2016 Work-Life Goals

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Health Goals, Writing Goals, Family Goals and Quality of Life, oh my! How am I ever going to find balance in all of that?

It’s safe to say that my health issues have trumped every other concern, desire or passion in my life for this last year (ok so most of the last decade or so, but we won’t dwell). I have a new diagnosis to add to my list, (the next condition comes with a free set of steak knives). BUT this new condition comes with a big difference = treatment options.

For the last month and a bit I’ve had more energy, less pain and way more general life oomph. Last year I moaned and complained (and cried) about being so incapacitated almost every moment of every day. I swore that if I had just a little more energy, a little less brain fog, and a modicum less pain, I’d be able to dedicate myself to the craft of becoming a writer, could do more with my family, could exercise just a little. Better health was the muse I sought and now, while she’s dancing on my shoulder, I intend to take advantage of it across the board by setting some goals.

I like goals; I like having something to strive for. Goals keep my brain focussed and make me ultimately more productive. Many of us have a tendency towards setting titanic goals that will set off fireworks and accolades across the world when we achieve them, and when we don’t we quietly try to sweep them under the carpet or down the basement stairs and hope nobody remembers us ever mentioning them. With this in mind, I’m attempting to keep my goals small, achievable and probably not worth any giant fanfare once I reach them.

The combination of health and writing plus my family commitments add up to my overall goal for 2016 – improved quality-of-life (or QoL).

1) Health and Fitness

* Losing weight. Not because I want to look good naked or impress anybody special (sorry hubby dear) but because less body fat means less weight for my joints to carry around, makes me lighter on my feet and thus more mobile which will hopefully make me more active.

* Eat healthier. This goal goes hand-in-hand with losing weight. I’m tracking my daily kilojoules intake, checking my weekly nutrition stats to ensure I’m getting enough of the good things like vitamins and a balance of macronutrients such as carbs, fat and protein. The primary goal is to eat balanced meals and avoid “the munchies”.

One thing I fail at here, regularly, is eating enough fruit. Now that summer’s in full swing I can indulge myself with summer berries and succulent stone fruits. I have to make a conscious effort to add them to my meal plan, even if it means losing that little bowl of Nice Cream (coconut based dairy free chocolate ice cream that is to die for). Yeah, that one needs a lot of work.

* Become more active. While I don’t have the returned health to take on a marathon or even attempt a C25K program, I do have the ability to walk around more, the brain clarity to drive my car a little and thus the overall desire to get out and about.

This goal will have two overall benefits, ability to spend more time with my husband and our growing son and improved overall health. We all know that being active is good for us. It was hard to be active when I was in too much pain or too exhausted to walk even down the stairs in my house.

Today I’ve enjoyed a short walk around my small property in the glorious summer sunshine. I racked up nearly 2000 steps on my FitBit, which is my current daily goal, and over the next months, I’m hoping to kick that number up. I’m not shooting for a high number (like 10K steps), but even one step more is amazing compared to last year (since writing the first draft of this article I’ve already increased my levels to 2500).

* Keep up with my conditions. Medical theories change, new discoveries are made, and new information becomes available on a regular basis. Last year I was pretty good at being proactive about figuring out what my body needed and what was wrong with it, but I discovered that doctors have limits, and I have to be my advocate.

My new specialist had never seen the arthritis compression gloves that I could no longer get by without. I found out about them by talking to other people (in groups on Facebook) who had my conditions or similar ones. I will continue to read the available information. I will keep up with my medications, go for regular checkups with my doctors and optometrist and make that appointment to see the dentist as some of my new medications can affect both my sight and my oral health. I will stay informed. Above all, I will listen to my body and talk to my doctor when I feel something is out of sorts.

* Get regular massages and see a Physio about finding the exercises that will help strengthen my core muscles and particularly my right hip without aggravating that particular source of chronic pain. I could have surgery to repair it, but they are worried they’d do more damage to the hip, so it’s live on pain killers and try to build muscle to support that area.

* Start learning dictation as a way of saving my arthritis filled fingers and wrists. It would also mean I would write while walking and thus add to my overall fitness goals but this is a tentative goal that relies on me being able to afford good dictation software. It’s not an urgent goal right now, but the sooner I start the easier a future transition would be.

