Time Management, Uncategorized, Writing Goals

The Do What You Can Challenge

It’s January 2018. Nearly one month down and eleven more to go. So far, I’ve accomplished nothing. Instead of finishing the projects I started in 2017, I’ve taken on new projects. Because that’s so smart…

I’m not worried about any of it. I’m not wise enough to be worried. I’ve created a weird distance from my projects. So much so, that while I am sporadically hit with spurts of anxiety, they don’t last long enough for me to actually do anything about them. I only get anxious long enough to whine.

But I’m going to take charge! What I have to do during this season is lower the bar. I’m changing my definition of success. I’m going to work with the real me. And the real me doesn’t have enough discipline to finish a novel draft this month. However, I can write every day. I may not be able to read 100 books this year, but I can read two or three a month. I can do what I can.

For the rest of 2018, I am going to challenge myself to do what I can. I’m going to call it the “Do What You Can” Challenge and I challenge everyone to participate. Do what you can do. Actually get up and do it.

This month, starting February 1st, the shortest month of the year, I am going to write every day. I am going to sit down for at least twenty minutes and write. It can be a blog post or a journal entry, but I’m hoping to work on my novel. I’ll check in with myself to see if it works, to see if I commit.

I hope everyone has realistic goals for themselves this year and I hope everyone is showing themselves grace if they aren’t so easily met. Either way, let’s try, and if we fail it’s OK. Failing is OK.

Check-in, MFA, Uncategorized

January Check-In: Failing at Staying Energized

It’s only January 11th. Eleven days since 2018 started and I’m already out of energy. Seriously. I’m completely tapped out and I haven’t yet done anything.

My excuses are somewhat comforting: I live in the Midwest and for anyone who hasn’t heard, it’s been cold. Really cold. Below zero cold. Curl-up-in-bed-with-a-book-as-soon-as-you-get-home-from-work cold. Nevermind-that-you’re-a-student-and-you-have-writing-to-do cold. Nevermind-your-dreams, just-don’t-freeze cold.

Plus, it gets dark early and it’s hard for me to function without the ever necessary Vitamin D… *insert side-eye here*

What I don’t understand is why no one else seems to need the comfort of a well-crafted excuse? Why isn’t anyone else hiding under a blanket and enjoying the spoils of laziness? Is it that they don’t know how to make excuses or are they too busy producing content to take the time to come up with any? (I may not be great at commitment, but I excel at coming up with reasons to remain stagnant. I could help them out. It could be my first writing job!)

pexels-photo-267684

While I work hard not to covet, several of my Facebook friends finished manuscripts at the end of 2017. They’ve gotten published in lit mags. They started successful blogs. They’re actually working on 2018 goals while I eat cookies in my bathrobe. It seems that everyone is beating me in the race towards success because they won’t stop moving.

I know what I need to do. I’ve always known. I need to overcome myself. I need to get up and get writing. I need to move. Only, it’s hard and I’m tired. Plus it’s cold, and I mean really really cold… change-into-sweatpants-and-watch-Netflix-for-twelve-hours cold.

MFA, Uncategorized, Writing Goals

Failing to Fail in 2018

2017 is over. It’s the past now so there’s no need to go over it again. There’s no need to rehash how I gave up on blogging as soon as school began. We can forget that I started a new manuscript without finishing the one I was working on. Bringing up that I didn’t make any attempts to submit work would be silly. It’s too late to worry about it.

What does matter is that we can start again. This year we can choose to do the work we pushed aside last year. We can search for better ways to get it done if we have to. We can allow for false starts and backtracking as long as we keep going.

My goal for this year is to write seven hundred and fifty words a day. I’m currently using my free trial membership with 750words.com, a website that tracks whether or not its members are keeping their writing commitment.

Another goal I have is to submit to online journals. I’m going to call it Submission Sunday. At least one Sunday a month I’m either going to send my work out or to research outlets where I can. The way I see it, twelve attempts to submit will be better than the zero I’m used to.

Finally, this is the year I finish my master’s degree and I want it to count. So in 2018, I am going to take advantage of every mentor and every assignment given to me. I won’t procrastinate.

While we can’t predict what happens this year, we can receive the joy that comes from hard work and consistency. We can find the joy in doing what we love for the sake of the process. Isn’t that what it’s all for anyway? Isn’t that why we write?

MFA, Writing Goals

Who Fails at Plot?!!!

I’m taking my MFA program seriously, I promise. I really do want to be a writer, which seems to mean that I want to read On Writing and Bird by Bird over and over again. Or it means that I want to watch Stuck in Love ten thousand times.

I’m not sure if I actually want to write. Because you see, going into my office hurts. It’s only four feet from my bedroom but heading there feels like I’m trekking across the desert or climbing an iceberg. By the time I arrive I’m too tired to do anything.

A few weeks ago, I got my first comments back from my mentor. He didn’t say I suck but instead insinuated that maybe it might take me awhile to get over myself just enough to write an actual story.

So, for the sake of clarification, in case you missed anything: Not only do I spend most of my time avoiding writing but when I finally get around to it, nothing I churn out has a plot. Isn’t that just peachy!

