What’s your Writing Purpose?

I have to admit, sometimes fall out of love with my writing. Maybe I’ve been hard at it for a few weeks and I’ve just run out of steam, or perhaps I’ve sat down one day and just felt stuck. I used to find myself losing my passion one day, and then avoiding my WIP for days, sometimes weeks, because I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’. What I’ve discovered, though, is that the reason I procrastinate and delay is because I’ve forgotten why I’m writing. I have become so focused on the characters, or story line, in my WIP that I’ve neglected my own purpose; my writing purpose.  

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboardWhy do I write?
I could argue, quite successfully, that I write because I want 
to tell a story. But that’s not my only motivation. I write because I have something to share with the world. I’ve acknowledged before that the relationship between a writer and a reader is important, and how by tapping into my desire to understand what I want my reader to feel, I become more aware of the key themes within my stories. When I write, I need to know what it is I’m trying to achieve. What is this story really about? Who am I writing it for? What do I hope it will achieve? 

Knowing what drives me as a writer means that whenever I do start flagging with my writing goals, I know to go back to basics and remind myself why I’m doing it. 

What do I want to achieve by writing? 
I write because I want to understand the world, and seek to explore it through multiple sets of eyes (let’s face it, that’s why I’m also such a voracious reader).  My stories typically tend to have people discovering things about themselves they didn’t know to begin with – whether that is a new sense of resilience; a secret that is revealed; or a surprising emotion. Not surprisingly one of my core values happens to be personal growth. This is what I am doing when I write: I am teaching my characters how to grow, and hopefully, by extension demonstrating to readers that they have these capabilities too. I write to inspire; to help people see that change is possible and how positive it can be.

How do I know if I’ve been successful? 
So, when I look back over a piece of writing – perhaps one that I am ambivalent about – this is what I look for; does it deal with change? Will it help people who are afraid of change see that it can be a good thing? In the end, will it leave a reader reflecting on my character’s development and compare it to their own?

banking business checklist commerce

Usually, if I’m missing these elements, that why I don’t feel the writing. It doesn’t fit with my writing purpose. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad piece of writing, but rather than it’s not a piece that I am in love with, not one that I could spend time developing and still enjoy the process despite the many hours I spend in it.  

With a better comprehension of why I write, I’m more capable of determining what drives me to write. Without this acknowledgement of my writing purpose, I used to try and write anything and everything that I thought of; I’d spend hours on a short story that wasn’t true to what I believed; I’d write whole novels and then feel bad for stuffing them into a drawer without realising that the reason I wasn’t passionate about them was because they weren’t the type of novels I wanted to write.  

Reinvigorate your writing!
I’ve never been more in love with my writing than I am now. And that’s because I am working on things that fulfil me as a writer – that speak about the stories I want to tell, that share with a reader a message I want them to understand.  But be aware, that it takes time to find your purpose. So, if you’re not sure you’ve found it, experiment, observe, be mindful of your response to your writing, and it will slowly emerge and become clearer. 

The great thing about understanding all of this is that when you do find yourself lagging, you can tap back into this writing purpose and feel reinvigorated. You’re reminded that your writing has a purpose, a greater one than just telling a story. You can feel when it’s happening and know that’s why the words are flowing. It is your raison d’etre, and knowing it can drive you forward and fuel your writing passion.
 


Now try this!

postit scrabble to do todo

To help identify your writing purpose try these tips:

What do you most love reading?
Generally, this can give you a nod in the right direction as to what it is you want a reader to experience – because you want to experience it too. Look for common themes, the satisfaction you get at the end of the story – what has it been about for you? What will you take away?

What do you most love writing?
Identify a piece of writing that you loved working on – that perhaps you still love working on. What is it about the piece that speaks to you? What is it really about? Why does it excite you as a reader?
 

Troublesome Piece?
Now, e
xamine a piece of writing you’ve perhaps fallen out of love with; does it achieve what you want? What’s missing? How could you add a little bit of what you’ve found in the two exercises above to this story? Does this encourage you to keep working on it?


 

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Understand Your Writing Habits

I don’t know about you, but my dream is to have a little ‘Plotting Shed’ out at the end of my garden where, every morning, after walking the dog and thinking about characters and story ideas, I spend an hour writing; blissfully free from distractions. Then, after lunch I spend another hour or so in the ‘Shed’, editing and blogging and generally getting stuff done, after which it’s another walk with the dog to signal the end of the ‘working’ day.

