Taking Stock of our Writing Inventory

In a recent post WordServe agent Rachelle Gardner provided statistics in review of her year. WordPress also sent out the stats for our WordPress blogs. I took note of mine but they didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know… that the number of readers here has steadily increased and the most popular posts are writing-related. My busiest day of the year was December 3rd with 146 views. The post that day was Writers Don’t Learn Writing By Writing. The second most read post was way back last January: Getting the Gears in Motion .

There’s been a flurry of year end and New Year activity as we all take stock, evaluate, decide on new directions and fresh starts. Me? I’m more of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. I was relatively content last year. I accomplished much of what I set out to do and enjoyed the doing. Yes, there are still unachieved goals as I continue my pursuit of publication, but they don’t require a major change of direction. They just require patience and persistence.

Taking stock isn’t a sedentary thing. I’m tuned in to God, listening, looking for direction. But I’m not marking time. I’m continuing to write, revise, and work at the craft. Staying active. Exercising my abilities. Even when I sometimes feel stalled I am moving ahead because I know God is there, ready to lead if I will follow.

Did you do  year end stock taking? What did it reveal about your progress? Is it causing you to continue on the same path or head out in a new direction?

Finding Failure or Success

Success is a unisex commodity. Don’t we all like the feeling of being considered successful? It’s satisfying to feel in control and be functioning with efficiency, accomplishing what we set out to do.

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The fact is, we don’t always accomplish what we intend. I’ve read that less than 10% of people manage to keep their New Year’s Resolutions, and that by the end of January at least 50% have already failed. With odds like that why would anyone make resolutions at all? Why is failure more common than success?

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I suspect it’s because we make “ought to” resolutions, not “want to” ones, believing that we need to be something we’re not or that we need to accomplish something we previously couldn’t. Discontent is at the heart of many goals. That’s not to say we should never dream or aspire to great achievements in life. I just wonder if maybe we start by trying to fix the wrong things first. It’s so much easier to succeed with a positive attitude than with a negative one.

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But how do we change from seeing a glass half empty to seeing it half full? By not focusing on the container and choosing to examine its contents instead.

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My opinion has always been that a positive attitude has its origin in self-acceptance. If we can accept that as a clay vessel we may not seem worth much by our own standards but we are made practical when we allow God to fill and use us, then our perspective will change.  Only then are we likely to have the necessary motivation to commit to achievable goals.

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Applied to writing, our attitude affects our ability to both create magical words and set practical goals.

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Here’s a challenge for you. Write a list, not of resolutions but of desirable possibilities – things that you could do if you wanted to. Things that are within your control. Now pick just one thing on that list that ignites your enthusiasm. One thing that has the potential to make a difference to you. You need that positive spark to set yourself up for success. Telling someone about it will help cement the commitment so share your idea in the comment section. Saying a prayer for the will to act wouldn’t hurt either. Then make a start. If you believe you can do it, you will.

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Remember, the only person who is sure to fail is the one who doesn’t try.

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Getting the Gears in Motion

Everyone but me seems to be packing away Christmas decorations, evaluating the past year and making resolutions for the new one. Everyone but me. Other people are clearing away their mental and physical clutter, ready to dive with fresh determination into 2010’s challenges. Me? I’m less than enthusiastic.

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Part of me is ready to move out of holiday mode and return to routine while another part is procrastinating because I’m not quite ready to tackle what’s waiting for me.

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You see, I have two works in progress, both novels, one of which has been haunting me for months. I put it aside last fall in favour of making a start on something new during NaNoWriMo. Why I put it aside is perfectly explained in a post by Katie Ganshart. I swear she was reading my journal when she composed it!

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She starts out saying, “I’m reading through my rough draft of Wishing on Willows. Makes my stomach knot up like a tangled string of Christmas lights. I keep forcing myself to take deep, calming breaths. I keep reminding myself that this is how I always feel when I read through a first draft. My reminders do very little. Panic has its way. It perches inside my chest and heaves like a raving lunatic. Can you really fix this? Is this story even redeemable?”

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Oh, how I know that feeling! I’ve revised, reorganized, reworked, revamped, attempted to revitalize. I’ve done it all and still it reads like the pages of yesterday’s newspaper. Or the telephone book. Or an outdated shopping list. You get the idea. So I took a break from it. Now that it’s time to get back to work I would be happier returning to my newer novel but that know-it-all part of my conscience says I need to finish the other first.

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Katie’s probably right. She says, “The only remedy? Roll up my sleeves and get to work.” I guess it’s time to get the gears in motion.

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Now that the holidays are over what project is beckoning for your attention?

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Goals versus Challenges and Resolutions versus Intentions

Is a goal really a goal if you have no expectation of reaching it, or is it just a pipe dream? That question returns with tongue out and fingers flapping in ears to taunt me whenever I consider accepting a challenge.

 

The first time was when I agreed to participate in the 2006 NaNoWriMo insanity. I’ve launched myself towards a 50,000-words-in-November goal on three occasions now but have yet to make it to the finish line.

 

A friend and I long ago gave up on New Year’s Resolutions. We agreed that making ambitious “resolutions” that we probably couldn’t keep is just setting ourselves up for failure, so instead we settle on sharing our “intentions”. Intentions aren’t promises in the way resolutions are, so breaking them isn’t quite as devastating to the morale. The trick is to identify the category to use at any given time.

 

Then too, it’s important to identify our capabilities. I’ve said it before: there’s no sin in being good to yourself. It’s okay to ease back on the throttle when life’s multitude of priorities threatens to overwhelm. So why, when I have more on the go than I have time or energy to cope with, do I accept more challenges? I suspect it’s because I know I work better under pressure. The more I absolutely have to get done, the more efficient I become.

 

With that in mind I recently took up Jennifer Hubbard’s Summer Reading Challenge, pledging to read ten books before September 21st. I don’t expect to have trouble meeting this challenge because I  l-o-v-e  to read. And that’s the reason I’ve also accepted Tristi Pinkston’s July Writing Challenge. It’s much too easy for me to read to the point of procrastinating on my writing, so these two challenges should balance out my efforts. I’ve committed to edit (revise yet again) at least 200 pages of my current novel and also organize the haphazard thoughts for my new w.i.p. – get them out of my head and into some kind of outline on paper – during the month of July.

 

I’m not sure where challenges fit into my interpretation of goals. Are they resolutions or intentions? Either way, I’m getting psyched up to accomplish great things this summer.  Oh, but I have to stock up on Diet Coke before I do anything else. It’s pretty hard to read or write without a cold one near by. If I share my supply with you would you like to join me for either or both challenges?