Sunday, 24 January 2016

Change Is Hard

A little Bit of Snow

You definitely need willpower to make change, and you need to make a habit of making new habits work for you. Does that make sense?

It's too difficult to change everything at once, but if you make a habit of changing things slowly, you'll not only get to where you want to be, but you'll feel more fore-filled too.

Want to know how I do it? Keep three things in mind, a cue, routine, and a reward. Let me explain.

You want to clear out your writing space but the room is full of junk, needs decorating and you don't have a desk. It would mean shifting and organising over five hundred paperback books and a collection of notebooks and pens to rival any stationary store. It's a mammoth task when we look at it like that isn't it?  But not insurmountable.
So let's tackle it.

Cue - Set an alarm, I'm not joking. Set up your phone to send you an alert telling you  - you have fifteen minutes before you start work. Enough time to clear whatever you're doing. When the alarm sounds - start!

Routine - Make it a regular thing. Once a week on Thursday at 7pm. Every day when you come in through the door from work perhaps? Whatever you decide, stick to it, and do it regularly. Tick it off your mental tasks list too.

Reward - Identify what you'll give yourself before you start. A cup of tea and ten minutes reading time, or maybe ten minutes on social network, or an episode of your favourite show. It's really important to know what treat you'll receive at the end of your efforts.

In a matter of weeks, you'll see change, and as it does, you'll feel more motivated to finish. Until eventually, you're sitting in the space you've dreamt of for so long.

You can apply the above to whatever you want to do, regardless of whether it's writing a novel, pitching short stories to competitions, or  completing an online course. You'll get to wherever you want to get to, in the end, but do ensure you revisit your habits regularly.  At least every few months, and don't be afraid to change anything that isn't working. There is nothing wrong in rejigging things.

What I Did Last Week

Writing - No challenge at my writing group this week as we had a backlog of manuscripts to critique. The session was really good, very positive and there were some great pieces of writing read out and critiqued. Afterwards, I went for lunch with several of the group, it was lovely to catch up with everyone.

The novel has temporarily stalled, mainly because I've been doing some necessary stuff to do with the structure, and I've been away for a few days.

I took part in a very interesting webinar on POV (point of view) over at Red Pen on Wednesday evening, and if you go HERE you'll be able to find out more, and sign up to the FREE newsletter. The site is run by the lovely Anne Rainbow, and this week she is doing a series of FREE launch webinars too. Take a look, I'm glad I did.

Great to see so many writers taking part in #writingchat on twitter too - do join in if you're around on Wednesday 8pm - 9pm UK time. It's a different topic every week.

I haven't been completely slacking on the words either. I wrote the first half of this post whilst away on my short break, and I'm also tinkering with a short story I wrote at a workshop day in 2010, Written long hand in a notebook, I re-visited it, and began re-writing. Ever done that? Gone back to something you wrote years ago? I'm enjoying it, and hoping to enter it into a competition.

Health - So, onto my break, I spent two nights at a health spa, which was nice and relaxing, and gave me time to reflect. I did an aqua class, a stretching class, and a sort of bootcamp pilate session. They were really good classes.

Regards my efforts to lose weight, I was very aware that I didn't want to go and spoil my recent victory, so I did eat healthily, but did include puddings, and very nice they were too. When weigh in day came around, I'll be honest, I was very apprehensive, and gingerly stepped on the scales at group. I'm pleased to report, I've neither lost nor gained. I've maintained. Phew! Really pleased with that result to be honest, as there was also the odd G and T too.

Friends - One of my 2016 goals is to spend more time with family and friends, and over the last week I've caught up with a few people, and it's been lovely. Just being able to spend time having a natter over a cup of tea, or break bread together has made me feel grateful that these people are in my life.

In other news.

  • We had a little bit of snow, it came quickly, and disappeared in half a day, and although I like to see it, I'm rather glad it didn't hang about.
  • Sadly, a close friend lost a loved one this week. I've kept her, and her family close in my thoughts this week. 
  • I've spent time reading a new book, as well as listening to podcasts. 
  • On my iPod this week, I've listened to The Beatles, Black Eyed Peas, Ed Sheeran and David Bowie. 

What's next?

I'll be taking stock of the first month of 2016, and checking to see if I'm on track. I'll be looking at my new habits, as some are working well, and others aren't, so I'll be re-jigging them.

How did your week go? Anything new happen?

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Start, Stop - Go!

Books - Maria A Smith
Last week was definitely like the title of this post. Start. Stop. And Go! It started well, on Sunday morning  when I received an unexpected delivery. Imagine my surprise, and delight when I opened up the parcel to discover books! And a card from one of my Twitter writing buddies, explaining she was sharing her book collection with friends. What a great idea, and it certainly made my day. Aren't people lovely? I shall look forward to reading them, and I shall of course pass them on to good homes afterwards.