Sounds ideal, doesn’t it?

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My Writing Corner (with view)

Well, currently I don’t have a shed. I write on my writing desk in the corner of our bedroom where it’s cluttered (though it does have an excellent view across to Manchester).  I also don’t write in the morning. Why? Because on what would be my writing days I generally spend an extra hour in bed recovering from a busy day at the ‘regular’ job.

But, I know I CAN write in the morning. Sometimes I set my alarm, take a cup of tea back to bed, and open up my WIP before I even get dressed. That works for me. So, I know if I’ve got a writing goal then this is the best time to commit to it. Editing, however, is most definitely an afternoon task.

What’s the Ideal Writing Schedule?
Imagine for a moment, your own ideal writing environment. Close your eyes for a second and just picture it. Are you at a desk, in bed, or in the garden? Do you have pen and paper, or a laptop, or even an audio-recorder? Is it in the morning, the afternoon, or late at night? If there were no obstacles, or chores, jobs, children, or spouses; how would you choose to write?

If you can figure out what you believe would make you the happiest writer you can be, then you can start to work toward building that ideal.

Screenshot 2019-07-21 at 19.30.37

Personally, I love this advice…!

Understanding your own writing schedule – not just what it is now, but what it would be if you had the choice – is significant when it comes to productivity as a writer. Knowing that I do better ‘creating’ in the morning, versus the afternoon slump when I focus on what’s already on the page so I don’t have to use my imagination, means that I get more done. So, I don’t sit at my desk trying to conjure up the muse at 3pm when she’s gone for a nap.

Permission to Experiment
Sometimes, the key to finding that ideal writing schedule is to experiment. Try writing in different places at different times. Notice when the words flow and determine what it is about the environment that is supporting that burst of creativity. Do the same for different aspects of your writing.

  • When is the best time to create versus editing?
  • How long can you work for before needing a break?
  • Where do you switch off and concentrate on you writing?
  • How can you support the process? Pen and paper for exploring ideas, or open Word document for typing?

When finding it a challenge to write, I always have a ‘low-energy’ task on hand – like scheduling social media posts – so that precious time at my desk isn’t wasted. As I write this, I’m in a local cafe drinking a Caramel Latte because I know that at home, blogging will always fall to the bottom of the list.

Failure is Good
Give yourself permission to experiment with these tasks for a month, and allow yourself the guilt-free pass if these don’t work out as intended. Failure isn’t a bad thing – it gifts us valuable insight into how we can move forward. So many people are afraid of failure, yet we should embrace it as a part of our personal development process. Provided you reflect on it and take learning away from it, effort – irregardless of result –  is never wasted. And, you might find that the ideal you dreamed of, really isn’t all that ideal in practice. I surprised myself when I discovered I could write ten minutes after waking up; and the glow it gave me for the rest of the day was entirely unexpected. But it works, for me.

Arm yourself with the knowledge about how you write, and you’ll feel empowered and motivated to use this to your advantage. Then, whatever time you have available for your writing you know that you’re giving it your best.


Now Try This!


Identify all the different types of writing tasks that you might have and determine what type of energy you need to complete them. Are they high-energy, high-creative tasks, or low-energy, low-creative tasks?

Next mark out all the time you have for completing these tasks – consider time available, place, distractions, and time of day.

Then, play with this schedule and see how each of the tasks fit with the natural rhythms of your day/week/month. Try and determine what type of task works best when, and with this information schedule your ideal week!


 

What’s your Writing Mindset?

analysis blackboard board bubbleHave you ever thought about the way you think? Most of the time we’re on autopilot, letting our thoughts come and go as our minds wander during our day-to-day lives. But, have you ever stopped to notice these thoughts and how they can influence your writing practice? Maybe you don’t believe they do; or perhaps you have noticed, but just don’t know how to change this.

True thoughts?
I know for a long time I accepted my thoughts as truth. And that’s one of the biggest regrets of my life. Every time I had a thought about how I wasn’t good enough, or that what I wrote was terrible, or even that I didn’t work hard enough to deserve to be published – I believed I was thinking the truth. It wasn’t until much later I learned that thoughts are pliable, and I am the one in control of them. In other words: I can choose what thoughts to listen to, and I can even mindfully think different ones to change my approach to anything – including my writing!

What’s a mindset anyway?
When it comes down to it, our mindset is simply the way we think. It includes our opinions, our attitudes, and even the way we approach tasks and set goals.

