Changing Your Mindset to Change Your Life

When working to achieve your goals, it’s good to remember that how you think about your goals is as important as the goals themselves. I’m not just talking about Breaking Down Big Goals, I’m talking about optimism versus pessimism in a sense. Not optimism towards the world-I still have a very bleak worldview-but optimism towards yourself. I’m talking about focusing on positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement.

Thinking ‘I Can’ and ‘I Will’ instead of ‘I Can’t’ and ‘I won’t’

Everybody’s told you to make sure that your goals are concrete and achievable. What they haven’t told you is how much your thinking can damage your progress.

I’ll use a very personal example. Until recently, I’ve always had relationship problems. I never gave any of my relationships longer than six months life expectancy. I expected that I would be a bad girlfriend; I expected that nobody would be able to deal with me.

At the end of the summer, I had a mental breakdown. I screwed up the best relationship of my life, and it could have been forever. Thankfully it wasn’t. But before I could re-commit to the relationship, I had to change the way I thought. Instead of ‘this isn’t going to work’ I had to think ‘this will work’. I had to think ‘this will last a long time’ instead of ‘this will only last a few months’. I had to think ‘I can be a good girlfriend, I will be a good girlfriend’ instead of ‘I’m a bad girlfriend, I will always be a bad girlfriend’. Most of all I had to learn to think about how I could get through the problems in my mind, the problems in my communication with my boyfriend, rather than thinking they were unbeatable and that they would destroy us. I did make all of these mental changes, and I’m back to that commitment, quite happily still in the best relationship I’ve ever had.

Your writing goals-and your life goals-can be just as easily broken down as your relationships, if not more so. All it takes is thinking ‘I can’t accomplish this’ or ‘life won’t give me the time I need’ or ‘I won’t do this.’ You have to think ‘I can accomplish this’ and ‘I will make time for this’ and ‘I will do this’. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s something you have to do.

When you’re feeling down and life is getting in the way, think about what you have already accomplished. If you managed to do that when letting life push you around, imagine what you can do if you forcibly make time to reach your goals. If you’re feeling down about your writing, then write something anyway, and focus on how good it feels to have written, not how hard it is to write.

Replace every Negative thought with a Positive thought

Every time a nasty thought about yourself and your goals, challenge it with a positive thought. Don’t think that you’re the most amazing person ever instead of the worst person ever; do think that you are a good person rather than a bad person. Every time ‘I can’t do this’ pops into your head, tell yourself ‘yes I can, if I try’. Every time you think ‘I’m too lazy to do this’ or ‘I’m not disciplined enough for this’ tell yourself ‘I can do this’ and ‘I am disciplined enough’. If something is really blocking you from reaching your goals, think about how to get over, around, under, or through that obstacle.

I am devoting myself to a new way of thinking. I will not say that I am lazy or undisciplined. I will say that it is hard for me to keep any strict routine, and I will think of ways to be productive without a strict routine so that I don’t get myself down about not being in routine. I will not say that blogging three times a week is too much work for me. I will say that I can do it, but I need to make the time for blogging. I will not believe that it is too hard to finish rewriting a novella while working on the mythology of another world. I will believe instead that with proper focus and making time I can certainly finish both the mythology and the novella in a couple of months.

Did you complete high school? Odds are, if you managed that-or if you’re still in school and managing to pass-you can do a lot of other great things, too. If you completed high school, you have the discipline to write a book, even if not very quickly. If you completed high school, you can probably blog three times a week; it’s no different from doing three one-page assignments in a week. You might say that they gave you six hours a day to do it in-but if you made time for your homework, you can make time for your passion.

So next time you look at your list of goals and think ‘I’m never going to manage that in a year’, think instead ‘I can do this and probably more this year’. It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. (Except maybe breathing and sleeping… Possibly eating.)

What negative thoughts are holding you back? How will you challenge this?

Breaking Down Big Goals

This year I think most of us have big goals and high hopes. Like me, you might be planning to finish rewriting and to submit your first novella. Or you might be planning to write two first drafts and edit the first book. Or you might be planning to write a lot of short stories and send those out. You might even have books with publication dates that you’re just itching to sell.

