial tree of life will stop showering tasks upon you, and you will have reached your goal. Then, you can spend three seasons basking in the brilliance of accomplishment…until you find your next autumn and the leaves pile up on you again. But, hey, where’s the fun in life without dreams?

What goals are you working toward? How do you keep yourself motivated to reach them? Share your dreams and tips below.

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips, Writing Updates

The Writer’s Dream: My First Dream with My Characters

Two nights ago, I had a bizarre experience. I had a dream featuring two of my characters from The Cogsmith’s Daughter, Aya (my protagonist) and Dellwyn (her best friend).

The dream took place in one of my novel’s settings. The conversation Aya and Dellwyn had did not align perfectly with my plot, but it fit in with the Desertera world. It was like watching a “deleted scene” from my novel, like glimpsing what my characters’ lives are like while I’m busy processing customer payments at the office.

I could see the women so clearly. I saw Aya — her tan skin, bright green eyes, curly brown hair, petite frame, trying to preserve her modesty in her provocative work clothes. Dellwyn, unfortunately, was not the voluptuous, ebony-skinned bombshell from my novel, though. She was replaced by an actress from a TV show I had watched earlier in the day, which was highly disappointing.

Regardless of this minor unconscious-blunder, the dream was splendid. I mean, I dreamed about my characters and my world. My mind summoned the details I have imagined thousands of times in my waking state all on its own. Isn’t that just cool?

Now, I like to analyze my dreams. I have a lot of apocalypse dreams and a lot of dreams about school, and I like to lie in bed in my barely-conscious morning state and suss out their meanings. Unfortunately, I’m not sure exactly what this dream means. However, here are the (logical and inflated) potential conclusions I’ve drawn:

  • My book has become a huge part of my life and thought patterns (obviously).
  • must have a strong concept if I can imagine it so clearly while I sleep.
  • I have passed into some mystical phase of creative proficiency, like when people learning a foreign language start to dream in the new language.
  • Some spiritual power (the sandman?) is telling me that my book is worth publishing.
  • My creative abilities are growing and working overtime.
  • I am meant to be doing this, writing, that is (though maybe sleeping, too).

No matter what my dream “means,” if anything, I am so thankful that I had it. On one hand, it boosted my confidence, making me feel creative and empowered to keep pursuing my novel. On the other hand, it was simply fun to get a sneak peek at my characters when they’re not “onstage” for their roles in my plot. Either way, my dream has left me inspired to push on with editing my novel and keep working towards publication!

Have you ever had a dream featuring your characters? What other ways do your characters pop into your mind at unexpected times?

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions You Will Actually Keep

It’s that time of year again. As the new year approaches, we begin to think ahead to what it may have in store for us and what we want to accomplish for ourselves. The television is flooded with commercials for dieting products, nicotine patches, and storage crates. The air is buzzing and hope begins to balloon in your chest. Even though January 1st is just another day, we have given it social and psychological meaning, and it marks an almost-tangible transition. You have goals, resolutions, and you will keep them.

new yearAnd then the magic dissipates, the champagne goes flat, mid-January or early February hits, and you suddenly do not care about those resolutions. And even if you do care, you convince yourself that you do not have the time, energy, or resolve to stay committed. Is this just the hectic reality of life? Maybe. But it may also be that you simply did not set the right kind of resolutions.

If you want to make new year’s resolutions that you truly will keep, follow the steps below. I’m using these with my own resolutions, and they have proven to work for me in years past.

Step One: Dream BIG

The dawn of a new year is the perfect symbolic time for refocusing on your dreams. However, most people stop at this step. They say to themselves, “I will be healthy this year.” That’s a great dream! But if that is the resolution you use to represent that dream, you aren’t going to get very far in achieving it.

Step Two: Get Specific

Okay, so you want to “be healthy.” Awesome! Now, what does that mean for you? There are several kinds of health: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, psychological, financial, etc. Whatever your resolution is, make sure you know exactly what it is you plan to accomplish. Without a clear picture of what your dream looks like, you won’t be able to make it a reality.

Step Three: Get Real

Let’s say your dream is to “get rich.” Okay, fine. And you specify that to be “make one million dollars.” That’s all good and well, but is that goal actually realistic for your current and projected situations over the next twelve months? Chances are, it’s not. A few more realistic ways to work toward your dream of riches would be to receive a raise, find a higher paying job, invest, or create multiple streams of income. While it may take you longer to reach your dream, I guarantee this approach of small realistic goals over big unrealistic goals will help you stay motivated and get you much farther in the long run.

Step Four: Get Quantifiable

So, you have your dream and your specific goal, and you’ve made sure they are realistic. Great. Now it is time to make your goal(s) measurable. Going back to the “be healthy” example, let’s say you decide that means to have better nutrition. Lovely. Make that into one or two even more specific goals that you can quantify. These could be: eat one serving of vegetables every day at lunch, only eat one serving of junk food per day, or drink less than five sodas a week. The choice is yours, of course, but make sure that you can track your successes and failures clearly and without negotiation.

Step Five: Get Tough

But not too tough. If you set a goal for yourself that is too easy or too difficult, you are bound to fail. For example, I drink maybe one soda a month. Tops. So, if my healthy resolution was to cut out soda altogether, that is a healthy decision, but it would not be difficult for me at all. However, I LOVE chocolate, so if my goal was to cut out chocolate completely, I would fail within a week. There has to be a balance. If your goal is not challenging, you are deceiving yourself into believing you are moving farther than you are. Likewise, if your goal is too challenging, you will never reach it and feel like a failure.

Step Six: Get Honest

Selecting your new year’s resolution(s) is a deeply personal decision. However, so many people choose their resolutions based on what others do. Is this a product of social groupthink, social pressure, or just a lack of creativity? No matter which way, make sure you are only taking on resolutions that you actually want to try and that you truly believe will benefit you. Don’t feel like losing 10 pounds? Don’t resolve to lose weight. Don’t want to record every second of your life? Don’t resolve to keep a journal. It’s that simple.

In the end, the keys to making new year’s resolutions you will actually keep are these: know yourself, your situation, and your dreams. Be smart, be logical, and be entirely honest.

And remember: the only judge and the only victor is you.

What are your new year’s resolutions? What factors do you consider when choosing your goals? Share your advice below!