So, what does this have to do with writing? Well, imagine if I’m writing a short story for a competition I want to enter but it’s on a topic I don’t usually write about. I could sit here and think ‘this isn’t my thing’ or ‘I’m going to struggle with this’. But how do you think that this affects my ability to face the blank page? Alternatively, I could say ‘This is going to be a fun experiment’, or ‘I can apply my skills to this’. With this attitude, I typically find my approach to the task changes; meaning I feel confident to give it a try, and end up with something surprising on the page, instead of staring at the blinking cursor because I don’t feel I’m up to the task.

These ways of thinking are related to the type of mindset we each have: either a closed/fixed mindset, or an open/growth mindset.

Grow your Mind…
But what is it about a growth
 mindset that means it’s better for our writing? Well, it’s been shown that people with more open mindsets tend to achieve more, have better resilience in challenging situations (a.k.a. rejections!), and have a deeper desire for learning. Whereas, those with closed mindsets tend to look for an external need for approval, set expectations (instead of goals), and don’t cope well with failure.

Check out this video on how a growth mindset leads to higher achievement

As you can see, with a growth mindset failure is simply part of the learning process, and so it’s easier to move onward and upward: I try something; it doesn’t work, but I learn from it and try again. 

Identify the negative.
Now, when I’m stuck on a particular plot point in my novel and am struggling to find a solution I tend to just stop and monitor my mindset for a second. Am I worried that I won’t find an answer? Will I feel like a failure if I can’t figure it out? Or, can I tell myself this is a challenge that I could potentially enjoy because it’s developing my problem-solving skills? What about if I test out different options by exploring them in a ‘choose your own adventure’ style?

Suddenly, because I’ve modified my thinking, I could have lots of possible options to help solve my plot point, rather than a crippling fear that being unable to figure it out means I’m not good enough, or not really a writer.

See it in practice!
The easiest way to support the development of a growth mindset is to find some people who already have this attitude in life and spend time with them. They’re usually easy to spot; they’re reflective, positive individuals who won’t let opportunities go to waste, and rarely let excuses get in the way of their dreams. Learn from others by seeing how they approach challenges, and see if you can adopt the same. 

group hand fist bump

I was lucky enough to discover this by being a member of a group of amazing female entrepreneurs called the Wildly Successful Society. Here we build one another up, set exciting goals with positive projections of how we will succeed, and constantly review our progress to learn from things that don’t always go to plan.

Having a positive and reflective mindset can help us set better goals, commit to these in a strong, productive way, and help us get through the challenges of writing and editing our work. Surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who can lift us up when we recognise the negative thoughts spiralling can have an immense effect on our ability to pull ourselves back up and stand strong again. 


Now try this:

Notice Your Thoughts
Remember that you can’t change anything unless you notice your thoughts first. Don’t worry if this is hard to do to begin with; it takes time. Try this simple tip to increase your awareness: 

Set an alarm on your phone a few times a day to remind you to examine your thoughts and jot down whatever is on your mind. If you notice some of them are negative things: how could you re-frame these to alter your mindset?
(This is also great fodder for character development!)

The first step is always noticing what you’re thinking. Start there, and with practice and encouraging support, the rest is likely to come. In the end it should support the development of more constructive attitude toward those writing challenges we all face.


Let me know how you get on in the comments,
or Tweet Me @Cat_Lumb

Challenging start to the year? Change that, now.

January is a harsh month. Not just because here in the UK it’s cold, usually wet, and seemingly always so dark, but it’s also a long month – payday is a long way away, the majority of funds have been spent at Christmas, or for Christmas, and now it’s back to work with the next opportunity for Bank Holiday relaxation in April, for Easter.

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One of my January snaps: a chill as the sun goes down.

It’s also this time of year that we try and install new habits and approaches in our lives, and inevitably fail! So as the end of the month finally arrives, we tend to feel broke, weary, and deflated. It’s ‘just another year’, and we fall back to our default position, and our usual internal monologues that encourage us to do those things we ‘should’ do, way before those things we dream we want to do.

I have to admit, if you read those previous paragraphs with a heavy heart and nodding head, I’m there with you. I had so many ambitious plans for the month, and almost every single one of them have been obliterated in the fog of procrastination, avoidance, and sometimes laziness.