Takeaway – Kilojoule-controlled eating plan with additional fruit and staying within the macronutrient balance. Increase walking and strength/muscle-building exercises. Attend regular check-ins with my GP and specialists, see the dentist and the optometrist at least twice a year (Feb & September). Stay in contact with my illness support groups. Budget weekly massages and start practicing talking to myself.

2) Write more. Write better and get some real direction with my overall writing goals.

* Learn. I want to improve the way I craft blog articles, develop my creative writing and freelance writing skills.

This goal has the potential to be huge, to boggle the mind and overwhelm me quickly. It needs to be broken down into manageable bites.

I’m starting at the moment by collecting relevant articles and popping them into Evernote. I’ll set aside reading time each day to tackle an article and try out the methods it suggests.

In the past I’ve flinched from doing too much research and practicing my skills because it seemed like a distraction from the real goal – to write – I’m now going to approach all of this more like a part-time study course. Research, practice, discussion (my various writing groups on Facebook and GoodReads are valuable for this later part).

* Publish. I want to have something published outside my own blog. Something that might even reach an audience that includes more people than my friends and family (who are probably the only people reading this post right now, love you guys).

As an example, my plan is to practice my skills, pick a handful of sites, ezines, blogs, etc. that I’d like to submit pieces too. I’d like to prepare three pieces for each one and then send them in.

* Get my WIP out to beta readers! I’ve almost completed the official first draft. My darling dearest has read it, said he enjoyed it and thus given me enough of a fist bump to my confidence for me to take the reins and pull those last 6000 words or so out of my brain and onto the page. I’ve always said that it’s the last 10% of any project that is the hardest and most time consuming and that goes doubly true for writing your first novel, and this is only the last 10% of the first draft!

* Read more. Read more diversely.
Many of my favourite authors have waxed lyrical about the need to read and the need to read outside your genre and comfort zone. I’ve already read five books and two short stories in the past month, I’m onto my sixth novel now (make that seventh), and at least one of them was outside my usual comfort zone. This year I’m going to attempt to read a novel from at least five genres not normally on my radar. I’m both excited and dreading this.

Takeaway – Read at least one article a day on writing skills. Practice both kinds of writing skills (fiction and non) everyday. Research how to research in the modern day. By mid-year have outside writing platforms and topics piked and begin research those topics and the submission expectations for publishing. Set aside at least one half day per week to work on MoK (my WIP). Read a new novel each week and ensure that at least one of those each month is outside my comfort genres.

3) Get organised. Get productive

* Put systems in place that keep me moving forward.
Some time back I listened to the audio version of Getting things done. It changed the way I organised my life, in the physical and the digital world. I’m a huge fan of Evernote, I don’t think I could function without it anymore, but it’s not enough on its on to ensure I get things done. I needed a few more systems and they all needed to integrate. To that effect, I’ve done my research and decided to try a combination of Sunrise calendar, with Evernote, Trello, Mail, and Todoist. I needed systems that would sync across all my devices and connect with my husband for joint projects and would sync scheduling deadlines into my calendar. Now that I have the software, the real goal is to make use of them until using them is second nature, the way Evernote already is.

* Daily Routine.
It’s been hard for me to schedule my life. You guessed it; my health makes planning a bust. I could never tell if today was going to be a good day or a complete write-off. One minute I would be feeling awesome and literally thirty seconds later I could crash in pain or my brain would fill with pea soup. This remission is still a scary, tentative phase for me right now; I’ve had remission periods before that have suddenly vanished leaving me with dreams in shatters. But I want to be positive and look forward.

To this end, I’m going to look at developing a routine as opposed to a rigid schedule. Something that is flexible, open to shifts without it becoming useless and thrown aside when it becomes bloated and inconvenient. Our 2016 is going to be huge, it’s going to be full of change, and I need to be able to flow with that. This goal requires a great deal more research and thought to smooth out.

Takeaway – Upgrade my Todoist account and possibly Feedly. Start each morning by reviewing my calendar, Evernote inbox, Trello cards, email and Todoist, schedule my day as it presents itself.

4) Travel and Learn a foreign language

Well, this one’s a no-brainer actually. My lovely sister-in-law is getting married in July, in France. We have decided to head over to Europe, via America, for up to say six months of this year. As a result I’ve been dedicatedly learning French via Duolingo, with moderate success, I’m apparently 18% fluent in French, but please don’t ask me to say anything as my mind goes completely blank when I try, so that will be an area for improvement.

