Thursday, 31 December 2015

Last Word

Maria A Smith

Determined to make the most of the last few days of 2015, I'm pleased to report I've been out and about enjoying the company of friends, socialising, walking, and I've even managed to take a few last snaps with my camera.

Can you believe the weather we've been experiencing? December has been the warmest since records began, but also one of the wettest too. We've seen a series of storms and devastating flooding up in the north of England, Scotland and over in Wales.  We've been very lucky here in middle England.

It isn't normal, and according to the experts it's just a blip. The last time temperatures were high was back in 1934. So we've had years like this before, when things go awry, and no doubt we'll have them again.

That got me to thinking - this last year was a blip for me too. It didn't go to plan and I found myself starting the new year flat on my back literally. It was incredibly difficult until May when I got my mobility back. Everything I'd planned to do in the first half of the year went on hold. The second half was spent recovering.

I didn't complete my novel, in fact when I did start editing, I realised it needed a complete rewrite. I made a new plan and have mostly been trying to sort things out. But it isn't anywhere near finished.

I didn't lose that stone either. But I did lose eleven and a half pounds, so I was close. I also made a lot of new friends at my Slimming World Group.

I did achieve things, I took up pilates, and invested a lot of time in my health by upping my fitness levels. I tried different types of exercise and found out I like boxing! And I'm not keen on HIT (High Intensity Training) but it works, so I may have to learn to like it.

Patsy Collins and I started #writingchat on Twitter, and after a few months enlisted the help of Carol Bevitt, I'm amazed how it's developed. We've become a small community in less than a year, we're real writers on Twitter, and we meet on Wednesday evenings at 8pm - 9pm for friendly chatter on writing related topics. Do join us.

I got out and about, visited Wales, Derbyshire, London and more besides. I attended two good writing events, and caught up with my writing buddies regularly.

I had a great reading year, thanks to Audible. I listened to many interesting podcasts too. I want to do more of that in 2016.

Losing a friend to cancer in the last quarter of the year made me realise how fragile life is, and how lucky I am, and that we must all grasp every opportunity in life. And making time for family and friends is vitally important.

So as I say goodbye to 2015, it hasn't all been bad, and I'm looking forward to telling you all about my plans for next year. Watch out for my post tomorrow.

Maria A Smith

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

10 Mistakes When Setting Goals

1. Only setting goals in one area of life - Spice is the variety of life isn't it? So it makes sense to set goals in all areas. Although you might not want to share them all on your blog. Think about health and fitness, relationships, career, hobbies, travel and whatever else you want to do this coming year, and beyond.

2. Not writing them down - You have to write your end goal down to clarify what you want to do. By doing so, you're beginning the journey of how to get to your goal. So commit your plan to paper, or to your blog, or wherever you're going to record your progress.

3. Not assigning a target date - This is the only way to pay attention to what's important. If you don't set a date to your goal, other urgent things will take over, and it won't happen. Set a date for each of your goals.

4. Unrealistic expectations  - Don't set yourself up for failure. Think - is this goal within your control? Your goals should focus on what you can achieve. Have you given them a reasonable deadline? Perhaps look at previous goals you didn't achieve, can you revise them?

5. Taking too much on - Related to the previous point, it's very easy to set a goal that completely overwhelms you (speaks the voice of experience) If it's too huge, and different to the way things are now, it'll probably be too much of a slog.  So that you are not discouraged, picture the end result often, not the slog to get there. Break it down into smaller chunks, and ask yourself what steps need to be taken along the way.

6. Not knowing what you really want - This sounds crazy, but you really need to know what you want and why you want it? What is important to you, and why do you value it? Ask yourself these questions, or maybe get a friend to ask you instead, you might find they can dig deeper than you can yourself. Realise what your aims and objective really are.

7. Underestimating finish times - Try hard to estimate goal completion time carefully, otherwise you'll get discouraged.

8. Appreciate failure - It's not fun when you fail, but from time to time you will. Have the courage to learn from your mistakes.  Use the knowledge to get to where you want to be next time.

9. Not reviewing progress - Taking stock on a regular basis is important. You'll be able to see how you're moving forward, and what action you need to take next. Set sub goals and reward yourself for getting there.  Never be afraid to amend a goal. Things change.

10. Setting too many goals - Try hard to work out the importance of everything you want to accomplish over the next twelve months, then pick only three or four and focus. Trying to target too many goals at once means we can't focus and give the time to each goal that it deserves.