My mentor, who is perfectly wonderful, has asked me to do an outline. Go over the top, he says. Over the top! I can’t conceive of over the top! I have no idea where over the top is!

Needless to say, I’ve had no peace for two the past weeks. I’ve been avoiding my story, my mentor, the outline, everything. And next week I have no choice. I have to start writing.

So, I’m going to spend this week walking. I’m going to walk around town with my audio recorder and talk to myself. I am going outline. I am going to fail and fail hard. And my mentor will judge me. I already know he’s gonna judge me and possibly laugh. But if I am going to be a writer, that is what writers do. Writers write words. They don’t just watch The Shining.

MFA, Writing Goals

Camp Nano Fail

I signed up for Camp Nanowrimo this year. I sign up for Camp Nanowrimo every year and I do so with high hopes. I do so while bragging about being a pantser. I sign up for a cool cabin filled with inspired YA writers. I watch virtual write-ins and binge on those motivational videos the real writers post in your Nanowrimo inbox. I even got my coworker to make me a customized book cover last year.

Now to be clear, I have won Nanowrimo. Three years in a row, I busted my butt to write those fifty thousand words. But there’s something about Camp. I have never won camp. Not once. Not in May. Not in July.

This time, I didn’t even manage to write one word. Not one single word.

And I think I’m justified in blaming my MFA program. There’s loads of reading in my program. Loads. And I’m not making excuses, but with all the reading and all the writing…. and the erasing, and the combined writing and erasing… and then pondering, and then crying, and erasing some more, I just don’t have the time to write with joy.

The sad thing is, I love all things Nanowrimo. This is not a guiltless fail. My heart is sort of broken. I love it when the nano team sends me that certificate that says I’m a winner. I so long to be a winner!

MFA

A Whole Bunch of Writers

I’m writing from the sky! (Excuse the terrible picture.)

The 2017 Spring/Fall residency is over and I am both incredibly thankful and exhausted. Nine days, four workshops, three social engagements, two mentor meetings, two public readings, and too many seminars to count, and I feel like I’ve interacted with more writers in the past week than I have all year!

Which leads me to the purpose of this post: if you need motivation, if you’re looking for inspiration, or maybe an opportunity to network, or you want to strengthen your craft skills – apply to an MFA program. If you can’t do that (which I totally understand), join or begin your own writers’ group. Find yourself some writer friends!

There’s nothing in the world like connecting with other writers. There’s nothing more motivating than having published authors, men and women who have already experienced the success you desire, take you and your work seriously. And you get that in an MFA program.

Though I’ve never been more worn out in my life, I’m excited about my writing. I’m excited about the people I connected with during the residency, and I’m also pumped for the reading assignments I’ll have over the next five months. And I know for sure, that if I do it right, I’ll end up with one hundred pages of new material. If I do it right, I’ll be one step closer to checking off one of my goals.

Explanation, MFA, Uncategorized

MFA or Bust

To recap: Following the advice of two writers I knew, I decided I would leave the MA program if I gained acceptance to a low-residency MFA program. And to put pressure on it, the MA program I was currently in, closed registration within a few days of my decision to apply. This only mattered because I was afraid that if I took a break from school, to wait for news of a Spring acceptance, I would quit. I needed direction. I needed favor. So, I prayed for just that.

Then I moved on it. I called the school on a Wednesday, to see if they would expedite my application. I was told it wouldn’t happen. To say I was disappointed, was an understatement. But I kept going. I kept waiting for God to come through. Even if God came through with a dose of perfect peace and a rejection letter.

And then, I got a call from the chair of the MFA Program. He notified me that he’d had a last minute cancellation and that my application was the only one on his desk.

The next semester’s apps hadn’t come in yet. He could read my submission if I wanted. I said yes! It took a week for the director and the board to make a decision, but the day before the workshop began, if I was offered admission. The next day I was on a plane.

God had made it so I had the money for housing and transportation. God miraculously use a fluke situation that had held up a check, that ended up being released within a week of my acceptance. God worked it out so that I had willing people to help take care of my responsibilities at home. God worked it all out.

And I am so thankful!

Explanation

The First Leap

It’s been a year since I decided to apply to a master’s program. My pastor had recently spoken about the company we keep. He’d said that if we remain in situations where we are always the smartest person in the room, we won’t grow. He said we should surround ourselves with people who inspire and motivate us through their success.

At the time, I was in a writers group, and all of the participating women were applying to professional programs. I hadn’t considered applying before then, but witnessing their confidence triggered something in me. I thought, if a new career is within reach for them, and they are adults with responsibilities, families, and jobs just like me, why can’t I have one too?

So, I applied to a local program. It wasn’t what I should have gone for, but it was close and safe. I’d heard about low-residency MFA programs, which were what I should have been aiming for, but I thought traveling would be too much. I let the thought of leaving my professional and personal responsibilities, even for a few days, scare me. I’m thankful that God doesn’t scare off so easily! Because before I ended my first quarter in the wrong program, God sent two instructors to direct me to the low residency program I’m in now. And it happened in the most miraculous way.

Stay tuned and I’ll give you my testimony. No worries, it’s a good one 🙂