The rest of the week went like this...

Daily words/rewrite/edits  - After getting into early morning words easily last week, I struggled this week, and just couldn't get up early to put the words down. I thought I'd feel resentful and angry with myself about it, but I didn't, for once I just thought 'you know what, don't worry, you'll make up for it somewhere' and I did! So only one early morning but words did get written on and off throughout the week.

Flash Fiction Challenge - You know how I said I was going to give myself more time to do it, and not leave it until half an hour before I went to my group? Well, that didn't pan out. Partly due to the task being set a little late. Our Chair was away overseas, but still I had almost two days notice, yet I still wrote it on the hoof! The brief was 150 words to include the text, 'I could tell by the look in his/her eyes.'

A dozen of us attempted it, and our efforts were all very different. I find that quite fascinating how a bunch of writers can all interpret things so differently. I really must try and do the task earlier. Although, deep down I wonder if part of me likes the last minute dash, and maybe my sub conscious sees it as an additional challenge, or maybe my 'back brain' has been working on it all the time in the background so that when it comes to getting the words down, they just magically appear on the page. What do you think?

After our normal group session on Saturday, I ran the Sub's Club, and we made plans on what competitions we each wanted to enter, and which publications  we wanted to pitch to - and send our work to -  It was good to see everyone.

And then there was lunch with a buddy who needed a bit of help sorting out his novel. We talked through each character, and different scenes over lunch and beyond, so Saturday was full on with stuff which was really motivating. It'll be my turn next month, and I'm looking forward to it.

In other news, I lost a pound at Slimming World, and got my "one stone award" which has taken a while, but I was thrilled to receive my certificate, and to top it all, I was Slimmer of the Week again, and was presented with a huge bag of fruit, vegetables and healthy goodies for my efforts.

I also managed three classes in the last week, two stretch, and a pilates, and was very pleased with my efforts.

What I didn't like about the last week...

Not much actually, apart from the inability to sleep at night.

Next week?

Lots of rest, I'm having a few days away. The Red Pen Editing Webinar, some more words, and spending time with friends.

How did your week go? What are you planning for the one ahead?

Sunday, 10 January 2016

A Gentle Start

Beacon Hill, Leicestershire - Maria A Smith

How was your week? Mine got off to a gentle start, I returned to work, and restarted my writing. 
It all felt shiny and new, I like that, a fresh start, and a new plan. It went like this...


Daily words/rewrite/edits - Yes, worked on my novel, the early mornings weren't as bad as I expected, and I got in the swing of it again quite quickly. Although, more words were hacked than written. 

Joined Up Writing Podcast - Lovely to catch up with Leah and Wayne, and you can listen to what we were talking about if you click here. Lots of tips to get your writing year off to a good start. And if you don't want to listen to me, go there anyway, click here for the archive where you can listen to lots of great interviews, tricks and tips, and all for FREE. Do leave them a comment, and share the links. These guys work hard for all of us.  

Flash Fiction Challenge - This ran away with me, I had to cull a lot of words. I wrote the piece early on in the week, and should have got on and not left it to edit twenty five minutes before the group meeting, but that is what I ended up doing! 
Amazing what you can get done under pressure, so four hundred words went down to two hundred over a cup of tea at a nearby cafe. It read well, which surprised me as I changed my ending quite dramatically from the original. Note to self. Don't leave the writers group weekly challenge till the last minute. 

Critique A Fellow Writers Manuscript - Yes, managed a couple of read throughs, and made comments before the writer read it out at group. It's something new we're trialling. Usually, we don't hear a manuscript until the day of the meeting. Now we're taking it in turns to send a manuscript around the group so that if folks have time, they can see the words on the page, and read in advance. We're hopeful it might give the writer some additional feedback. 

#writingchat - Another fun meet up on Twitter. 

Phoenix Writers Meeting - I went and enjoyed listening to writers reading their manuscripts. I took along a very short section of a chapter and had some good feedback. It means a few more words will have to go, but I can live with that if it makes the novel better. 

Organise Dropbox - I need to seek a bit of help with this one, as it seems my images have filled my Dropbox, and I'm a bit stuck with how to proceed. Do any of you use any of the cloud services to store your writing? 

Blog Post - Yes, I did the previous one to this post and you can find it here


Sleep (Off to bed before 10.30pm at least twice) - I hit my target, I did my two nights, and I should be really happy with that, but you know what, I completely spoilt it by staying up way to late a couple of evening too! I 'm my own worst enemy.

Pilates Personal Training (one to one) session - Really enjoyed my session with the trainer, it's so much better than doing a class as you get the individual attention, and get to know exactly how you should be doing it. I'm going to treat myself to another one next month.

