It’s that magical and dangerous time of year when I plan all my goals with the enthusiasm and ambition of a forgetful fish. I believe I can write a thousand books all while filming deeply engaging YouTube videos. Oh, and don’t forget raising my son.
I love the new year and all the possibilities it brings. I love imagining where I’ll be in a year. But it’s also a time when I overcommit and set myself up for failure.
In many ways, this year is no different. I have a lot of plans. Except I have a very important tool.
Finding the Right Motivation
Let me back up. I started doing Duolingo over the summer. Duolingo is a language-learning app. It’s really fun, and I highly recommend it. I’m learning Greek because it’s been on my list of places to visit for ages. One day I’ll get there. When I do, I’ll be able to say, “The coffee is pink,” in Greek. (I don’t know why that phrase keeps coming up in lessons. Maybe Greece is full of pink coffee? I hope to find out one day.)
I’ve done Duolingo for the last 148 days straight. I wish I could say that I’m super self-motivated, but that’s not why. The app sends me daily reminders to keep my streak going. That’s all I need to inspire me to do a lesson or two. I don’t want to break my streak. There’s something satisfying about watching the little counter on the app flip from 147 to 148 days. It shows I accomplished something. Even if that something was a five-minute Greek lesson.
So this year I’m channeling that motivation. I’m taking that desire to have a long streak and applying it to my writing. I made an elaborate spreadsheet. It could be argued that creating an elaborate spreadsheet took away precious writing time. But I’d argue that it will be an important tool for me this year.
Creating the Spreadsheet
I took all of my big goal projects for the year and gave them word count targets. I’ll admit, I started a couple of these projects last year. For the most part, they’re new projects.
I want to blog regularly here as well as post on Medium. I want to up my YouTube game. YouTube is a constant goal that I struggle with. I film videos and then talk myself out of posting them. It’s easy to overthink and convince myself that what I created doesn’t make sense or that people will hate it. Someone will probably hate it, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t share it.
I made a tab for each month on the spreadsheet and put the projects across the top and the days along the side. I grayed out all the weekends. I want to take time off every now and then, even though I may write here and there on weekends.
I made monthly word count goals for each target and the spreadsheet calculates what percentage of each goal I’ve accomplished. I love the way it breaks down projects to give me clear targets.
Keeping an Open Mind
Every month I’ll reevaluate this system to see if it’s still working. I want to make sure the goals are still possible and the spreadsheet is still motivational instead of demoralizing. For now, I’m excited to see what the year holds and how many words I can write.
What are your goals this year? How do you track them? Please share in the comments below!
Every week I meet with my writing group. By the way, if you’re a writer, I highly recommend finding a weekly writing group. It’s a great way to anchor your week and motivate your writing.
On Monday afternoons, just hours before the group meets, I find myself sitting at the computer or pulling up a Google Doc on my phone and thinking, “Quick, I have to write something!”
Lately, I’ve been writing about my latest adventures with a baby or revelations about parenthood.
I’m trying to share my writing more often, which involves working through some fear of judgment and rejection. I’ve toyed with the idea of posting things on Medium for a while. Medium is a platform where anyone can post about any topic. It’s kind of like YouTube for writing.
I wish this blog post could be titled, “How I Made $100,000 on Medium,” but alas, I can’t make that claim (yet). So far, I’ve made less than a dollar…But I’m still really proud that I jumped in. I’ll keep writing and sharing. Hopefully one day I can post my roadmap to great success on Medium. Until then, I’ll enjoy the rollercoaster ride of parenthood.
It may be winter right now in Minnesota, but it’s warm and sunny in Hocus Hills.
A magical recipe for summer love…or disaster…
In the small, magical town of Hocus Hills, Susanna Daniels finally found a place that feels like home.
But dwindling tourism threatens the local businesses, including the pie shop where she works with her Aunt Erma. Luckily the biggest event of the season, the Fairy Light Festival is right around the corner, sparking hope among the residents. Instead of a wave of customers, Susie faces an overbearing Fairy Godmother, a critical travel writer, and her boyfriend’s father seems to dislike her before getting to know her.
To make matters worse, the whole town loses magic just before the big event. Can Susie save the town and her beloved pie shop before it is too late?
I loved writing about The Magic Pie Shop. I ate a lot of pie in the name of research. Now I’m really excited about my next project where my main character is a parking lot striper. It’s a job I’ve done for the last 20 years. I’ve still managed to work in some pie so I have a very valid excuse to keep eating delicious desserts!
What’s everyone reading and writing these days? Please share in the comments down below!
My baby is mobile now, and wow, can he move! I don’t think I fully appreciated how peaceful life was when he was stationary. But it’s been a fun adventure.
I’m working on some new projects, including picture books and a middle grade novel. I’ve taken a couple classes from an amazing teacher, Lisa M. Bolt Simons. I highly recommend taking a class with her if you’re interested in writing for kids. You can check out an upcoming one here. It’s through the Loft Literary Center. It meets on Zoom, so you don’t have to be in Minnesota to take it!
