Update Day: Long-Term Planning vs Short-Term Gratification

It’s the last Friday of the month, which means that it’s Update Day. In case you’re wondering what it’s all about, a few of us writerly types went and set some major goals and we share updates on our progress toward those goals once a month. If you would like more information or to join in, click here.

So how’d I do?

Uh.

Yeah so I honestly have no idea where November went. I don’t know if it’s because of my life getting another curveball (a good one this time, fortunately), or if I’m just really that exhausted, but it keeps feeling like I’m stuck in a reactionary kind of mindset.

On the one hand, that’s not too bad. At least the things I’m having to react to right now are mostly positive. But the problem is that I can’t build anything when I’m spending 90% of my time reacting to unexpected events (and 10% recovering from that).

This is frustrating to me on a very deep level because I literally derive value out of building things toward my future.

But.

That said, that curveball I mentioned was about having to make an unexpected but massively important decision that might end up literally (Yes. I mean LITERALLY.) changing the world. So maybe I should cut myself some slack.

I guess the issue is that lately, the nature of the things I’ve been working on building toward have opposite qualities to the writing goals I’ve been pursuing. With my writing goals, I had this massive goal and no real certainty of how, or even if I’d be able to make it. So in lieu of that, I engaged in short-term goals that would give me a short-term sense of accomplishing something. For example, wanting to write 1,000 words per day meant that I might eventually be able to become successful as a writer. But in the meantime, I still had something written and created to show for my short-term efforts.

This thing I’m building on the side with my family… I’m 90% sure that it’s going to be hugely successful if we can cross a few hurdles in the way. Here’s the thing, though. Even if I do achieve something now, the impact is long-term. So in a month like this, where a significant portion of my mind-space was devoted to this project, I keep feeling like I spent my time on nothing. I guess because I’ll only really see what I did today much later.

I’m kinda in the same place with the other thing that I’ve been focusing on this month. I joined a yoga challenge, where I do yoga for 30 days straight. I do feel better after every session, but I don’t really “see” the impact until maybe a week or so later.

And really, my mind’s not liking this lack of immediate gratification. I suspect it might be part of the reason why I’ve been so exhausted and drained. Last weekend, I took the two days to randomly pick items off my to-do list that have been waiting for months now. The happy coincidence of doing this was that most of the things I did meant I had something once I was done. Like unpacking boxes in my room meant that I have a slightly tidier room and the feeling that at least one thing (one box) was finished. Another thing I worked on was the wireframe for my temporary author website. This is something I’ve basically been threatening/promising myself to do since April. It’s almost done. And every page I created for the site feels like a rush. So much so that I have no idea about whether it’s any good, but just seeing something literally take shape under my hands was so good.

Takeaway lesson for me: Do something with a short-term benefit every now and then. Sometimes we get so stuck on long-term goals that we forget to just do things for the here and now. In December, I’m going to take off for a few days from Christmas into New Year, and I think for that week, I’ll basically be indulging my whims around just creating whatever I feel like.

But for that to happen, I’m going to have to graft in the rest of the month to make up the “lost” hours from that week. So that means I’m going to continue being quiet until around New Year’s Eve, as per my tradition of resetting my goals at the end of the year.

See you then! How are your goals going? Have any plans for December? 

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Update Day: It’s Spooky How Fast the Year Is Going…

It’s the last Friday of the month, which means it’s time for another Update Day. For those of you who don’t know, a bunch of us set big/crazy/important goals, and then share monthly updates on our progress toward that goal. If you would like to join us, please click here for more information.

So how my goals are progressing… Well. Depends on which goals we’re talking about. The move went well, but I haven’t finished unpacking. Health goals got derailed by the move, but I’m getting back into it. My exercise goals took a hit this week thanks to a heat wave.

Overall, my life has quieted down a lot since moving house, but within days of arriving here, one of my cats got gallstones. This ended up making it really hard for me to get anything done, because each of the several times I had to take him to the vet or fetch him back took two hours both ways out of my day.

That said, I had another record work month. At the rate I’m going, I’m going to hit the goal I mentioned missing last month and then some. This goal is the last milestone I had left before the final one. Which means that the next time I say I hit goal, I will actually have hit the big one at the top of my blog. Yes. That is huge.

