Nancy: Clearing the Decks

As I mentioned in my last post of 2018, New Year New Writer – Zen Edition, in 2019, I’m working on balance. Balance between extreme fitness goals and creature comforts, online life and IRL friendships, work and play. One of the things I need to do to before I can even think about balance, though, is whittle down my to-do list du jours.

Some people might suggest not writing a to-do list every day. To those people I would say What is wrong with you? And when I’d recovered from my shock, I’d politely point out our brains must work very differently, and I’d spend the rest of the day wondering how anyone functions without a to-do list. Continue reading

Jilly: 2019 In A Word

Can you believe it’s Twelfth Night already?

I feel rather late to the New Year’s Resolution/Goal Setting/Watchword party, but it’s been interesting to read about everyone else’s approach, from Jeanne’s specific, measurable, time-limited SMART goals to Elizabeth’s ultra-flexible pursuit of happiness.

There are still 51 weeks of 2019 ahead of us, so I’m going to join in the fun 😉

For the last few years I’ve picked a watchword to epitomize my approach to the coming year. It’s less prescriptive than a set of resolutions. More of a theme, in the sense of “an idea that recurs and pervades.”

My word for 2018 was TRIMMINGS, courtesy of Michaeline. On 30th December, 2017 she said:

We live in a time where we can get online support and critiques, buy the best organizing tools ever, and even publish ourselves with only our own Inner Censors as the sole gatekeepers of our work. Or we could get a pencil and paper, and then publish pictures of our handwritten pages on Instagram. It’s all trimmings. What really matters is the happiness you get from writing.

TRIMMINGS turned out to be a useful word, but not for the reasons I’d expected. A couple of weeks after I wrote the post, my mum died, my best-laid plans went up in smoke, and I had a sharp lesson in focusing on the things that really matter.

I didn’t do any more writing until April, and then I sat down with a blank sheet of paper to think about how I wanted to spend the rest of the year. I decided the best way to get my mojo back would be to take on a new self-contained project or two that would get me into my happy writing place again and carry me in the right direction but without too much pressure.

Continue reading

Nancy: New Year, New Writer, Zen Edition

Welcome to the last post of 2018! Hard to believe, isn’t it? And you know what the end of the year means. Recaps and reviews of 2018. Resolutions and predictions for 2019. Here at 8LW, it also means discussing our writing plans for the new year. Today, I’m keeping up that tradition, and expanding it to other important areas of life.

You might have noticed over the past year that I’ve set lots of writing goals, accomplished several of them, and missed the mark on others. Overall, I made good progress, but in the coming year I hope to do better. But I also burned out when we reached December, and next year, I’d like to avoid that end-of-year collapse. You’ll be shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to learn I have a plan to do better in 2019. And it all begins with balance in a few key areas of my life. Continue reading

Nancy: January (2018!) Accountability Thread

Wow, here we are in a whole new year. Choosing watchwords. Taking stock of 2017. Making plans for 2018. So in this accountability thread, I want to look at the big annual picture before I set my January goals. And as for accountability for my December goals? Well, to paraphrase Jeanne paraphrasing Robert Burns, the best laid schemes of mice and writers…you know how it ends.

Say the Word

I struggled with a watchword this year, trying on a few possibilities: focus, dedication, gratitude. None of those are bad, and in fact I do hope to incorporate all of those in practice this year. But none of them felt like a thesis statement for the year ahead. Then while thinking about something entirely different, something I now can’t even recall, I thought about how happy I am when I discover am surprised by the turn a story takes, get to see how other writers create story, or try to decipher how to complete a challenge (mental or physical). I get such joy from the sense of wonder these experiences engender, and I knew that was it, my 2018 watchword: wonder, as in ‘to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe’. Continue reading

Nancy: A Different Kind of Writer’s Gift List

As we’ve been discussing a lot here on the blog, ’tis the season for many things. Among these are lists of gift recommendations for the writer in your life (or for we writers to forward to our loved ones). Our own Michille and Jilly shared ideas and links to lists on other parts of the interwebs here and here. They contain writing-oriented games, fun writing tools, and caffeine delivery systems. I should add that Bourbon (or adult beverage of choice), chocolate, and fiction books should be priorities on your ‘what to buy for my writer’ list. But writers don’t just need things. Our care and feeding is complex, nuanced, and – as my husband would like you to know – exhausting.

So today, instead of discussing what others can give  me during the holiday season, I’m focusing on gifts I can give myself for the entire year of 2018. It’s going to be a big year for several of us here at the blog, with book launches and marketing, more books to write and revise, and readers to cultivate. Now is a good time to take a deep breath, get a warm cup of something to hold in our hands, and think about the foundations we’ll need to pull off this stellar year. To help jump-start your own thought process, here’s my list.

Self-Confidence. Dorothy had to learn this in the Wizard of Oz. Many of our protagonists have to learn it as part of their journeys, or even as their ‘big life lesson’ in our stories. Writers know how important belief in oneself is. Without it, we won’t have the audacity to brain-dump words onto pages and chip and chisel and shape them for months or years with the belief that someday, someone else will want to read our stories. But that doesn’t stop us from second-guessing ourselves at every turn. Imposter syndrome. Writers block. Sophomore slump. These are catchy phrases that strike terror in writers’ hearts, but at the core of all of them is a lack of belief that we can really do this audacious thing. Continue reading

Nancy: A Year of Change…Checking In

A master of change himself, David Bowie sang about it way back in 1971.

A master of change himself, David Bowie sang about ch-ch-ch-ch-changes way back in 1971.

A few months ago, after we’d all realized the world had changed and turned our eyes toward the hellfires of Mordor, Michaeline and I got into a discussion about change in the comments section of this post about writing as our superpower. She mentioned she’d put a tarot card app on her phone and ‘change’ cards kept popping up. Around the same time, I’d had a tarot reading (I was in Salem, MA; it seemed appropriate to do something ‘other-worldly’) during which I’d gotten three change cards (which I gathered from the tarot reader was a lot).

The card reader told me so much change so fast would be…unsettling might have been the least disturbing word bandied about, and warned me I wouldn’t be able to control ALL THE CHANGES. I should learn to change and control what I could and learn to adapt to the rest. Which is definitely a life lesson I seem to need to learn over and over again.

Luckily for me (she said sardonically), Continue reading

Nancy: Another 2017 Watchword: Patience

Patience is a VirtuePatience is a virtue, or so I’m told. I have to admit, I don’t have as much first-hand knowledge of this as perhaps I should. But like writing, life is a process, and as I continue pondering and acting upon my plans for 2017, I’ve decided to see how the other half (or whatever the percentage of patient people is) lives.

I should be clear: in my experience, impatience is not always a sin. It can be a driver and a motivator. It can ensure All the Things get done in a timely manner, something which was of the utmost importance in the strict deadline-driven professional world I used to inhabit. In fact, it is probably my impatience with my own work pace and quality, and (sometimes) that of others, that pushed me toward efficiency and higher-quality output. It made me really, really good at what I did.

And then I burned out. Continue reading