But, and this is a big BUT, this does not define my year. We all know January is a hard month. It is an annual refrain! Yet, one of the many things I dedicated myself to this year was to read for at least twenty minutes a day. You know what? I’ve read a total of six books so far this year…This I am pleased with (and I still might have time to sneak another one in!).

Still. No, I didn’t manage to commit to my stretches every other day. And no, my outline for the novel and character arcs for each of the main characters hasn’t been completed. No, I haven’t touched that list of independent publishers I put together in the first week of the year to investigate submissions. And, sorry, no I didn’t quite manage to own it at work everyday and push through some of the tasks I promised myself would get done by the end of this week.

I did, however, try.

For the first four years, this blog’s tagline was – I would much prefer to say ‘I tried and failed’ rather than ‘I didn’t even bother’This is just as true today as it was then. As my friend and mentor Jo Bendle would say – Reward effort, not results. Because sometimes you can’t control the results, but what you can do is take ownership of your efforts.

I know what didn’t get done. In some cases, I know why it didn’t happen. Which means I’m now much better equipped to tackle it in the coming weeks. I don’t even have to wait until February to review my month and make a plan. I can start right now.

And I did: by writing this blog post.

One more thing off my January goal list.


 

IMG_20190105_130248899Did you see my short story in February’s Writing Magazine? So pleased to be a winner for their competition based on the theme of ‘hate’. Really pushed me to create a character with a complex personality and situation.
One more piece on my way to the dream of becoming a novelist.


Purchase my short story collection: azon.co.uk/Memorial-Tree-other-short-stories-ebook/dp/B07F1T7H98


 

How to start the best year yet

Ah, so that’s another year gone. Once upon a time I would lament all the things I had not managed to achieve – not getting an agent for the novel, not being published, or winning no competitions; hell, sometimes it was even not bothering to enter those competitions. Always the focus was on the things I didn’t do.

achievement confident free freedom

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Now, it’s different. Now I focus on the positives, the tasks I did get done, the accolades I have collected. Self-publishing my short story collection, being published in a Comma Press anthology, being shortlisted in a competition…Whatever the things I didn’t do, it doesn’t really matter. Do you know why? Because I still have chance to do all of those things in 2019.

Most of the things we regret are the things we didn’t do, and that’s fine. But there is a balance to be had. You don’t think about all the amazing stuff you did because you did it and it’s in the past, all of those tasks left undone those are the ones that bubble to surface instead. However, this new year I challenge you to flip this and make a huge, great list of everything you did do. Not just the successes, but the efforts too. It all counts. If you entered competitions and didn’t win, or submitted to an agent or three and heard nothing but rejections back – these tiny little slivers of effort demonstrates how you committed to your goals.

It should also be remembered that sometimes, we have no direct control over the outcomes. You can’t force an agent to sign you as a client, or make a judge choose your story as the winning entry – not really. So you shouldn’t be focusing on those types of ‘have nots’ anyway. If you submitted anything, that’s a win. That’s a clear sign of progress. Perhaps you didn’t submit at all, perhaps all you did was write more words, or manage to finish a story, or even just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboards for the very first time. Celebrate these things. Even a small step forward is still the right direction. You only have control over your own actions, so all you can do is try your best and make it count.

Start 2019 with your head held high for all the positive action you took in 2018. Forget about the regrets, or the ‘should have done’ tasks, because they don’t really count. What matters is you made it. And if you should have any lingering regrets then write them down, figure out an action plan, and stick to it in the new year. Let’s face it, you don’t want to end 2019 with the same regret; right?

But the key thing is to remind yourself of all the good you did, and take that with you into the new year. That’s all you need; the truth of it is, starting the year with a positive mantra of all you have achieved will give you that much more confidence, and perhaps a pinch of bravery. And who knows what might come out of that…

Writing as a Business

In my previous post I wrote about following your dreams. What a lot of writers are faced with when deciding that they want to become an author of published work is that following this dream means accepting that writing is actually a business.

In order to have work published there has to be involvement with the publishing industry – and they don’t call it an industry by accident. It’s hard work, whichever route you take. And no matter what you write, somewhere along the line you have to consider that ‘dirty’ word: profit. To follow that dream and be that successful author, you need to earn money from your efforts. Although, if you believe the analysis the average author earns less then £11k a year from their writing. But, note this sentence from the Bookseller article here:

“...many professional authors felt it necessary to supplement their incomes by lecturing, self-publishing and teaching, as well as through income streams such as the Public Lending Right payments, grants and bursaries, income from ALCS, prizes and fellowships.”

