Give Me Balance, Or Give Me…Death? Another Resolution Post

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Five days into 2014, I have to admit I’m feeling pretty good about my New Year’s resolutions. I know, I know. It’s only been five days, but you have to start somewhere. As I reviewed my list of potential resolutions during the last few weeks of December, I realized that I could easily drive myself bonkers trying to be “Cege v2.0” in 2014. But if I’ve learned anything about myself over the last thirty-eight years, it’s that I latch onto goals, have a short burst of energy, and then burn out, and crash 2-3 weeks later.

Then I ran across this meme which completely changed my perspective on approaching my resolutions:

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It was time to pull out the KISS method to create my resolutions (Keep It Simple, Stupid if you’ve never run into the expression before.) Hence I refocused my resolutions on changing engrained behaviors, which should lead to the results that I want.

So let’s start here:

BALANCE

2013 felt lopsided to me for many reasons. I started out the beginning of the year with an extremely aggressive production schedule for my writing that included rolling out a new pen name. I actually did pretty well on that front through the first quarter, but that output wasn’t sustainable when my personal life fell apart in a way that dramatically altered many aspects of my life.

By the time I recovered, I felt so derailed that I slowed down even more. The result of that? The delay of the conclusion to both the Twisted Souls and Bloodtruth series.

Careful examination of every diet and weight loss program I’ve ever attempted yields an interesting thing. After finding initial success, things fizzle out because I never spend the time to change the behaviors that caused me to overeat to begin with. I went into it every time full force, but then burned out, and was right back where I started from.

I’m an extremist. I’ve learned over the years that I get short-term results by immersing myself into whatever activity I’m doing, and that works. But it never sticks long-term. I need to learn patience, celebrate small milestones, and keep an unwavering focus on keeping my feet on the balance beam of life, and that includes not acting like a crazy person when the newest diet fad comes around.

It applies to my work, my play, my diet, and my mental health. Achieving BALANCE will push me higher and further than any short-term burst of productivity.

WRITING IT DOWN

This probably sounds silly coming from a writer. I put words to paper and computer screen all day long every day. But that’s my stories and messing around on Facebook and Twitter. That’s not outlining a life plan that clearly spells out what I want to accomplish and how I’m going to measure if I’m successful.

We’ve all probably hear about the Harvard (or Yale) class study that studied the effects of writing down goals. The problem with that study is that is never actually happened. But, an educator at Dominican University did her own study and was able to confirm the results of the supposed Harvard/Yale study. When you write down your goals and hold yourself accountable (in collaboration with a partner), you have a greater chance of achieving your goals.

To keep things organized and keep myself from being distracted, I plan to write down short and long-term goals in a place where I see them daily, and reassess them often to adjust as needed. That will keep the goals and action plans fresh and relevant.

No doubt about it. Sometimes not making New Year’s resolutions seems like the path of least resistance. But I’m still optimistic, and I’m going implement the tweaks to behavior that I mentioned above.

That’s it. Two things, but two things that if I stick with them can mean a tremendous difference in my life for many reasons.

What about you? What are your 2014 resolutions?

Photo Credit: dleell

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Need a Kick in the Productivity Pants? Try Journaling

 This is Day 2 of my 31 Days of August Awesomeness posts. Click here for how it all started…

 Ask anyone who has known me for any length of time, and they will confirm what I am about to tell you: I am a lifelong procrastinator.  It is a crippling habit when paired with my other “p” weakness: perfectionism. What do you get accomplished when you are a perfectionist procrastinator?

Nothing.

I have had a bazillion false starts in my writing career. That’s why I spent 7 years working on the Edge of Shadows manuscript. That’s right: 7 YEARS! I wrote it, I edited it, I changed it, I got brave in 2009 and gave it to a bunch of beta readers, I edited it some more based on their feedback, I lost that version (whole other story), then I tweaked, moaned, and edited some more. It still wasn’t right. I felt like I still wasn’t ready, and so I shoved it away for another day.

Now that easily could have been the end of my story. Aspiring writer finds reality and trudges back to day job content to live out the rest of her life. 

Then quite by accident, I stumbled across a reference to a book on a writing blog called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. If you are an artist, not even a writer but any kind of creator of artistic work, and you are stuck, you must run (don’t walk!) to Amazon and buy this book. I’m absolutely serious- the book will change your life.

