New Year, New Goals: A Story Told in Ice

(Crosspost from See Jane Publish.)

My long holiday weekend got a little bit longer thanks to a lovely White Just-Missed-Christmas topped with an icing of, uh, ice. But since I was stuck at my computer, I figured there was no excuse not to sketch out my plans for the new year.

At first I wasn’t too excited about it…


Goal-setting is a little intimidating. I have to think ahead for a whole year?! It’s hard to see that far ahead, sometimes, and the path is slippery.

But ’tis the season for new year’s resolutions…

IMG_3154I know my big plans can only be achieved through drip-by-drip word counts and daily goals…


And so I start planning. At first it seems like a wild tangle, my brain is just a chaos of ideas and wishes and wannabes. These are my synapses on goal-setting:


But then the pieces start to come together and smooth out. Everything starts to move in the same direction. I can see a way forward through the wilderness of A. what I want to accomplish and B. what is possible. (Since I don’t have a stop-time machine.)


Eventually, my twelve-month to-do list starts to look — dare I say — rather impressive and stately…


I actually feel even inspired! I see potential brilliance hidden inside these small beginnings!


It’s early days, I know — very early days! — but I see the shape of what is to come.


With attention to my deadlines, I’ll be mowing down my goals!


If you have suggestions for launching with enthusiasm into the new year, please share in comments. And Happy New Year!

Summertime and the writing’s easy…or not

[Note: Here’s an old newsletter article I wrote for Rose City Romance Writers that I found while looking for something else on my hard drive. I’m still having the same troubles!]

Summer is a terrible time in the Pacific Northwest. Terrible for writing, that is.

July through September, the Pacific Northwest offers some of the most spectacularly perfect weather on the planet (all the more marvelous when compared to the weather October through June) with outdoor adventures that range from ocean beach tidepooling to mountain biking to high desert rock hounding. In other words, it can be hard—very hard—to sit inside, staring at a computer, getting words on the page.

As if jaunts to the coast or forests weren’t distracting enough, I’m also a gardener. Gardens can be as all-consuming as a 100,000-word work in progress. In fact, I learned a few writing tips from my garden that help me make the most of summer’s joys.

Time your fallow season

Like gardens, stories—and writers—often benefit from down-time. In a small but hard-working garden like mine, that period of rest and recuperation is winter, when nothing else is going on anyway. For my writing, I try to time my fallow moments—those times when I’m letting a story sit between revision, when I’m brainstorming a new story (which I equate to plowing under rich compost), or when I’m critiquing my writing partners—when I know I’m going to be distracted by things like sunshine, watermelon (it’s impossible to eat watermelon around a computer), and camping trips.

Work in concentrated bursts

Despite its small size, my garden has an amazing capacity to grow weeds. The thought of tackling the whole space at once is daunting (and gets me itching for a backhoe and a load of quick-set concrete) so I pick one area and whack at it for a set amount of time, then relax. For example, on a hot day, I weed the shaded north-side beds and reward myself with a popsicle in the sun. Same with my writing. I set myself goals that play to my strengths—and weaknesses. Since I like to laze around on summer mornings, I don’t even pretend I’m going to write. But in the hot afternoon when my black dog is begging to get inside out of the sun, I go up to my office with her and get my words in.

Experiment, have fun and get dirty

In the more sober and contemplative months of winter, snuggled in at my desk, I find it easier to concentrate, kind of like my winter garden pared down to evergreens and stark branches. But all work and no play… Summer in the garden, with its bright colors and sweet fruits, is a great time to try those fabulous tropical annuals, to yank things out and move things around, to go a little wild. Like a solar charger, I read more in the summer, get excited about new stories and take that energy with me back to my writing.

And never worry about excessive summer distractions. Trust me, the rains will return.

Do you even know what a laurel looks like?

Following up on my post Monday at Silk And Shadows about Happily Ever Afters…

At Deadline Dames, author Devon Monk posted about defining your success.  Go read it (while you’re at it, you’ll also want to hurry up and read — if you haven’t — her first Allie Beckstrom story MAGIC TO THE BONE, so you can read book 2, MAGIC IN THE BLOOD, now out; great heroine and worldbuilding) and then I’ll tell you what I’m finding out about success.

Everybody talks about goal setting, with small and large goals that help you chart your progress.  Presumably, those goals are helping you become successful, however you define that.  Again, you’ll probably have small and large successes, more or less easily attained. 

I’ve always kept my goals and successes as a sort of check list.  Before I sold my book, my list went something like this:
Write pages. Finish chapters. Revise story. Submit book. Submit book. Submit book. Wash rinse repeat.

Now I’ve sold a book — and put that big checkmark with exclamation points next to the list — all those earlier steps still apply, plus a host of new items: Find reviewers. Send out ARCs. Plan blog tour. Ritually sacrifice chocolate bunny to the fates in hopes of happy readers. Etc.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for that feeling of success.

I mean, the checkmark and exclamation points were great.  But…  Obviously, there’s something invisible on my checklist, something I don’t even know is there, that’s keeping me from feeling successful.  Maybe that’ll change when my book is truly out.  Or maybe my critique partners are right and my Eeyore self will never be happy.

Devon Monk describes her path to success as laying one brick after, creating the road to Oz.  So true.  I’m twisting her Yellow Brick Road a bit, but in my version, we bricklayers stand up occasionally and straighten our backs.  We critically analyze the path we’ve laid, then we look out at the horizon ahead and dream about getting there.

I suspect there are a lot of people like me, who reach each step along the road and realize it’s not quite what they thought, not quite enough.  So instead of feeling bad about myself for being greedy or discontented or pathological in some way, I’m going to go ahead and give myself a goal I can never reach.  That way, I’ll always have something to point at, to say “That’s when I’ll know I’m successful.”  And with that ahead of me, I’ll always know where I’m going. 

I’m still working (always working!) on what my ultimate success — let’s call it the infinity brick — should be.  And now that I think about it, it sounds terrible to forever be carrying a brick around.  But then again, it’s not a bad idea to keep a brick in your pocket when traveling unfamiliar paths.  A brick can be used as a stepping stone, a counterweight, a weapon… er, a pillow, if you’re desperate.

Not that we’ll be resting in them any time soon, but here’s what a laurel looks like:

SUN0909 Hedge

Do you have an infinity brick?  A final step you’ll someday take and know you’ve arrived?