So where will I go after that?

That will take some explaining. When I set up that goal, I made it a bit less daunting by double counting. So in a month, I count future income, income I earn the same month I generated it, and then income that I generated before once it comes in.<

So let’s say I make $5 in royalties in May. I’ll count it as future income in May, and then I count it again in July when I actually get that $5 in my bank account.

Why did I do this? Basically I was approaching this as a goal, and my brain loves the feeling of adding amounts to my tracking sheet. So if I do it twice, my brain is happy. If my brain is happy, I get more done. And I knew from the beginning that half the goal in actual income is a hella comfortable living for me.
Basically, once I hit the goal, I have two options: 

  1. I can change my approach and aim for $7,500 a month in real income. As in the number I have coming into my bank account each month.
  2. I can change my focus and start working on the percentage of my real income that comes from royalties.

I’m thinking I’m going to do both for continuity sake, but I’m leaning toward prioritizing point 2. The whole point of this exercise had been a full-time writer (achieved) of my own fiction (not achieved.) So focusing on upping the percentage income from book sales should help me focus on what I actually want.

That said, I really enjoy what I do for most of my money, so I don’t think I’ll want to stop working on that. But my life is sorting itself out, which means there’s really no excuse for me to not write my stories. And once I can finally get into the place of regularly publishing, I’m going to be really happy if/when the passive income from my published books start coming in.

Speaking of Writing More…

I joined NaNoWriMo. No idea if I’ll be able to win, but I recon any progress will be good.

Are you guys doing NaNo? Let me know your name so we can buddy up. 

How are your goals doing? What are you hoping to squeeze into the last two months of the year?

Do One Thing.

Right now, it’s feeling like I’m on the cusp of something new. Sure, I have a lot of fallout to deal with, but for now at least, it’s not looking like I have any new curveballs coming my way.

This is great, of course.

But at the same time, it’s feeling a lot like I’m emerging from a bomb shelter after a nuclear winter has passed.

I mean… where do I even begin?

It’s daunting to face the task of rebuilding something. Of trying to regroup and get back on even footing. Especially when your somewhat traumatized mind keeps whispering that things are going to go back to hell any second now.

Did I ever mention I’m not an optimist? Can you tell?

Seriously, though, I do realize that I have to believe that my five years of famine have come to at least some sort of an end. Which means I should be looking forward again and moving my way in that general direction.

But man. Moving forward is a lot of work. At the moment, the work is physical, emotional, and psychological. Physically, I have a ton of unpacking to do. Emotionally and psychologically, I’m working toward letting go of five years’ worth of crap so I can heal and move on. While dealing with a mind that very much wants to jump into fight-or-flight mode at the smallest opportunity.

Still, the past few days, I’ve… started feeling like my old self. By this I mean the person I was about three years ago where I felt battered, but firmly believed that I’ll still be able to achieve something. I’m hoping that, if this was an action movie, I would be getting up around now to kick life’s ass after it gave me a pummeling.

Time will tell whether this is indeed what’s happening, but in the meantime, I’m sticking to the one thing I’ve learned by necessity.

Do one thing. 

Even if that’s the only thing I manage to do in a day, at least I did that. (Instead of… you know… curling up in a corner and crying the whole time.)

When things were really shit, I did this. It meant I mostly worked and got very little else done. But the result is that I built a new career out of thin air. One that makes me happy and helped things settle down to the extent that now I don’t have to be at panic stations the whole time.

The other interesting thing is that now that things are calming down a bit, I can do one thing much quicker and easier… And then I can do another. And another…

Which means that, after focusing on only doing one thing, I can look back at a day like today and be shocked at how much I actually ended up getting done. It becomes as simple as keeping track of what I’ve done, and actually doing something instead of fussing about it.

Et voila. My semi-inspirational thought for the day.

How are you doing? What are you busy with at the moment?

IWSG: A Fresh Start

More information here.

After about three months of drama around finding a house, we’re finally moving to a new place. In fact, I’m writing this on Monday because I know that I’ll be about knee deep into packing, loading, and moving things by the time this post comes live.

Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but it’s really feeling like this move will mostly bring to an end five years of chaos that I’ve had to cope with every day. To that end, I’m really excited to get moving, even if the amount of stuff that needs to be dealt with would have other people pulling out their hair.

But at the same time, this new start also involves a ton of processing of another sort. Emotional. If this move is to be the first day of the rest of my life, I have to cut some stuff out and leave it right here in this house.

I’ve been so locked in survival/defense/fight/flight mode that it’s become my go to. The thing is… it’s exhausting. Except for hopeful, my other single-word emotional status is currently drained. So in a lot of ways, I haven’t felt like myself for at least three years… which is also why my fiction-writing productivity took a massive hit.

I’m not a person hoping for a certain set of perfect circumstances, but when negativity and the accompanying anxiety hits often and at random, making you lose any small amount of momentum you might have gained literally the day before… It’s heartbreaking.

So the fact that I managed to get Book 3 of War of Six Crowns to any stage of completion despite this is something for me to be proud of.

But despite this and despite my growing success as a full-time writer… I’m feeling a growing sense of discontent. In a sense this is a good thing. I’m actually calm enough and able to not be at panic stations for long enough to allow me time to miss certain things I had left by the way-side to just allow me to get through.

See, I’ve been cutting back to the bare minimum so that I could keep going while dragging such a huge amount of drama with me. But now I’m very much to offload the drama right here. Which should really leave a lot of space for other things. And right now, that space feels like a void. A void of writing where I took over two years to finish a rewrite and revision because I hadn’t been able to write consecutively for more than two days in a row in over two years. A void of art because I never felt secure enough to actually commit to an art project.

Here’s the thing though, I’ve been so used to… not… fitting everything in that the thought of moving furniture around in my head is pretty daunting. It feels almost like too much of a challenge to work and write and focus on my health and do more art (other than writing) and read more and resume my French practice so I don’t lose it again and be more active on social media and… and… and… 

But the thing is that I just have to find a way. My thinking is to spend maybe the rest of the month evaluating my life and everything I want to do, and then decide how I’m going to start bringing those things in.

Do you also find it daunting to make things fit into your life? How do you approach it?

Update Day: Celebration Time

Today is the last Friday of the month, so it’s time for another Update Day for the Got Goals? Bloghop, where a few of us writerly bloggers share updates on our (lack of) progress towards our big and very important goals. If you’re curious or want to join in, click here.

September was a hectic month for me. The first few days was filled with panic and anxiety. The few weeks after that were filled with good times because one of my oldest writing buddies came all the way from Seattle to visit. At the same time, I had a major work function, major work deadlines, and… just general chaos around moving house. And I haven’t even physically moved house yet. Long story.

In short, most of my goals for this month fell by the way-side. But on the positive side, I had another record earning month despite all the chaos and I missed one of my major stepping stone goals by a relatively tiny amount. I was a bit peeved when I realized how close I got. But then I had a bit of a think and realized: Bloody hell. Two years ago, I started with starry eyes and an impossible goal. People told me not to even try this full-time writer thing. But here I am.

Full. 
Time. 
Writer.

Was it easy? No.

Was it fun all the time? Hell no.

Yet, despite all the challenges and the impossibility of what I was doing, I managed to build a thing. So yeah, a lot of other things took a knock so I could get here. This includes my writing and blogging, etc. But once we’re settled in our new house, I’ll be in a better place to actually write my own stuff than I’ve been in five years.

So all in all… Not bad.

I’m going to celebrate this month. And uh… move. Wish me luck.

How did your September go? Anything you’re celebrating?

While we’re on the subject of celebrating, an anthology I’m part of is now available for preorder. 

Enter our mysterious realms where the stories are as varied and rich as the types of soil on this and other planets. Enchanted forests are knotted with roots and vines. Dreaded paths take us through strange, unexplored places.

Investigate new worlds and houses frequented by ghosts. Come across witches and wizards and an assassin tasked to kill Death.

Meet hot robots, hungry winds, and the goddess of chaos. Explore alien lands, purgatorial realms, and a shocking place where people bury the living with their dead.