So being an author isn’t all about writing. If writing is what you want to do, and all you want to do…then maybe be a writer, not an author; because being an author is all about the business of being a writer, not just the writing itself.

I know it’s going to be hard work to be an author, but that’s my dream. For a long time I was simply a writer, churning out words and stories and ideas and I enjoyed the process. But I’m now in a position in my life where I want to share my words and be recompensed in some way for all the time, energy and imagination I put into it. I love my regular job – a Learning Coordinator at a museum – but I also love writing; and I want to be able to do both. That means earning some money from my writing, so that I can invest in myself and develop my skills.

I’ve already invested in myself over the years by attending an Arvon course, going to York’s Festival of Writing, completing a Comma Press short story course, to name a few. They were excellent ways to scrutinise my writing and see where I could improve; but they aren’t free. If I wanted to take my writing from a hobby to a more professional sphere I had to divert some energy into trying to find resources to support my development.

bookcase books bookshop bookstore

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I think that’s when I realised that writing is a business. It’s about the ladder of investment – I had to improve (through paid means) my abilities to write stories so I could put my work out there into the world and readers could invest in me. Then, I can take the trust these readers have had in me, to continue developing great stories for them to read and enjoy. The more this happens, the easier it becomes to justify time spent on writing, and therefore offers more opportunity for my dream to become reality.

Of course, I used to think that ‘being a writer’ meant writing stories in isolation, sat up in that tower with an ink stain on my fingertips and some lovely person presenting me with the odd cup of tea. In this scenario I would send work out and it would be accepted first time, with adulation and praise, and then I’d go back to writing with my bank balance topped up, with the option to take holidays to exotic places that would end up in my next novel.

This is not how it is.

In my post on How to be Creatively Productive I confessed to writing my own ‘Author Job Description‘ in order to fuel my commitment to the dream of being a published author. That description says more than just ‘Write everyday’. It’s filled with identifying submission windows, reading other fiction, promoting my existing work, submitting to competitions and agents, writing blog posts and, yes, writing too. The main lesson learned here is that I have a strategy for my career as an author, and in order to make it happen I need to branch out from just being a ‘writer’ to being a proactive and professional author.

Essentially, my strategy is based on the steps I need to take to get me where I want to be as an author: a traditionally published author with a decent sales record and a book-deal that will help sustain my not-particularly-lavish lifestyle. It doesn’t quite match the romantic vision I once had, but I believe it in more because it’s underpinned by hard-work and dedication; and that’s the author I want to be known as.

So my writing life doesn’t just have me sit down at my desk and routinely tap out sentences, paragraphs, and short stories. It’s so much more than that. And with a strategy in place that guides what I ought to be doing as the author I want to become, the goal itself feels more tangible; it’s achievable, whereas the isolated writer’s tower is simply a fanciful ideal within my imagination. Suddenly, being a writer isn’t the dream…instead I’m actually an author, building my empire.

 


 

If you want to know more about how writing is a business, I’d definitely recommend Jane Friedman’s book: “The Business of Being a Writer“, which has opened my eyes up tremendously about the fundamental cogs and mechanisms that the writing profession relies upon. 


 

And, in the essence of building that empire, here’s how you could invest in my career right now.
Purchase my short story collection: The Memorial Treecover art edit amazon mod
By purchasing this short story collection you’ll:
  • Help boost my Amazon ratings so others can discover my work (especially if you leave a review and/or recommend to a friend)
  • Bring me a small profit that makes my giving up the Literature Festival work justifiable
  • Receive a selection of 5* short stories that I hope you truly enjoy
  • Get to be a rung on my ladder of investment
All it takes is a click and a download.
Thank you. 

 

How to follow your dream

We all imagine our lives are different sometimes. Mostly, we project forward and see ourselves living the life we always wanted, whatever that may be. For me, I’m a traditionally published author with a multi-book deal, my best-selling novel is in a prominent position at all bookstores, and I’m at a book signing during my annual leave from the part-time Museum job that I love just as much as writing. (And, yes, my pup Hugo the Destroyer is sat patiently at my feet being adored by my fans.)

