Tag Archives: goals

Self-Awareness: a writer’s greatest asset

The other day, my little boys and I worked on behavior modification. “Youngest,” I said, “what can you change about yourself to make it easier for your family, your teachers and your friends?”

With no hesitation, my eight-year-old said, “Anger management.”

Surprised he recognized this as his big behavior issue, I kept my face blank and my voice calm. “So, you need to work on anger management?”

With a sigh and all the honesty that such a small child can muster, he replied, “No mom. I need anger management classes.”

At this point I nearly wet myself–but I didn’t. “What does that mean exactly? What do you need to work on?”

“You know, pinching, hitting, kicking, screaming, squeezing….”

I wonder how long he would have tattled on himself if I hadn’t interrupted. I also wonder why we adults fail to have such a clear vision of ourselves and our down-falls.

Imagine what we could do as writers if we sat back and really took a look at the motivations behind our behaviors. What would happen if we isolated those behaviors into a single modification plan to increase our level of success?

At an SCBWI writer’s conference I attended this past weekend, literary agent Karen Grencik basically asked that question. After speaking on inspiration, she gave us an assignment: figure out the greatest lie you tell yourself that holds you back from reaching your potential.

Ugh. If only I’d had Youngest’s introspection at that point. But I didn’t. It wasn’t until my five-hour drive home from the conference that I realized the answer. It was a humbling experience to finally figure out what holds me back and why it has such a strong hold on me. It won’t be easy to debunk the myth and move past my motivational block, but it will be well worth it. Maybe even more so than Youngest learning to keep his fists at bay.

Thank you Youngest for showing me how to take a hard look at myself. And thanks to Karen for asking the question that made me do it.

What about you, dear readers, what myths and lies do you carry around that impact your level of motivation and success?

Curious minds want to know.

Assessing Success

Most resolutions include some form of weighing.  Usually nekkid on a scale, hoping the holiday extra-helpings have disappeared from our hips.  I do have a small niggle in the back of my mind that wants this to happen, but I’ve learned long ago that weighty resolutions and I don’t mix.

I think one reason weight is a common goal is that the outcome is so tangible.  I can easily measure if I have a) lost weight or b) have skinnier buns.  Tape measures and scales tell it all. 

So how do we weigh the failure or success of other goals/resolutions/lists/hopes/dreams?  Writers often say: I will get published this year.  Mothers can say they want to parent better.  Dieters state a desire to lose weight and slobs can vow to clean up their acts.

Yet all of these goals are generic.  They are indefinite and therefore immeasurable.  I learned all about goal setting and data tracking years ago as a job coach for the developmentally disabled.  Without definite expectations that can be tracked, goals can never be reached.

A better goal for the mom would be, “I will quit yelling when I am angry.”  This is measurable.  Losing ten pounds is not ambiguous, but rather has strict expectations that can be reached.  Or not.  Likewise, the disorganized individual.  Like me last year, he could set the goal to organize a specific area.  Closets, dressers, office, etc.  Trust me when I say this can be measured with great accuracy : )

Another necessary component to assessing a goal is the level of control one has over the outcome.  “Get Published.”  A writer has no control over this.  Not unless they plan to self publish.  Then, by all means set it and stick to it.  We are not agents and editors.  We do not have the power to place our books on the printing press.  We only have power over the process.  A better goal would be a submission goal.  “Two times per month.”  This is attainable and most undoubtedly within our control.

The last major factor a goal should have is realism.  Losing 200 pounds in one year is unhealthy and unlikely.  Fifty two (a pound a week) is best.  Setting a 220 pound weightloss goal is a guaranteed set up for failure.  Fifty would be appropriate and realistic.  Any extra is a bonus. 

It has definite expectations that can be measured, the outcome is within an individual’s control and the goal can realistically be attained. 

Weight is not my goal for the upcoming year, but weigh is.   As my word of the year, I hope to live by the guidelines I set out for this fabulous word.

To weigh something is to assess its value.  This year, I will deliberately weigh my actions and reactions as well as the events that occur–to me or because of me–and how they impact those around me.  In other words, I will be more mindful of my life and how I live it.

I have also decided to create my own version of NaNo’s Big, Fun and Scary Challenge.  My 2010 Challenge to myself is officially titled Words, Whimsy and Writing.  Each word has a personal goal and writing goal. 

Words

  1. Integrity.  Personally, I want to be true to myself and those around me.  My blog is a start to that.  By sharing it with others close to me, I have left myself open to scrutiny on both public and private levels.  If you’re not sure what integrity means to me, check out the quote from William Backus on my side bar. 
  2. Consistency.  My goal is to write consistently (4 times per week minimum).  I did it during NaNo and it worked well.  I plan to keep up a routine that gives me time for all the important things in my life without shorting any of them.  Too often in the past, I have been a binger and a purger where my writing is concerned.  It’s all or nothing and that gets me absolutely no where.