I’ll wait.

The single most important habit that book taught me, and a habit I continue today is to journal. I journal three long-handed pages almost everyday. I started the self-paced The Artist’s Way course in October 2011, and as you can see by the picture at the top of this post, I’m on my 5th journal.

Why do I consider this course and this habit life-changing? I got out of my own way.

Consider this. Prior to October 2011, I had written two 50,000 word manuscript drafts which were both collecting dust in a drawer. Fast forward ten months. One of those manuscripts I published (Edge of Shadows), and then I’ve written and published 4 more. Ageless is written and with my editor, so that’s really 4 1/2 by my count. And I’m well underway on the next book.

My writing has been taken to a whole new level. I’m not afraid to take risks. I’ve had my share of failures and lessons learned, but that is far outweighed by the massive burst of energy and productivity that I’m leveraging on a daily basis.

It all starts with my journaling. In it, I allow myself to be whiny. I allow myself to be self-deprecating and get down on myself. I nit-pick dumb things I’ve done. But I also plan out what I want to get accomplished each day. I pat myself on the back for every victory. And I have a fabulous record of my writing journey. I get shivers thinking about being able to come back and read my first entry in my first journal five or ten years from now.

It’s heady stuff, powerful stuff. And it’s addictive.

Journaling has opened up my mind and jumpstarted my productivity. It’s one of my awesome productivity secrets, and I’m delighted to be sharing it with you.

By the way, you may be thinking “Well sure, Cege, you’re a writer so journaling is easy for you.” I may have written in a diary a couple of times when I was a teenager, but this kind of structured writing has never been part of my writing routine. Finding the time and sticking with it was a challenge. But in the end, it became part of my day and it’s something I look forward to.

So if you are looking for a way to shake up your routine and find massive loads of inspiration? Try journaling. Plus, it’s a great excuse to go shopping at your local bookstore. 🙂

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Public Accountability = Getting It Done

Every Sunday I go through the same set of motions with my writing goals. I review the upcoming week and I think about what I need to get accomplished and backtrack my to-do list from there. I realized today that I should be using the same philosophy for everything in my life that I want to button up on, because my life isn’t just about my writing (contrary to what my husband may believe).

One awesome way to shame motivate you to accomplish your goals is to make them visible to other people. Not that anyone’s going to come rap your knuckles if you don’t do it, but there’s something about declaring your intentions publicly that makes things feel more real. Plus, an upside is that often you’ll find other people who share the same goal so you celebrate or commiserate together. (Accomplishing goals can be social and fun? Who knew??)

So in the spirit of sharing a little bit more about me, I’ve decided to share my weekly goals over the course of the next few weeks.  I’ll do this on Sundays. Then the following Saturday, I’ll let you guys know how I did. If anyone else wants to play along because you see something on my list that’s one of your goals too, then drop me a comment and I’ll cheer you on too. 🙂

Cege’s Goals- Week of July 22nd

  • Launch Twisted Souls (Twisted Souls #2)
  • Finalize draft of Ageless- it’s due to my editor on 7/28!
  • Attend 2 workout classes
  • Walk 10,000 steps- put my Fitbit pedometer to good use
  • Track my food intake for the week
  • Read 1 book

None of this is hard or earth shattering, but all are things that I could struggle with if I don’t proactively keep up with them.

Even if you aren’t tracking to some of the things I am, I’d still love to hear what you are up to this week. Sound off in the comments below and have a great week!!

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The Best Writing Advice

The is nothing profound or difficult about the best writing advice that I’ve found over the course of my writing journey.  It is simply:

I think it’s natural for us to want to overcomplicate things. It’s our brain’s way of throwing up roadblocks that keep us from doing what we say we want to do.

If you give yourself too much time to think about doing your writing, I guarantee you’ll find at least twenty other things that need to be done right this minute (like laundry, mowing the yard, doing the dishes, cleaning out the garage, etc.) except writing. Your best defense is a good offense.

So if you want to write, sit down and write. Don’t think about it.  Just do it. Tune out the external world.  Discover how exciting the world inside your mind can be. And if you visit frequently enough, your characters will draw you in with less resistance than before.

But that resistance will never entirely go away. Fight it with the best weapon in your arsenal: just write.

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee

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