If you have any topics you want to see me cover in future videos or blog posts, please comment down below!
Also, if you’re a writer with young kids in your life – how do you get any writing done?
I used to get up in the morning, make my coffee, and sit down at the computer to write.
Then I had a baby.
Suddenly all illusions of a writing routine (or any routine for that matter) went out the window. He’s two months old now, and even though I’m still in a bit of a sleep-deprived haze, I’m finally feeling the itch to get back to writing.
So now I’m trying to find a loose sense of routine in the chaos. Whether you’ve had a baby or not, there are a lot of things that can stir up your schedule. Here are some of the things that have worked for me.
When I make plans and set goals, I often imagine myself to be Superwoman.
“I can do it all!” I tell myself as I make my to-do list for the next day. The next day comes and goes, and there are still a lot of unchecked boxes on my list.
I still sit down each night to make my to-do list for the next day, but I’ve significantly lowered my expectations. I eased back into writing by adding things to the list like, “Look at your book.” Just look at it. I didn’t have to write, edit, or read it. I just had to open the file and look at it.
Of course, I’d usually get sucked into writing a few words or editing a small section, but even if I didn’t, if I opened the file on my computer, I could check it off my list.
I have learned to do lots of things one-handed while I hold my son with the other.
Because of this, my phone gets a lot more use than my computer lately. I wrote a personal essay using voice to text on Google docs. Then I typed out part of a scene using my thumb to swipe text.
I still love to sit down at the computer but more and more I’m using other ways to get words on the page.
Find an Anchor
Days sometimes slide by in a blur. Is it Thursday? Sunday? Should I be writing? Sleeping? Figuring out how to get baby spit-up off every shirt I own? Did I write today or was that eight days ago?
It helps to have something on the schedule to anchor the week.
For me, my anchor is my weekly writing group. We meet for 90 minutes every Monday. That meeting motivates me to have something semi-completed so I can share, and I find hearing other people’s stories inspiring.
Let the Mind Wander
My baby drinks ten thousand bottles a day and each bottle has sixty-three pieces to wash. Or at least that’s what it feels like. When I’m washing those 630,000 bottle parts, I try to think about the stories I can write or ways to get my characters into or out of sticky situations.
I’ve also found that inventing random stories to tell my baby can get the creative juices flowing. The stories get stranger the more sleep-deprived I am. My favorite so far was the Adventures of Flakey the Snow Fairy.
Someday I expect we’ll get into a flexible routine, and I’ll be able to schedule my writing time again. Until then, I’ll squeeze in some words when I can and enjoy the easy smiles and cheerful baby chatter that fill my days.
After failing to get traction on my goals in 2020, I have a new plan this year!
I love to set big goals, but I struggle to set realistic expectations. What can I say? I write about fairies and magic pie, realistic isn’t my default setting.
Usually, somewhere along the path of setting goals, making a plan, and actually executing them, I wander off track.
This year, I’m focusing on small changes and mindset shifts to reach my goals.
Instead of thinking, “I need to write two chapters today.” I’ll think, “I need to do at least three 10 minute word sprints today.” That way I can still feel a sense of accomplishment without setting the bar so high I can’t reach it.
I’ve been struggling with the book I’m working on, and it has me thinking a lot about my fear of failure. (If you prefer a video version of this post, I talk about my fear of failure here on my YouTube Channel.)
I try to keep my thoughts positive, but it’s not always easy. That fear of failure is pretty strong in me. I’m trying to work through it and get out of my way because it’s definitely not doing me any favors. There’s never been a time when I’ve sat down and thought, “Whew, I’m so glad I doubted myself.”
Often, if I share my doubts, people will say, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I can come up with a lot of answers to that question. Long detailed answers. Not necessarily realistic, mind you, but DETAILED.
There are a few ways I’ve been trying to work through this lately.
The first is setting goals that I break down into really small goals. I’ve talked a little bit more about my goal setting in one of my YouTube videos.
But basically, if I can consistently take even tiny steps toward my bigger goal, I feel good about it.
FIND ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNERS
I’ve also found people around me who can hold me accountable. It can be so easy for me to change my personal due dates. Of course, there are valid reasons to change that due date. A family emergency. An alien invasion. Anxiety over a global pandemic that messes with your productivity.
But I don’t always have a valid reason when I change my due dates, which is where accountability partners come in.
It helps me to have people in my life who know what I’m trying to accomplish so they can encourage me to actually get it done.
One thing note is that even if you’re unable to meet with accountability partners in person, there are many ways to virtually meet with people. Jump on a video call and have virtual writing time or chat about your goals. Zoom, Skype, and Facebook all have options for video chats.
I usually meet with a writing group every week, and they’re amazing for many reasons. One is that I love to hear other people read their writing. I find it really inspiring. Another reason is when I tell them my goals, they’ll ask ‘Hey, how’s that going?” and if I say, “Not well,” they can say, “What’s going on? You can do this!”