But how many of us actually make that dream happen? What have you done lately to take a step forward toward that ideal life you dream about? Me? I’ve just completed my August goal of submitting the complete novel to a selection of agents. In September, the focus is on writing and I’m setting a word count goal to aim for. Small steps, perhaps, but it means that I’m closer to my dream than I was this time last year.

gray dream freestanding letters

Make it real
The first thing to do if you want to live that life you dream about, is to admit it: know that you want it and make the decision to actively follow it. It can be scary to stand up and claim your dream life but once you do, and you tap into the desire you have, you’ll find that it’s a great motivating force. The way to do this is to write it down – as this increases the likelihood of it coming true! And if you write down your dream as if you’ve already achieved it – in the present tense – you’re already ahead of the pack, because your subconscious will process as it as though it is happening, no matter how far away it may be. [Note how I described my dream life in the present tense above?]

Break it down
Now is the time to figure out what you need to do to make your dream a reality. Do a bit of daydreaming, focus on what it is that got you to where you are in your imagination. What are the landmarks you have to pass to arrive there? To be a published author, I first have to write something worth publishing; I have to edit and polish that work to make it the best I can; I need to research agents; and I need to send out a professional submission. All of these things are in my control. What the agents decide is not.

Work backwards and make a note of all of these milestones. These are the goals you need to aim for. Now break them down too, one by one: what is it that you can do to accomplish these things? Then, the hardest part is to DO THEM: a lot of people fall down here, me included for a little while. Keep referring back to that  description of your dream life; remind yourself why you’re doing it, and take it one step at a time.

Believe it can happen
The key thing in motivating yourself to keep going in the journey to achieving your dream is to believe it can happen. If you honestly don’t think it can come true, odds are it won’t. And while I might be dreaming of becoming a published author, what I’m focused on are two of the ‘lesser’ goals associated with this: building up a profile (by submitting to competitions etc.) and submitting to those agents. These are the pit stops on the way to my dream life; I might as well enjoy them while I can! For me, that means I’m rewarding myself whenever I accomplish any step toward my dream life. This reminds me I’m consistently putting in the effort into trying to make my dream come true, and spurs me on to make it happen.

What does your dream life look like? And what are you doing to make it happen?


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This was one of my steps on my way to becoming a published author: I published something myself! Click above to view.

 

 

How to be Creatively Productive

Not too long ago I stepped down from my role as Secretary to Huddersfield Literature Festival. It wasn’t an easy choice, but I recognised that it had become the ‘reason’ I wasn’t writing; I was prioritising the work for the Festival over my own desire for a writing career. As such, it was time to let go of the excuses and commit to making this dream I have into a reality. The start of which was to self-publish my short story collection – The Memorial Tree. Now I need to figure out what’s next, and to do that I need organisation, good habits and some accountability.

3d_book_cover-copy

Time to take this writer-business seriously: one of my recent buys…

I’ve decided that I will have at least ONE dedicated writing day every week, during which I will concentrate on the business of writing – because one of things I’ve realised recently is that writing is a business, and you have to treat it like such if you want to succeed in it. So much so that I wrote myself my own ‘job description’ for being the author I want to be: read it here if you’re interested.

So, here’s my plan for being a productive writer and fulfilling that job description. Much of this is adapted from the fabulous Jo Bendle, Productivity Coach extraordinaire, whose Wildly Successful Society I am a part of (and as a result of this amazing community I committed to publishing The Memorial Tree and other short stories).

Set Realistic Targets
I will get more specific when I’m deciding what it is I’m aiming for. Rather than just ‘enter that competition’, I will break down the tasks involved and work back from the deadline to ensure that I know exactly what is involved in accomplishing it.
I will commit to one or two things per month – not three or five, or some other insurmountable figure. It’s time to allow myself some easy wins and set some goals that I know I can achieve. Success breeds success, so why not let myself have some?
These things will be what will move me forward in my dream, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do other tasks – like blog writing, or tweeting, or reading. But it shall be these key monthly goals that will be the focus of my efforts, though I allow myself permission to change them if they’re not working for me.

Schedule my Writing Time
Every Sunday I will sit down and identify when I am going to achieve these goals. Based on the tasks that I’ve already broken them down into, I should be able to identify the best places to slot them into my week. Probably, most will happen on my dedicated writing day – but there’s enough wiggle room in my week to build in some extra time here and there.
I will prioritise the key goals I’ve set for the month. No distracting myself with blog posts or reading material. I’ll schedule in these tasks and commit to them, making sure that I allow time for other things later.