Have I missed any? Feel free to tell me in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Thinking Ahead

At this busy time of year there's so much to do, buying and wrapping presents, writing cards, planning menus to name but a few things. If you're like me, you'll still be doing it on Christmas Eve. I'm a born juggler.  Maybe you've got it all done? if so, I salute you.

My thoughts usually turn to planning the next twelve months around now, but is it too early to be thinking ahead? I really don't think so - I like to have a plan. Even if I don't stick to it, I've at least got a roadmap to get me near to where I want to be.

Wherever you're up to with your writing, its a good idea to take time out now to consider what you want to do next year. Perhaps you've had lots of ideas on an off throughout the year, but you haven't committed them to paper anywhere, and now you've forgotten what it was you wanted to do? I know that feeling. Although I'm better than I was! I do make notes on my mobile phone.

Yesterday, I sat quietly for ten minutes and wrote a list of all the writerly things I'm involved in at the moment. All my different unfinished writing projects, my aims, and the regular stuff I do. I was astounded! I do much more than I think I do. It's no wonder I'm not finishing anything.

If I'm honest, I like to work on several projects at once. I like the variety. But at what cost? Never completing anything? Maybe I should concentrate on getting one thing finished? Work on one project at a time. I'm not sure. It's something I'm going to think about carefully over the next two weeks. 

As for writing resolutions in general, here are a few I can think of...however I'm not saying I'll be following all of them, I'm brainstorming, jotting down a list. Maybe it'll be of use to you as you decide what your plan is for 2016. 

Somewhere to Write - Are you happy with your writing space? Do you even have one? Could it be improved? We all need somewhere to keep our printer, paper, pens and notebooks. If you're lucky enough to have an office, could it be more comfortable. A new chair to keep you comfortable? A heater, or perhaps a bookshelf or a kettle and coffee? Maybe even a progress chart on the wall?
If you don't have a dedicated space, or you do and it's not working for you, what about taking your writing out to the coffee shop this year? Or the library? Or if you commute, could it be done on route, on the bus, or train? Perhaps, this is the year you'll splash out and take your writing out into the garden, in your very own writing shed. Food for thought - where will you be writing next year? 

Weekly Target - I'm a fine one to say this, but fellow scribes, don't beat yourself up if you're not writing everyday. Unless your writing full-time, it's unlikely you'll be writing everyday. Why not set yourself a minimum weekly target? Either with words, or hours you'll write?

It's amazing what can be achieved in the tiniest amount of time. Just ten minutes here and there can bring results. Get something in place, and stick at it, chances are you're going to write more anyway, whatever target you set, and don't be afraid to take time out, without feeling guilty.

When Are You Going to Do It? - Finding time to write is tricky for many of us. I certainly haven't solved this one completely, however, I'm mostly now writing early in the morning before my work day begins. Could that work for you? Or perhaps you want to try writing during your lunch break? Or before the kids get home from school? Or whilst the other half is doing the shopping? Give some thought to if you've got the time right? When could you be more productive? 

Get Away - Yes seriously, think about getting away from your desk. Going to writerly events like workshops, and conferences are food for the writers soul. Or take a break away form writing altogether. Give yourself a day off, or a week. Rest and recharge often.

Friends - Never underestimate how powerful having a writing buddy can be. Good ones will spur you on, and support you in times of crisis. If you haven't got one and want one, get along to a writerly event, or join a group, socialise and look for someone like-minded. Give it a go, what have you got to lose? And who knows what you might gain. It's great to share successes, or cry on their shoulder when things aren't going well but remember, it's a two way street. You get out, what you put in. 

Plate Spinning Skills - I already touched on this one at the beginning of this post. Only you can decide if having various multiple projects on the go is something you want to try, or not. For me it's refreshing to be able to swap from urban fantasy to crime, or romance, or whatever. Or from a novel chapter to a piece of flash fiction. Hell, does it matter that much? We're all different, with different priorities. Some of us scribble away for a living, others for fun, and the hope of some small success.
If you love writing, you'll find your focus, just do yourself a favour and don't set any unrealistic goals. Keep moving forward in whatever you choose to write, and you'll improve, and maybe one day you'll achieve all your hopes and dreams. Or at least some of them.

So grab a pen and paper, and start planning now for a successful and productive writing year.

Merry Christmas folks, may it be peaceful and happy.

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...