Sometimes when I’m sitting alone at my computer, I’ll write something and then think, “haha, that’s so funny!” But I’m not sure if anyone else will find me as funny as I find myself. If I read it aloud to people, and they laugh at the right parts, I know at least someone else finds it funny! It’s good to have that validation.
I also have a writer friend I meet with every week. We’ll just write together and talk about writing, and she doesn’t let me make excuses. If I say I want to do something, but I have doubts, she pretty much tells me, “No excuses. You just gotta do it.” Sometimes that’s exactly what I need to hear. And she’ll even give me writing due dates so I’m accountable to her as well as myself. That’s really helpful.
I do some work as a developmental editor, and I help other writers set due dates to reach their goals. There’s sometimes something about getting that information and that structure from someone who doesn’t have the same reservations you have about your own work. So while you may be thinking, “Can I get this done?” They can say, “Yup, you can, and here’s how to do it.”
IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCCESS
Finally I”m trying to focus on the possibility of success versus the fear of failure. Just picturing the, “What if this does work?” instead of the “What if this doesn’t?” can be really powerful. It’s kind of like that dreaded interview question (but more fun because you’re not in a job interview and you can let your imagination run wild). Where do you see yourself in one year, five years, ten years?
I think, “What if everything I want DOES work out?” It maybe won’t work out exactly how I imagine it, but that doesn’t mean I SHOULDN’T imagine it.
Because really, the world isn’t watching and waiting for my failures, so what am I so afraid of?
Do you ever struggle with that fear of failure? How do you work through it? Let me know in the comments down below!
As you may know by now, I love books with family, romance, and FOOD!
That’s why, when I came across The Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe, I bought it immediately.
I was five pages in when I went out and bought the rest of Debbie Johnson’s books.
It’s that good!
There are more books in the series, and all of them are wonderful. This one is my favorite though. Probably because it was my first encounter with the author, and I wasn’t expecting all the humor and warm fuzzies that the book offered.
I’m going to include a warning to everyone. I read parts of this book in public. At one point, I was sobbing. Yes, sobbing. So for that reason, I recommend you read this in the privacy of your own home, or at least be prepared for strangers to stare as you use the pages of the book to dry your tears.
But seriously, I highly recommend this book! (Don’t worry, there are a lot of laugh out loud moments too!!)
My fourth grade teacher introduced me to The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. She would read it to us after recess.
I loved it so much that once she finished it, I bought a copy and read it again and again.
It’s by Julie Edwards Andrews. I was very obsessed with The Sound of Music as a kid. Many of the more serious themes of the movie went right over my head, but I loved Brigitta, and I often wished that my parents would have had more children (and that I could actually sing worth a hoot) so we could have formed a singing group.
This book is so much fun! Even though it’s geared towards a younger audience, it’s still a really enjoyable read as an adult!
I first read The Nanny when I was living in England on a temporary work visa after I graduated from college.
After work, I would go to my favorite coffee shop and read. There were tables by the windows upstairs. It was the perfect perch to watch the bustling activity outside. Getting lost in stories was the best way to keep homesickness at bay.
The Nanny was my first Melissa Nathan book, but not my last. I searched the charity shops until I found every one of her books.
Sadly, the author passed away from breast cancer. She wrote several lovely romantic comedies, and I highly recommend all of them.
After several months of thinking, planning, and panicking – I posted my first video!
Setting up the channel was easier than I thought.
I created a channel header on Canva. I use Canva to make a lot of promotional graphics for my books. Since I’m no graphic designer (though I know an amazing one, if you ever need one!), some of the things that I’ve created have never seen the light of day (and a few that I have posted maybe should have stayed in the deep dark “never use” folder). But they provide an option for YouTube Channel Art that makes it easy to create the perfect size image.
After I uploaded my channel art and a picture of my face, it was time to film the video.
I have an inexpensive microphone and ring light that also holds my phone. I set them up in a corner of the basement so they would be out of the way, and I could leave them up all the time. I want to make it as easy as possible to record videos.
I had an outline of what I wanted to say (as a writer, I love a good outline). But for my 3 minute and 43 second video, I probably have at least 30 minutes of footage. I would forget what I was saying mid-sentence or my chair would make a funny sound (it was the chair, I promise!).
So editing turned out to be the hard part as I sorted through trying to find where I actually said what I wanted to say.
I used iMovie to edit because it’s already on my computer and pretty easy to figure out. I think it has a lot more features than I used, but I’m learning.
I also made my thumbnail using Canva. I pulled a screenshot from the video, added some text, and voila!
I think the whole process will become a little easier and faster over time. For me, just getting the first video out there was a huge success.
I’m excited to make more videos! Please subscribe to my channel if you want to be notified when I post a new video!
Do you have a YouTube channel, or are you thinking about starting one? Please share in the comments below!