Do The Work
Seriously. I will sit down and do the work. I’ve had plenty of excuses ready over the past few months and it’s time to ditch these and simply put my bum in the seat and get stuff done.

Review the Process
It’s all well and good doing all of this, but I will also spend some time each Saturday reviewing how the week went and where I could have done better and when I smashed my goals.
I will also reflect on why certain things worked and others did not. This will provide me with the knowledge I need to improve my productivity and continue moving forward with my goals.

Finally…
I’m going to commit to my goals by telling my writing buddies what I’m up to and asking them to hold me accountable! There’s nothing more powerful to drive action forward than being responsible to someone other than yourself. If it’s just for me, it’s likely to get de-prioritised, but if someone is expecting something of me I’m much more likely to deliver!


How do you make sure your writing goals are accomplished?
Tweet Me and send me your top tips!


 

Challenges of a disability (or two)

It’s no secret that I live with two debilitating conditions, both of which are currently without a cure and have very little medical understanding for cause. M.E. and Fibromyalgia are difficult to manage because they are so fluctuating. I consider myself lucky enough to be able to work part-time and still enjoy many activities that others with the same diseases cannot. Yet, there are still limitations I have to consider; some of which impact both my motivation and ability to write.

What are they?
M.E is also known as ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’, although fatigue is not the only symptom it is usually the most persistent. If you’re healthy, the best way to empathise is to recall a particularly busy couple of days – when you’ve barely had chance to sit, eat or think properly; you go home, exhausted, and then to bed. The next day you wake up feeling refreshed and go about your day as usual. But, imagine waking up as exhausted as you went to bed. Not, just the next day, but the one after that and again after that. That’s pretty much how M.E can feel: relentless.
Fibromyalgia is just as bad, if not worse, as it is a chronic pain condition. That deep, uncomfortable ache you get when you have flu – the real flu, not just a terrible cold – that’s as close as I can get to describing it. Everything hurts, all of the time. If I stay in one position for too long, I get stiff and find it difficult to get going again yet if I move too much the pain worsens. It’s a careful balancing act as to managing the symptoms.
Of course, there are many more symptoms of both conditions – headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, mind fog…the list can be endless, and so each day is potentially a mine-field of side-stepping the symptoms to try and live as much life as is possible without waking the ‘beasts’.

If you want to understand how this impacts on my daily life read ‘The Spoon Theory’; this is a simple analogy based on a physical number of spoons that someone is given (let’s say you have 12), and then you talk through your day, and each time a unit of energy is used (to brush your teeth, make breakfast etc.) a spoon is taken away. Most people never get to the part where they leave the house for work – which is why so many sufferers of M.E. and Fibromyalgia are either house-bound, or even bed-bound. We get a set amount of energy per day, and once it’s gone our choices are limited to borrowing from the next day (but leaving us with less choice tomorrow) or to stop and rest. Sometimes, not the easiest decision to make when people around you have expectations.

spoon-theory

The Consequences of Daily Life
I feel lucky – because I’ve managed to get to a point in both illnesses where I am pretty good at listening to my body and balancing my life with my conditions. It’s not luck, really, it’s been mostly trial and error; sometimes it still is. I have a job where I work Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays so that I can have rest days in between. Sometimes I push myself when perhaps I have to go in on a different day – and end up working Wednesday and Thursday. I pay for it, though. Usually by being forced to stay in bed, or on the sofa, with the option to do very little, if anything. It’s not relaxing, it is being sick – though they seem to look the same to most people when you have to do it every other day. Rest is pretty much the only thing that I can do on these days; and sometimes it takes longer than I anticipate to recover. There is no normal. One day I could push myself and the payment could be an extra day resting, but there is an equal risk that the payment could be a week’s worth of rest. It’s like living with a vicious debt-collector who is never satisfied with what you have.

Being a Writer
So, how does this impact on my writing? Well, for a start it’s difficult to feel motivated when your body is screaming out in pain and in desperate need of sleep – even when it is unrefreshing. I have problems concentrating, especially for long periods of time – so gone are the days when I could sit at my computer and write for hours on end. The most I can manage now is about an hour before the words on the screen start to jump about, my hands get unbearably sore and the headache sets in.

One of the other challenges is that I can’t really write to a set routine. It all depends on how I feel on any given day. Sometimes I can manage a couple of 45m-1hr stints, other times I can barely use a keyboard or hold a pen. I tend to know I’m struggling when I start to lose the thread of what I’m trying to write. I start sentences, and don’t know how I was going to end them.