Whimsy

  1. I will golf with my husband this summer once per month.  I love spending time with my DH and need to open up an avenue that allows us to extend our relationship beyond raising kids.  I don’t want to wake up next to a stranger in thirteen years when Youngest flies the coop.
  2. I will write and submit a short story, poem or article for publication.  These are outside my typical writing goals and should add an extra spark to my writing life.  It will give me something to do when editor’s block sets in!

Writing

  1. I will write thank you notes.  Ach, my achilles heel.  I say thanks, but often forget the paper copy.  Everyone needs to feel appreciated for their efforts and a simple card shouldn’t be so hard to figure out.  After all, I’m a writer.  Right?
  2. I will write another complete novel.  It may be during NaNo if I can’t fit it in elsewhere.  Ideally, however, finishing two would be the bomb!

Each of my goals are attainable, within my control and measurable.  Yet, I cannot execute any of these goals without weighing the impact on others or the process of reaching the goal itself–hence my word of the year.  Let the introspection begin!

How do you assess your success?  Do your aspirations have realistic and measurable outcomes?  If not, think about how you can improve your goals to better ensure success.  After all, nothing is worse than setting yourself up for sure failure. 

Best wishes in 2010!

Word for the Year

Tis the season for resolutions.  In the past I have made them, yet I never seem to stick to them.  Maybe because I’ve never really taken myself them seriously.  Two years ago, a fellow scribe and great cyber friend introduced me to the concept of a word of the year.  Last year I gave it a try, along with taking the NaNoWriMo Big, Fun and Scary Challenge.

I finished the year a lot more satisfied with myself as a person and a lot closer to my goals as a writer, a mother, a wife, a sister and friend. 

My word was No.  It forced me to consciously deliberate every committment I was asked to make.  “Can you…?”  No.  “Can you…?”  No.  “Can you…?”  Yes.  Before it was one yes after another and a tired and cranky, over-extended me.  I have been much more effective this year at my extracurricular projects and a lot less stressed.

That little word freed up time for me to write and be a better person.  I shall forever remain fond of the journey it took me on and hope I never forget the power of just saying NO.  It makes YES so much sweeter.

My 2009 Goals were as follows:

BIG
1. Learn to say no! (See, it was so powerful it actaully made my list.)  I am thankful to have allowed it into my vocabulary.
2. Restructure business to maximize income and minimize time. Puts less stress on DH- prolonging lifespan.  Still working hard at balancing my love for my job and my effectiveness in terms of time and finances.  I hate that BIG is not easy. 

FUN
1. Visit out of state sibs at least once this year.  I did visit my sister, but failed to travel to my baby brother’s home.  However, both of them, along with my nephews and my little sis came for a visit this summer so I consider it a success.  Josh, I know you won’t.  Hopefully I’ll get to Atlanta in 2010.
2. Submit 2 mss/week. Yikes! With time off for good behavior/crisis, this will total 100.  I learned a lot by failing at this goal, which ended up being deliberate halfway through the year.  For many writer friends, sheer quantity of submissions seems to be the norm.  It’s a numbers game.  I believed that, too, until I started submitting.  Then I realized it was a quality game.  I am much more deliberate and thoughtful about submissions than I have ever been.  I hope the agents and editors thank me for not innundating their mailboxes with inappropriate manuscripts.  Condolences to those I have.
3. Reclaim 17yr old body. AKA bikini ready by summer. 5 lbs. Lots of toning.  Yes, then no, now back to working on it again.  Darn holidays are so hard on the rear end.  Not to mention the extra padding is nice in the winter.

SCARY
1. Start a website or blog. Uber scary for the technotard.  Success.  One I was petrified to attempt and one I now love with a deep passion.
2. Organize my closets- again. And again. And again.  The again implies an ongoing process that never ends.  I guess that’s what happens when you have four kids, a hubby and a dog.  Not to mention that I’m a serious closet pig.  Out of sight and all that jazz.  Yes.  Yes.  And yes.  Sadly, I will spend the next three weeks doing it yet again!

So there you have it.  My 2009 in a nutshell. 

I am currently deliberating between two new words for the year and am seriously considering the Big, Fun and Scary Challenge.  I would like one writing goal and one personal goal in each category with a word that ties the essence of my year together.  It’s a lot to contemplate in a short time, but I still have a day to figure it out.

Maybe your comments can shake something loose.

If you partake in goal setting, resolutions or words, please share them with the rest of us.  If you don’t, I’d like to hear why not.  I love hearing different perspectives and learning everything I can from each one. 

Please have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve.  I want nothing more than to share another year with you all!

cheers and warm fuzzies~ cat