On a personal front, you might be planning to quit smoking, eat healthier, learn more. You might have decided that this year you want to work on more non-writing creative projects. You might want to spend this year focusing on finishing high school and getting into university. Whatever your goals are, it’s time to take a look at how to accomplish them.

Breaking Down Your Goal: The Basics

Each of your big goals can and should be broken down into more manageable goals. A yearly goal can usually easily be broken down into monthly goals. If your big goal is nebulous-eat healthier or write more, for example-that’s fine, as long as you can break it down into concrete monthly goals. For example, in January you might start eating healthier by making sure you eat a bowl of salad every other day. You might start writing more by writing one page every day. In February you might want to eat fresh fruit every day, alternating between apples, oranges, and several kinds of berries. You might also want to write two pages every day.

The biggest goal for me this year is to finish a complete rewrite of my 2006 Nanowrimo, Moonshadow’s Guardian, and to be ready and able to submit it by my eighteenth birthday on August 29th. I have decided to split it into two novellas for story reasons. I only want to submit the first one on my eighteenth birthday, but I would like to have finished the second one by the end of the year.

So how do I break up this goal? It looks something like this:

January-February: During January and February I will finish the first Novella, which will remain named Moonshadow’s Guardian. This will consist of writing a page or two every day, and tinkering briefly with the page before the one I’m working on to get me back into story mode. When breaking up your own goal, remember that things don’t need to be done all at once. You have all year; spend January laying down a foundation for the rest of your work and February starting it.

March-April In March I will hopefully have already finished this draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian. This will make time to plunge fully into the writing of my current full-length novel project, Some Secrets Should Never Be Known. I’ll spend March working on other projects and start a second, smaller rewrite on April first. March is often used as an editing month and it is NanoEdmo, so I will probably be running several articles on editing during that month.

When breaking up your goal, remember that by April 30th you should be about a quarter of the way to reaching your goal.

May-June I will finish the second, smaller rewrite preferrably by May 15th. It will take less time than the first because there will be less to do-probably a lot less. In June I will be able to start my first edit of Some Secrets Should Never Be Known, but I will also be preparing a synopsis, query, and a market list. The market for Novellas is growing, so while I already have my eyes on a very specific publisher, I will also be looking into other publishers around this time.

By June you should have made decent progress into your goals, enough that you are just riding on momentum. If you haven’t, don’t worry, it just means you need to spend more time on your goals. Think carefully about where you can find extra time. And if you have a problem with writer’s block, try some meditation and some prompts. Think about why you’re blocked and how you can get past it.

July-August July will probably be my most writing-heavy month, because in August I will probably be fleeing Toronto to visit a friend of mine in BC. Since I’ll be driving across the country with my boyfriend, I won’t have too much time to write. I probably won’t even have a laptop by then. So in July I want to do one final minor edit on Moonshadow’s Guardian, write a final copy of the synopsis and a final copy of the first query I would like to send out. (To a specific publisher.) In August I will probably just be sending it out.

By July you should be halfway through your goal. July’s a good month to finish one stage of your project entirely and to begin a new one. Those of us who have vacation during the summer should take account of that and make the best use of our time possible.

September-October By September Moonshadow’s Guardian, the first novella, will be out on submission. While I sit and wait anxiously for a response, in September and October I will be outlining and naming the second novella as well as planning for Nanowrimo.

September is a time for new beginnings; if you can have one goal finished by September and start another related goal by October, you’re ahead of the game. Now you should be very close to achieving your goal, with only a couple of things left to do. It’s also a good time to start thinking about how you can build upon your achievements next year. And in October, don’t forget to prepare for Nanowrimo.

November-December In November everything I’m working on will go on hold for Nanowrimo. In December I’ll take the first week or so off, but I would like to start working on the second novella. I also want to write a couple of short stories in December.

If you participate in Nanowrimo, then you might want to put everything else on hold for the month. If you don’t then you have an extra month to work on reaching your goal. November is a good time to start a habit that’s generally indoors-writing daily, drawing daily, blogging daily-and you’ll find lots of challenges all over the web to help you with this.