Possibly the worst symptom, from a writer’s point of view, is the mind fog. This means I often lose words; I have to stop writing and google the word I want. I know that I know the word, but my brain just won’t access it. (I had to do it with debt-collector in the previous section). Sometimes I get the wrong word, so I have to remember to edit particularly carefully. And, the one that drives me insane, is that I’ve lost my ability to be a grammar-Nazi. I am one of those people who hates seeing ‘there’, when someone should have written ‘their’, or ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’. But now I do this regularly, and it drives me up the wall to find such mistakes in my writing when I know the difference and never used to make these mistakes.

It’s not easy to be a writer. It’s also not easy to have one, never mind two, chronic conditions that fluctuate on a daily, weekly and seasonal basis. Trying to be a writer AND live with these conditions is particularly difficult. I tend not to remember this. This is my life and I go about living it the best way I can given that circumstances that I’m in. Yet, sometimes, it’s worth it to stop and take stock of the individual challenges we all have to face, because we are following our dreams in spite of these circumstances, and we should be applauded for this.


Want to help me achieve my dream? Consider supporting me by buying my short story collection, The Memorial Tree, only £1.99 for seven short stories.


Publishing my Ebook

So, this week will see me publish my first ever collection of short stories as an Ebook! How exciting is that? It’s taken me a long time to get to this point and I’ve amassed such a collection of writing that it seemed only right to share some of them with the world. So, on Sunday 1 July The Memorial Tree and other short stories will be available from Amazon at the very reasonable price of £1.99. It’s taken some preparing, so here’s how I’ve planned the first Ebook in my publication journey…

Stories
Obviously one of the first things I had to do was choose which stories would work in a collection together. Initially I was looking at three sections with varying lengths of story – flash (under 1,000 words), short form (1,000-3,000 words) and long form (3,000+). I had at least 2/3 of each, but it began to seem quite unwieldy and there was no real central theme tying them all together.
In the end, I looked at a selection of my favourite stories – the ones that I felt were really worthy and close enough to ‘publishable’ as they would ever get – and found that they had a lot in common; they all explored loss, remembrance and nostalgia. It shouldn’t have surprised me, given my preference to kill off my characters (see this post here if you didn’t already know this about my writing!), but it was nice to see that link thread its way through all of the stories.
There’s only one new addition to the collection, and that is the sequel to the title story – The Memorial Tree. As I shared recently there was always a line in this particular story that niggled at me, suggesting there was another narrative that was waiting to be told. So, to end the collection I decided to write it. If you want to know how it goes, you’ll have to buy the book. 😉

Cover
© Luke GleadallI had no idea how to tackle this, but I’m fortunate that I have a very tech-savvy fiance who is quite creative when it comes to images and photography. He was already familiar with a couple of the stories and their imagery, so I gave him a brief, explained the theme of the book and left him to it, wondering if his vision matched my own.
Then, on his day off from work he put together this beautiful cover for me. I think it perfectly demonstrates the themes and has the added bonus of visually representing three out of the seven stories. I’m really pleased with its simplicity and colour palette, but I hope you like it too! After all, the cover has to convince an audience that they want to read these stories over the wealth of other material out there!

Launch
Now, this was the one thing I neglected to consider when I set out to publish an Ebook. Writing the stories is within my comfort zone; convincing people that they want to pay money to read them is definitely way out of it!
I’d promised myself that publishing the Ebook would be my ‘Quarter Two’ goal for the year, so it was originally on my radar to publish in mid-June. But, as usual, life got in the way and things got pushed back a little. Still, I don’t want to start the second half of the year attempting to catch up with a goal I’d set at the start of it. So, I’m making do with a condensed launch that will see the release happen on 1 July.
As such, here’s all the important information you need to know about the release of my first collection of short stories…

  • Subscribe to my Enewsletter list before 30 June  and you can enter to win a FREE copy of The Memorial Tree and other short stories
  • Pre-orders will be available on Wednesday 27 June – to coincide with National Writing Day (when else should you celebrate writing a collection of short stories?)
  • Official release date is Sunday 1 July and the initial price will be £1.99

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I’d love it if you could support me by purchasing a copy of the Ebook – and hopefully you’ll enjoy it enough to leave a lovely little review on Amazon to help other buyers make their choice.

Here’s hoping that my first collection won’t be my last!