Sunday, 27 January 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 27th January 2013

Ragdale Hall, Leicestershire - January 2013 - by Maria A Smith

Last week I invested in myself. Spending time doing lots of things that make me happy. Lots of small pleasures all rolled together.

On Sunday I checked into Ragdale Hall, one of my most favourite places on the planet. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will already know I've been going to Ragdale for the past eleven years every January. Its become a 'given' that I'll keep returning and meeting up there with two of my best friends.

Over three days, and two nights we were throughly spoilt as usual. Breakfast in bed, each morning followed by some serious pampering and lounging around doing nothing. It was bliss. The weather outside was cold, and the snow fell heavily, which made Ragdale Hall take on a fairytale like quality, and outside was very 'Narnia' like. I couldn't resist going out to explore.

Ragdale Hall, Leicestershire - January 2013 - Frozen' by Maria A Smith

I'd never seen the grounds like this before, and although I was only out for a short time, I managed to capture a few wintery shots with my camera.

Ragdale Hall, Leicestershire - January 2013 - 'Winter Wonderland' by Maria A Smith 

All too soon my fairytale ended, and I returned home, went back to work, and resumed where I had left off - rested, rejuvenated and ready to face life in the 'real' world once more.

I soon fell in step, and it was easy to achieve my goals. I said I would relax, I did, and I read. In between the distraction of the thermal spa with its many delights I managed to read more of my book. Remember I said I was a slow reader, so as you would expect I am still reading ''Fear Nothing' by Dean Koontz

On Wednesday morning, I received an email letting me know I'd won a book in a recent competition I'd entered over on the Harrogate Crime Festival 'You're Booked' web site. I received it in the post on Friday, which is quite unbelievable really considering the weather conditions.

My other goal from last week was to learn something new, well I did that too! On Saturday I went to my first 'felting' workshop, and created this lovely scarf, made new friends, and sampled lots of yummy cake. More about that later in the week though...

Nanu Scarf Workshop - January 2013

What about this week then?

My goals for the week ahead look like this.


Continuation of novel draft 2

Flash fiction 200 words for the writers group

Two Blog posts

Enter a competition


Continue with 'Fear Nothing' by Dean Kootnz


Three walks


Capture more of winter.


Do I need to explain?

It might seem a longer list this week, but I intend to use my multi-tasking skills. Do you think I'll get it all done? What are your goals for the week ahead? Do share them here with me. Have a good week!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 20th January 2013

The last week has felt very 'disjointed' for want of a better word. I think the weather has thrown me out of sync, and worn me down. Although I did manage to get some stuff done.

Things I didn't like

The snow

Driving in icy conditions

The writers workshop being cancelled

Disturbed sleep

Things I did like

Costa Latte

Having my feet massaged

De-cluttering my wardrobe

As you can see the list isn't very well balanced.

I said I was going to work on my novel, I haven't got much further in actual words, but I have  plotted a bit more out that needed to be rehashed.

The flash fiction piece took on a life of its own, and is now on its way to a being a much bigger story. Never mind, the meeting was cancelled anyway where I was going to read it out. And so was the writers workshop beforehand.

I've entered a writing competition.

I haven't read much more of the novel I started a few weeks ago, and the weather has been so poor I haven't got out walking either. I did read some articles in Writing Magazine and Writers Forum, so all was not lost on the reading front.

 There was no cake this week, but I did go and have a lovely pedicure.

This week, I'm going away for a few days break, so my list will be brief.



Learn Something New

What will you be doing?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Procrastination - Thief of Time - Part 1

Are you working smart? Or is it time to work in a more effective way?

After speaking to several writing buddies yesterday, and reviewing my own list of goals from last week, it occurred to me that some of us are failing to get the results we are striving to achieve, and that got me to looking at the problem more closely.

A few months back, several of us formed a group which meets monthly to discuss subbing our work for publication, and competition. We set out with good intention, each selecting target markets, and publicly committing to do what we said we were going to do, however this has proved more difficult for some than others.

We chatted about the dreaded procrastination that seems to catch up with us all in some way, or other. Deciding we would make an effort between now, and the next meeting in February, to try and stick to our targets. Agreeing this would take effort, and in almost every case, working smarter.

There seems to be a few hurdles we need to get over.


When we set our goals, to get from A to B, we sometimes don't realise fully the distance we need to travel to get to our destination, and don't factor any breaks along the way, to rest, and review our progress. Then the journey proves to be too much, we grow weary, start to falter and in some cases we give up, feeling a failure.  This is bad for the soul.

The answer is to review your goals regularly, break them down into manageable chunks, and adjust any plan. Don't be afraid to re-route. Use any resource available to you along the way. Which brings me nicely to the next point.