Pilates - Yes, done, and the class was packed to the rafters!

Slimming World - I went and lost one and a half pounds. Hurrah! Also got Slimmer of the Week so went home with a huge bag of fruit and vegetables.

Walking - Failed. I couldn't fit it in. Note to do better.


Something Different - Nope, just didn't have time. I did manage to get out to dinner with a girlfriend and that was nice. 


1. How I felt the next day after staying up far too late. 

2. The rude man who bumped into me with his supermarket trolley and then instead of apologising huffed, and walked off as though it was my fault! 

Overall, a good week, really pleased the writing is flowing again, and my efforts towards improving my health are starting to pay off. I feel much better in myself, and I'm grateful for everything. 

What about the week ahead then? It's more of the same this week to get me back into a good routine. How did your week turn out? Did you achieve all you set out to do? 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!

Me Time!  - Maria A Smith

And we're off!
Over the last week I've had lots of thinking time. Life hasn't been the usual mad hectic rush, however I'm all too aware it will be again soon. It's been lovely to be able to catch up with family and friends, and if I'm honest, I'd love to have another week's holiday to continue.

If you're a frequent visitor to my blog you'll know my week runs from Sunday to Saturday, so yesterday was effectively the end of the week for me.  This is the way I like to look at my progress.

Yesterday, I reflected on what I'd done in the last seven days, and because I'd been jotting things down, I  was quite surprised with myself. Okay, I'm on holiday, so things are a little different.

What I did in the last week;

Met a writing buddy for breakfast - Lovely to catch up and share plans for the year ahead.

Cooking - Two new recipes cooked, and they both went down well.

Music - Listened to loads of different stuff! Really enjoyed myself, and even had a bop around the kitchen too!

Phoenix Writers - Our first session of 2016, good company and some interesting words read. Lots of helpful critique.

Lunch - After the Phoenix meeting several of us went for refreshments at the local cafe bar.

Writing - Yes there was some! Lots of blogging. A 250 word piece of flash fiction, and another which has sort of ran away with me. I will have to reign that one back in this week.
#writingchat was full on last week too, nice to see some newbies. Don't forget, you can find us on Wednesday evenings 8pm-9pm UK time. Just search on the hashtag #writingchat

Reading - A bit of this and that, which I haven't done for ages.

Quiet  - Time to relax without interruption, could be called thinking time too. Where? At the pool, then I crept into the steam room and enjoyed the silence.

Menus - What's for tea Mum? Well, actually, I can tell you because 'Super Woman' has planned all the meals for the next ten days. In my attempt to stick to the Slimming World plan I'm taking every precaution to not sabotage myself by not planning what I'm eating ahead of teatime. It simplifies shopping too.

Menu Planning - Maria A Smith

What I didn't do so well;

Sleep - That old chestnut! I stayed up and watched old movies. My OWN fault.

The week ahead;


  1. Daily words/rewrite/edits
  2. Interview for the Joined Up Writing Podcast
  3. Flash fiction challenge for the writers group.
  4. Read and critique a fellow writers manuscript
  5. #writingchat
  6. Phoenix Writers Meeting 
  7. Organise Dropbox
  8. Blog Post

  1. Sleep (Off to bed before 10.30pm at least twice) 
  2. Pilates Personal Training (one to one) session
  3. Pilates class
  4. Slimming World session
  5. Walking
Just For Fun
  1. Spend time doing something different
That's the plan, but of course they'll also be whatever else happens. Opportunities are everywhere! Especially, if you keep your eyes open and don't let them whizz by...

Do share your plans for the week ahead, I love hearing what you're all doing. 

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year - Looking Forward

Happy New Year! May all your hopes and dreams come true this year.

Here it is then. My plan for 2016, and after a lot of careful thought I've decided I'm keeping it simple, I have two goals.

1. To finish my novel

2. To be healthy

Now I just have to work out how I'm going to get there.

The Novel - Complete the current draft by 29th February 2016 - I'm really going to have to knuckle down and work hard to get to this first target. Working full-time makes it tricky, so I'll be writing most days. I've figured out early mornings are more productive, as once the day starts everything gets lost in translation, so I need to get back into a routine as soon as possible.

Health - I want to lose just over a stone by December 31st 2016. I'll continue my Slimming World journey, but will also work out  how I'm going to keep fit.

Apart from my two goals, I'm looking forward to having lots of new adventures this year. We should never turn down a good opportunity, and I'll be spending time with family and friends too.

I'm going back to posting a progress report on the blog weekly on a Sunday, and also a few details of the week ahead. The first will go up on January 2nd 2016.

Have a good January 1st - make it count.

Do let me know what your goals are in the comments.

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...