by Jenny Hansen
"There isn’t any secret. You sit down and you start and that’s it."
~ Elmore Leonard
Last month, I took a course with Margie Lawson called Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors, which I would recommend to anyone.
Margie might have geared the course toward writers, but I've already talked a painting/designer friend and my non-writing cousin into taking it as well.
Within the first week, I identified 5+ things that will make me more productive forever. Certainly, I wasn't feeling like things could be worse.
At the beginning of her course, I stumbled across an email draft of my 2013 goals. (Coincidence? I think not.) It was an appalling moment, looking at that list, and realizing I'd only accomplished one.
The agony... Out of seven fabulous goals, I'd pulled off...ONE.
Where I wanted to wallow, Margie made us examine our previous goal lists to find out WHY we were falling short.
The most important thing I learned from all those 2013 goals?
I am not a "yearly list" kind of girl.
The goals are too big and they overwhelm me. I get lost inside them, and then I feel like a hideous, pitiful loser (I told you this process is not logical). I had the same issue with quarterly goals, although it wasn't quite as bad.
The simple act of only putting down a few small goals per day freed me, and it launched my frozen creativity into orbit. I didn't have to try to figure out some huge list, I just had to do "these two little things."
On the days when I was really smart, I'd write for 20 mins before I did anything else.
Here was my list for January (and only January):
- Complete Margie’s DSDB class.
- Write at least 15 mins of fiction 5-6 days a week – shoot for 30 mins.
- Meet with friend on the 9th to make a first steps freelance plan.
- Submit 2 queries for freelance work – doesn’t matter where.
- Sign up to teach ONE online course to begin no earlier than mid-to-late February.
I couldn't believe it when I achieved every goal. Every. One. The most beautiful thing about my new plan is that I get $hit done and then I feel better about myself.
Margie's material is proprietary so you have to take the class if you want it (she has packets too), but I will share one little thing that described my old approach to goals:
A Negative spiral. Or – How to set yourself up to FAIL:
- Make a big, overwhelming list
- Attempt a few items
- Allow yourself to be distracted, do other things
- Regarding your list items – Fail
- Become depressed
- Ignore list
- Misuse time
- Accomplish little
- More depression
Yep, that was ME the first week of January...feeling like a failure. And it wasn't logical.
Then I met with one of my pals who's a successful freelancer, and she tasked me with creating a writing resume for the freelance endeavor I described above. I had to list all the writing stuff I do and put it in resume form.
It was like pulling teeth. I hemmed, I hawed. I hadn't published a book yet, or even an "official" freelance assignment. That ugly small voice in my head asked me who the hell I thought I was. I felt completely out of my depth.
At the end of my first draft, my change coach (who holds me accountable to for all this) had to remind me of like 5 things I'd forgotten. By the time I was done, the list and it's descriptors were TWO pages.
That's not "accomplishing nothing."
I was exhibiting what Margie calls "faulty thinking." (Focusing on my shortcomings and ignoring my successes.) What about the 600 posts I've written for More Cowbell? The SocialIn Network blogs I do every Friday? My work here?
I'm coming to the realization that it doesn't really matter what I didn't do, it matters what I WILL do.
My previous thinking was undiluted crapola. FUBAR. Spotty on the logic. And I had this spotty thinking because I was scared. I think that's the dark suffocating place where most spotty thinking comes from.
We did a series on fear a few years ago here at WITS called "The Fear Thowdown" and it's always been my favorite. I think we’ve covered common writers’ fears REALLY well -- you'll have to let me know down in the comments.
There was Laura Drake’s post – Fear of NOT Succeeding – that started the Throwdown. Laura worries constantly about running out of time before accomplishing her goals.
Fae Rowen answered the challenge with a beautiful post called, “Fear of Success” where she shared that she fears not meeting expectations and submitting work that is less than perfect.
D.A. Watt balanced both sides with “Are You A Head Case? Fear No More!” Deb worries about dropping the ball in her personal list of responsibilities and spreading herself too thin trying to be “Super Me.”
I spoke on the Fear Factor of Dreams, summing up the other posts and discussing how our dreams can both help and hinder us.
Finally, if you're suffering from faulty thinking, I recommend that you pick yourself a Coach who will slap you around when you need it.
I ensured my success by picking Laura Drake as a Change Coach (yes, our Laura here at WITS) and she's been a rockstar. She sends me Facebook inspiration and encourages me to keep going. She calls and harangues me when I haven't sent her words for a while. She calls me on my faulty thinking.
Writing is often a lonely business, and no one can do it for you. But they can help. Your writing team is vital to your success while you figure out how to get out of your own way.
How do you approach goals? What kinds of faulty thinking do you suffer from? What's the #1 "goal avoidance" behavior you engage in? Who holds you accountable?
About Jenny Hansen
Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after her toddler Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.