Your'e frightened to step outside of your cosy world. You do the same things week in, week out. Talk to the same people, go to the same places. Do you do your writing at the same time of day? Maybe you would benefit from meeting new people, reading a different genre, taking your writing out to the library, or the coffee shop. Doing things differently will keep you fresh and motivated. You won't have time to stagnate or become stuck in a rut.


Are you delaying sending that article out, or that short story you wrote? Are you afraid it isn't good enough? If you don't get it out there, you'll never know if its any good will you? Face the fear, just do it! When success comes, you'll be glad you did.


Stop trying to justify why things aren't working, stop talking about it. Instead devise a way to make things work. Brainstorm the problem, use a big sheet of paper if necessary, and write down what you want to achieve, think out solutions of how you are going to get there - then plan it, and get on, and do the stuff required to get moving. Galvanise yourself into action - you'll feel happier.


You know what they say, 'quitters never win, and winners never quit!' Don't give up before you've really got going. We all reach a stage with whatever we are trying to do, when we feel fed up, we just need to get through it.

I never wanted to learn to drive, I used to hate going for the lessons, but I stuck with it, learning at odd hours when I would much rather be doing something else. I plodded on, failing tests, and struggling to learn lots of rules, and regulations. I'm so glad I did. It opened doors for me, and broadened my horizons in many ways. I know its the same in writing once one good thing happens.

Enlist help. Surround yourself with positive people. Folk who have a 'can do' attitude. Buddy up with another writer, and report in with them. Arrange a weekly meet up, or a phone call, or an email to let them know how you're progressing, what you've achieved so far during the week, and don't be afraid to speak of any problems with your WIP. They might have help at hand in the guise of advice, or sometimes just talking it through with someone else can really help to clear your mind.

Also, don't forget to ask them how their writing is going too. Having a writing buddy is a two way relationship. A good one can do wonders for your work.

There are many ways to work smarter, and enough here to think about for now. I have to go, and work on another part of my 'Sunday' plan, but I'll be back later to read your comments. Do leave any tips on how to beat the 'Thief of Time' that procrastination is...I love receiving your comments and do my best to answer every one.

Goal List Week Commencing 13th January 2013

Things I liked about last week

  • Catching up with a girlfriend for a Costa and a natter
  • Shopping for new clothes
  • Making time to read!
  • Relaxing in front of a warm fire
  • Listening to Katherine Jenkins
  • Reading
Things I didn't like

  • Hearing from a friend, that the love of his life has passed away.  
  • Technology failing, and making my job very difficult!
  • Not allocating myself any time to work on my novel

Last week I set myself the following goals, and this is how I got on.


Continue working on my novel -  I failed, I blame not scheduling the time!

Flash fiction, 200 words on the theme of a derelict or empty building - This I did plan, and it was done early on in the week in readiness for Saturday.

A couple of blog posts - Again I didn't schedule the time.

Attend Phoenix Writers - Yes, another good meeting, lots of good work read out, and lots of opportunity to listen and learn through critiquing manuscripts.


Continue reading 'Fear Nothing' by Dean Koontz - I'm enjoying this book very much.


I wanted to do four walks, and I managed three!

Apart from the above, i managed to get a lot of mundane things done around the house, necessary stuff to ensure the family is fed, the bills are paid, and everyone keeps well and happy.

Writing Magazine arrived, and I've been dipping in and out reading the various articles.

This week I'd like to achieve the following,


Rework a chapter of my novel.
Flash fiction, 200 words on the theme of a bus station, airport or any other transport hub.


Continue with 'Fear Nothing' by Dean Koontz.
Dip deeper into Writing Magazine to unearth markets to submit work.


Keep up the momentum.

Small Pleasures

Treat my feet to a pedicure.
Take time out for tea and cake.

Right, I need to get a grip and just do it! How did you do last week? Are you happy with your progress?

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 6th January 2013

Trees in Winter - Maria A Smith

Before I get down to setting goals for the week ahead, I thought I'd recap on things I've done in the first few days of this year.

It was back to work for me on the 2nd, and surprisingly busy. Its always hard to get going again after the holidays, a succession of lazy days, late nights and changed routines make for some adjustment to get back into the swing of things again. I'll probably be there by the end of next week!


I managed to edit another chapter of my novel, and get some good constructive feedback from the writers group. It requires changes, as I expected, and I'll get on that next week. The only other writing I did was here on the blog. I'm happy with what I've done.

I've also booked onto a half day writing workshop in a few weeks time, I'm really looking forward to  it, I love learning.


I got out for a great walk in the countryside.


Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz - Read the first 4 chapters.