Obviously by December you should have only little things to do for your goal. By this point I will have finished Moonshadow’s Guardian and sent it out, and finished two drafts of Some Secrets Should Never Be Known, as well as having completed two workshops here on the blog and several short stories. December should be a slow month when it comes to your goals because Christmas will eat all your time.

How you can use this to your advantage

You don’t have to break your goal down into smaller monthly goals entirely just yet, but it’s good to have your January and February goals decided now at the very least, with an idea of what comes next. Remember to take monthly times into account when you’re setting goals-if you are going on a non-writing vacation (or minimal writing vacation) or if one month you know you’ll be working extra hours, set a smaller goal for that month; if you have a big vacation in the summer with lots of spare time, then prepare to devote yourself to your goals.

Each month’s goal should build upon the last. If one month you finish a first draft, the next month you should do something else, but keep the rewrite in the back of your mind and maybe send out part of it for critique. If you start eating salad three times a week one month, you should start an exercise routine or start eating more fresh fruit. Maybe one month you’ll stop biting your nails and the next you’ll stop smoking.

If your goals are nebulous, then you break them down into concrete monthly goals. If you achieve each concrete monthly goal, then you will have achieved your yearly goal. For example, I have an unofficial goal to take better care of myself. This will manifest in first cutting back on gluten (I might have Celiac, which means I shouldn’t eat gluten) and stopping biting my lips. Then I will be endeavoring to wash my face and brush my teeth more often, because I don’t do those things as much as I should. Finally I will be quitting smoking. One thing leads to another. One goal, one success, helps you believe that you can succeed at the harder task.

If you get discouraged, remember why you made the goal. Remember that you are rewriting to submit; you are eating better to live longer; you are submitting to become a published author; you are blogging to meet new friends.

Next week I’ll probably be posting about changing your mindset to change your life.

Writing Goals: Focusing on What You’re Doing rather than What you Should be Doing

I am always working on writing more, on devoting more time to my craft. I am not the best at self discipline. I do love my craft. I also love my friends, of which I have many, most of whom live quite a distance from me. It is very easy to get dristracted by friends or by one of a million other things. It is hard to balance school, writing, and all of my friendships.

I have tried many times to create a writing schedule. I have tried to designate three or four hours of my day to writing. I have tried just saying that I would spend an hour every day writing. I have tried all kinds of things; most of them have failed.

This year, instead of spending my time focusing on when and what I should be writing, I am going to focus on when and what I do write. Each day I am going to put down on my calendar how much of that day I spent writing, editing, or marketing.

You might have the same problems with self discipline. You might find it incredibly hard to spend an hour every day writing, even though you should, even though it is your passion. Instead of thinking about when you should be writing, and yelling at yourself when you don’t, try just writing it down every time you sit down to write.

The idea here is positive reenforcement: seeing that you wrote the day before on your calendar should help to inspire you to write today, and then seeing that you wrote today should help you write tomorrow.

Make the effort to write a little bit each day, and record all the time you spend writing. In a month’s time, you’ll be able to analyze how much time you spend writing, what keeps you from writing, and how you can make more time for your writing.

Today when you’ve finished writing, make sure to note on your calendar how much time you spent at your writing desk. We’ll talk more about this record in a month or so.

Do you spend too much time getting mad at yourself for not writing? Try instead to feel good about the time you do spend writing.

New Year’s Goals

Today is the last day of 2010, and what a year it has been. I started the year full of hope, with many many goals. Some of these goals have been accomplished, but I will admit that the majority of these goals remain elusive. Some have changed; some projects have been abandoned; and others are just a few short steps away now.

In 2011 I would like to see my dreams start taking form and shape. I would like to begin to make my future my present.

Some things to think about when picking your writing goals for the new year are:

~What you accomplished last year

Did you finish a book? Write a hundred poems? Blog every day? How can you take that accomplishment and build on it? For example, this year I almost filled two poetry books. In 2011, I can look through these poetry books and start working on a poetry collection. This year I also managed to attract more readers for Fictional Worlds and blog more consistently. Next year I will be completely redesigning Fictional Worlds, hoping to build it into a bigger and better blog.