Encounter paranormal detectives, imprisoned dragons, dark demons, cursed jewels, and handsome prophets. Search shifting worlds trapped in mirrors and a disturbing future where a president aims to rid the world of Otherkind.

Experience a haunted journey on a riverboat, water sprites borne of pennies, preternatural creatures, ancient serpents, and the Lady of the Lake who lurks in dark waters.

From USA Today bestselling and popular science fiction and fantasy authors comes Elements of Untethered Realms, a supernatural compilation of the anthologies Twisted Earths, Mayhem in the Air, Ghosts of Fire, and Spirits in the Water. These forty thrilling tales feature authors Angela Brown, Jeff Chapman, Cathrina Constantine, Julie Flanders, River Fairchild, Gwen Gardner, Misha/M. Gerrick, Meradeth Houston, Graeme Ing, Simon Kewin, M. Pax, Christine Rains, Cherie Reich, and Catherine Stine.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Hello Darkness My Old Friend… And Good Riddance for Now.

Guys… Just ahead of time, my words are going to be a bit sparing today. The explanation will be forthcoming in a second.

But yeah.

I know that this is somewhere that people don’t want to go all that often, but I felt this is the best place to put this because today is time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and this is basically the mother of all of my insecurities, and I feel we have to go there. Even if it probably won’t be that well-written.

Even as I’m writing this, I’m feeling a certain level of self-censoring, because man, people do not like to talk about this… thing. This shadow of darkness that, whether we like to admit it or not, follows us all.

The world puts such a premium on everything being awesome that they don’t even like to hear when something isn’t. Unless, of course, it feeds their biases.

Think I’m lying? Next time in a social situation, if someone asks you how you’re doing, tell them you’re not doing well. I kid you not. Recently, I had a situation like this in church. Which… if you go, you know this is not the way things are supposed to go.

Other person: “How are things going? Did you get good news yet?”
Me: “Nope.”
Other person: “Oh, that’s awesome. Do you want earl gray or rooibos tea?”

But I digress.

We’re not all awesome all of the time, and sometimes, that darkness waiting in all of us wakes up to say hi. For some of us, it’s addiction, for others, rage issues or depression, for others (me included), it’s anxiety. Everyone has something. But no one really likes to talk about it because good God we can’t let others realize we’re not infallible!

The truth is, though, that we are not infallible. We’re all vulnerable to the dark corners of our mind. Most of the time, we just don’t let that side of us win. The thing is that sometimes, we’re just not on favorable grounds to win a battle against the darkness.

Take me. 90% of the time, I manage my anxiety and I do so without medication for a variety of private reasons. Which isn’t to say that I’m saying everyone should manage their issues without pills. (That would be irresponsible.) I’m just blessed in that I can.

But then my dark side shows up like an unwelcome guest and it feels like my world gets turned upside down. For me, it’s like trying to write/work/do anything with a 100-pound toddler throwing a tantrum right next to me all day long. I can (and do) still get stuff done, but I feel dulled down and less effective than I want to be and it drives me mad. And I know that if I pay too much attention to it, I’ll be useless.

At the same time, I have to process all that input and remember to put things into context. Like remembering that it’s almost certainly a neurochemical response to my environment. And remembering that it’s as much a case of my drive feeding my anxieties as it is my anxieties feeding my drive.

What do I mean by this? Part of why I’m good at the things I do is because I have anxiety (albeit in lesser concentrations) around achieving something to a certain standard. I hate failing and I hate being out of control. So my anxiety around both makes me take measures to ensure my success at the thing I’m doing as far as possible. So really, anxiety in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The issue is that I’m not perfect, and some things are not and will not ever be in my control. And its those imperfections and situations that make my dark side throw tantrums. And when that happens, my self-censoring and/or self-criticism is at its most destructive.

I was there from Sunday until last night. And honestly, it was the worst case that I ever experienced. But as bad as it was, I still feel proud because I feel like I won something. Because I fought back. Did I do so perfectly? No.