Took my camera out into the countryside with me, and got some lovely shots, like the one above, lots of winter trees, and sunshine!

Its been a happy first week. Now its time to set some achievable goals for the week ahead. I'm not going to overwhelm myself, instead I'm going to keep things very simple.



Continue working on my novel

Flash fiction, 200 words on the theme of a derelict or empty building

A couple of blog posts

Attend Phoenix Writers


Continue reading 'Fear Nothing' by Dean Koontz


I'm going to try and do as many short brisk walking sessions as I can this week. I'm hoping for at least four, although anything is a bonus, I'm aiming to strengthen my lungs, and get fit again.

Those are my plans. What are you up to? New year, new project?

Friday, 4 January 2013

Small Pleasures

What are small pleasures? Put very simply, they are the priceless things in life that money can't buy, stuff  that makes you happy, like sharing special moments with your children, building sand castles on the beach, having a natter with a friend over a brew, or simply spending time alone in your own company. Bite size measures of pleasure.

Real human happiness consists of many of these small pleasures, and it took me a while to realise, but over the years I'm slowly becoming an expert! I make sure I build lots of them into my week. Which brings me rather nicely around to today's small pleasure.

On impulse, I decided to take off on my own and go for a walk with just my shadow, and my camera for company. I didn't have very much time, as I was on my way somewhere else, so literally made the decision in a split second to visit Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire on route.

Let me share my small pleasure with you.

Beacon Hill - View from the Top - Maria A Smith

The English countryside is breathtakingly beautiful when the sun shines, 11 degrees, how good is that for this time of year? It makes you want to stride out, and I don't doubt walking is one of the best ways to better health.

Wooden Sculpture on Beacon Hill - Maria a Smith

I met a strange wooden man today - he looked like he'd been there a while, but I hadn't seen him before, and it reminded me - I should visit more often.

Trees on Beacon Hill - Maria A Smith

I love trees, they are the lungs of this planet, mature ones are carbon magnets, and if they could speak, they would tell us magical stories. We need to plant more trees.

Craggy Rocks on Beacon Hill - Maria A Smith

I decided to attempt a climb to the top of the hill! Over craggy rocks, formed 700 million years ago, when volcanic eruptions occured in the area. Leaving behind deposits of ash at the bottom of an ancient sea bed.

About a million years after that happened, intense geological activity occurred leaving the rocks as you see them today. They are known as Hornstone, and are amongst the oldest rocks in Britain.

Walkers on Beacon Hill - Maria A Smith

It was lovely to see lots of people out and about, there were many walkers, but also lots of family groups with children, and older relatives. The holidays aren't over yet!

The climb was definitely worth the effort, a very splendid view over Leicestershire and beyond, and the air quality so fresh and clean.

Top of the Hill - Maria A Smith

Even though I was a little windswept, it proved to be exhilarating, I felt well out in the fresh air.

Beacon Hill Country Park - Maria A Smith

 And before I knew it - it was time to travel back down the hill.

Beacon Hill Country Park Picnic Area - Maria A Smith

No time for a picnic today, but I was so pleased I took time out to visit, and I know I'll be back again soon.

I hope you enjoy a 'small pleasure' today, and if you do, perhaps you'll share it with me here. I love receiving your comments.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A Jar Full of Happiness

Thought I would share a lovely idea with you...

This January, why not start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen. Then on New Years Eve, empty it and see what fabulous things happened during 2013.

Go on, capture all those happy memories. You just know they are going to make you smile in twelve months time.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year - Fresh Start!

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2013, I hope you all had fun welcoming the new year, I opened my front door just after midnight, I heard lots of fireworks exploding, and happy laughter out on the streets. Let us hope this year will bring with it good things for all of us.

Instead of posting my usual weekly goal list, I thought I'd use the rest of this week to think about my more long term goals. I'll be breaking them down into more manageable deadlines as the weeks pass, as I find this method easier to stick to, than trying to do everything at once.

Long Term Goals for 2013

  • Complete the second draft of my novel
  • Try writing articles
  • Submit my work for competition and publication
  • Blog on a regular basis
  • Attend writerly events
  • Learn more about the craft

  • Make time to walk
  • Get fitter
  • Explore the countryside

  • Take lots of pictures!

  • Stay well
  • Eat well

  • Read
  • Learn something new
  • Listen to music
  • Treat myself

Over the next few days I'll make some choices on how I can best reach these goals, I have fifty two weeks. In the meantime I need to write some flash fiction for this weeks writers meeting. 

Do you have a plan for 2013?

Making Things Happen

Bluebells in the grounds of Chatsworth, Derbyshire - Maria A Smith Nearly two months ago I made this list of goals - See how I've g...