~What you know will challenge you this year

Anybody who’s been around for more than a couple of years will know that life is unpredictable. Strange things happen all the time. Sometimes we see them coming, sometimes we don’t. If you know something will be particularly challenging this year-your final semester of high school, a new college/university program, or a new and more diffictul job-then work around it. If you know your time will be severely limited, pick smaller goals that allow you to continue to live your life. I personally am terrible at time management, having far too many friends who I allow to distract me on a regular basis. This year my goal is to make my art come first. It is the most important aspect of my future. It is my dream, and I need to start treating it with a bit more respect.

~What do you think would be interesting to try?

Finally, you should make goals based on what you’re interested in. If you normally write fantasy and you want to try science fiction, then make it your goal to develop a science fiction world and start a science fiction novel. If you want to try your hand at writing plays, make it your goal to participate in Script Frenzy. If you’d like to be published by the end of 2011, make it your goal to have your submission package ready by March, and your novel sent out by May. Personally I plan to have finished rewriting Moonshadow’s Guardian by April 1st, and to complete a second smaller revision by July 1st, because I would like to submit it to publishers starting directly on my eighteenth birthday, August 29th.

Making your List

Now that you’ve thought about your goals and picked some out-writing more short stories, creating a poetry collection, whatever yours might be-you should give each goal a time frame. Some will be year long goals and some will be shorter goals. Some will have definite deadlines (like entering certain contests) and others will take up specific periods of time (like Nanowrimo). Still other goals are only building blocks for the next year, like creating a world and starting a new novel in that world.

Here’s my list:

Writing Goals for 2011

1. Write one poem every month- this is to ensure that I continue to write poetry on a fairly regular basis. I might also put together a poetry collection this year, taking poems from various poetry books of mine.

2. Write one short story every 2 months- this is for a couple of reasons, one of which is because short stories help build publication credits and a following leading up to a writer’s first novel. The other reason is that I think I should write more short stories.

3. Rewrite Moonshadow’s Guardian completely by April 1st- I put this aside for Nanowrimo and I need to get back to it. It would be better if I could complete this by March 1st instead. I would like to be able to send it out on my eighteenth birthday. I have decided to separate it into two novellas. This is just the first one.

4. Build the new mythology for Asteria by February 1st- Asteria is the world on which Some Secrets Should Never Be Known takes place, the novel that I was working on during November. I have made several changes to the mythology that will seriously alter the storyline. I need to finish working out the consequences of these changes so that I can start the book. This shouldn’t take too long.

5. Write the first draft of Some Secrets Should Never Be Known by May 1st- this is a real baby for me, a book that happened to come to me in a dream. Its main characters, Marla and Logan, are two very strong young people with strong minds and strong voices. I’m excited to get to work on this book.

6. Blog consistently (3 times a week) all year- blogging consistently has always been a challenge for me and will continue to be a challenge for me in the year ahead. While my focus should mainly be on other forms of writing, the blog is important to and I can’t neglect it. I really do love Fictional Worlds and I have a lot of fun with this blog.

7. Move Fictional Worlds and probably rename and redesign it entirely- Orble has been a great place for me and my blog, but it’s time for me to move on and make my own space on the web. This is going to be a long and painful process, but Fictional Worlds should be in a new space by midway through the year.

8. Create a new place&A Cast of Characters for short stories-I would like to write more short stories. Some of my short stories will obviously take place in worlds I’ve already created, but I would like to create a world and characters specifically designed for a series of short stories. This will be an ongoing process.

9. Revise Moonshadow’s Guardian again in May-June and start preparing submission package- I would like to be able to submit this story to publishers on my 18th birthday in August.

10. Write 500, 000 words in 2011-this will be for WriYe, but it’s also just to increase my productivity. This will include blog posts as well as the Moonshadow’s Guardian Novella(s) and Some Secrets Should Never Be Known. It will also include 100, 000 words this November, though I haven’t picked a storyline for Nanowrimo yet.

What are your writing goals for 2011? When you’re done, put them on your wall where you will always see them.