But did I let it make me miss an important deadline? No. Did it make me back out of any of my commitments? No. It was harder for me than usual, much much harder, but I made allowances the same way I make allowances for deviations from my normal expectations when I have house guests. And then I took steps to get back to normal.

Am I completely normal? Nope. I’m a bit tired. But I’m here, and I know that if I keep doing all the things that are in my control, things will keep improving and my dark side will remain in its own little corner, waiting for me to maybe do something positive with it like write.

How do you deal with your dark side?

Update Day: Mad Month

Since today is the last Friday of the month, it’s time for another GotGoals Bloghop update. If you’re also chasing down goals and want a healthy dose of monthly accountability, please click here to join in.

Well. August was a bit nuts.

Not counting the trip to France (which was awesome, by the way), some crazy stuff is happening, including, but not limited to:

1) The farm we’re living on being sold and us needing to find a new house. This is actually an old development, but I didn’t mention it before because… well… how hard could it be? The answer is… very. Long story as to how or why, involving politics which I’m contractually obligated to refrain from discussing in public (yes, really)… but right now, everyone is trying to sell their property and no one’s buying. But it also means that no one is renting out.
2) A business idea I’ve had that has been languishing on the back burner for almost two years suddenly came back to life after a few things simply fell into place.
3) My ganglion cyst basically requiring me to learn to type again so I would stop flexing my wrist.

Despite this, I didn’t do too bad with the goals I set for August:

1) Prepare for my upcoming trip to France.
Obviously done.
2) Find enough CPs for Book 3.
Done for now. Got four CPs, which I think will be enough for this revision round.
3) Start working on another manuscript while I rest Book 3/wait for CPs.
Not done for two reasons. 1) I simply didn’t have time. 2) I couldn’t type for most of early September, which means I was behind on everything when I came back. (See point #1)
4) Clear as much as possible from my contract work to-do list before I leave for France on August 9th.
The ganglion shot this one clear to hell. Along with the fact that prepping to go to France was a lot more involved than anticipated.
5) Finish two more bookmarks before I leave.
Didn’t do this. Same reasons.
6) Have a great time in France.
Done. It was amazing.

What I want to do in September:

This is tricky for me. I thought things would be calmer once I returned from France, but instead it feels like my mind is being torn in twenty directions at the same time.

1) Sort out my schedule so I don’t fall behind on my contract work again this month.
2) Complete the tasks required of me for the above-mentioned business.
3) Move house.
4) Critique the manuscript I received from one of my CPs.
5) Workshop a story idea that I created with a buddy years ago.
6) Continue to actively change my lifestyle to be healthier.

Yeah. That last one needs some explanation. The one less than awesome thing about my France trip was when I noticed that I no longer look like myself in my photos. I was bloated, mostly ashen despite makeup (Not pale. I’m always pale because I have a very fair skin. No… I’m talking about the fact that I look slightly gray.) And… well. Let’s just say it. I’m overweight. Dangerously. Class II obese.

So yeah. Last time I talked about this, I got more than a few well-meaning comments that I’m not fat and I shouldn’t call myself that. But.

At 29, I shouldn’t be thinking that at the rate I’m going, I won’t be able to move. Also. I have heart disease, diabetes, and cancer risks as well as back and hip problems because of my family history. In short, I’ve ignored my weight issues for as long as I possibly can.

I’m approaching the whole thing a bit differently, though, since the other times I tried to lose weight obviously don’t work. The main thing that this is going to rely on is self-awareness and accountability. To maintain both, I’m using a dedicated tumblr blog to keep track of my goals and progress. If you want to follow the process, you can check out the tumblr here.

One More Thing!

I almost forgot to mention this, because I keep forgetting. But September 6th is the two year anniversary of my five-year goal reset, and my decision to throw everything into the writing/publishing/freelancing thing.

So for the purposes of my record-keeping, today is also the end of Year 2 for me.

And you know what? All the crap going on in my life aside, it’s going swimmingly. In year 1, I basically made the same amount of money as I now make in a month and a half. So… yeah. It’s almost staggering to think how much my business has grown (and how much God has blessed me in this business, because I wouldn’t have landed the contract I did without some miraculous intervention.)

How did your August go?