I’ve wanted to go to Europe my entire life; truth be told I want a time machine (a TARDIS would be nice) so I can travel to the parts of the world during the time periods that most attract me, but I’ll settle for the current day and an airplane until then.

* Journal everything.
While I travel I want to record, visually and in words all the new and beautiful and ancient things that I suddenly have the opportunity to see. One of the most powerful things about my trip to the USA four years ago wasn’t anything to do with America actually; it was the ancient Obelisk (Cleopatra’s Needle) in Central Park, New York.

Not only did I get to see this ancient artifact, but I was able to touch it and imagine the world it inhabited hundreds and hundreds of years in our past. Ancient artifacts are not something you get many opportunities to see in the Southern Hemisphere (outside a museum), even our First Nations history is too recent for my tastes. It’s not on the scale, quantity, and time scale, available in the North.

Europe is, oh dear I’m going to say it, like an onion. Layers and layers of history and cultural shifts going back to the beginning of civilisation and I’m finally going to able to brush shoulders with it.

I don’t want to forget this experience. I want to use what I see and learn in my future writing, to bring a deeper truth and reality to my worlds and characters, to bring a far greater diversity and realism to my prose.

* Homeschooling!
Yeah… As we’ll be pulling our son out of school (he’ll be seven just after we leave) for about two terms we are going to have to compensate, to still provide him with a formal education. That means homeschooling. I’m excited, intrigued, apprehensive and ready to run for sheer terror at this massive undertaking. I know it’s only six months of his life, and we can’t screw him up too much, but I can’t help worry we will anyway. I think this fear is active, it’s healthy, and it will help us to do better than we would if we were laid back about the whole shebang. It’s just very overwhelming on the whole – especially added to all those other goals above.

But we have some semblance of a plan. We have resources. We can do this.

Takeaway – Set aside personal time each evening while traveling to go through photos, jot down thoughts and reflections on the day and play with all of this in my journaling apps. By end of March have homeschooling curriculum sorted with alternate systems for when the current one fails.

And that’s it. That’s my whole 2016 plan.

I want to give thanks to www.thecreativepenn.com for the inspiration to write this post for myself. Let’s hope at the end of the year we can compare our achievements with a warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction in a life well-lived.

I’d love to hear what goals others have for 2016, so please feel free to post in the comments, on my Facebook page or via a link to your blog.

Posted in My rambling thoughts Tagged with: , , , , ,

My summer reading list

I’ve had a wonderful holiday to Australia this past month and took the time to indulge in many glorious hours of reading. I’ve enjoyed the books I devoured over the last four weeks so much that I thought I’d share them here (in reverse order of reading):

by Charles de Lint
by Charles de Lint
I hope to write a review for these books in the coming weeks, stay tuned. If I had to choose just one of these books to recommend to you right now, it would have to be The Night Circus by Morgenstern, Erin. This was just superb. I never wanted it to end. It’s my dream to be a true Reveur.
Posted in My rambling thoughts, On Reading Tagged with: , ,

Musical muse

Many authors swear by music to sooth the savage beast that is their muse. Some folks change their tunes based on the mood or genre of the piece. Switching things from death metal to celtic ballads can mean all the difference in how they write a scene. One member told us that while she wrote one of her novels, unless she was listening to Kid Rock, the words didn’t flow at all.

Then there are those of us who can’t listen to anything that even whispers of a lyric, like myself. I can’t help myself, (it’s you and nobody else), see, just the beginning lines of a song, a hint of the chorus and that song occupies my brain. It’s impossible for me to think and write clearly when songs I know well, or even those I know a single line from, start whirling around in my brain. Thankfully I’m not alone.

Muse

I’ve posted before on the wonderful benefits I’ve received from the Women Writers, Women’s Books group on Facebook. This time the topic was, (have you guessed it?), music for writing. When I searched the conversation archives, I found many such posts. I took some time, scoured the posts and, compiled a list of the groups recommendations.

There were several endorsements for creating stations or playlists in Pandora and Spotify and just letting them run. I, personally, use Pandora, and can recommend it. My husband’s Pandora account plays advertisements (which would drive me up the wall), but mine doesn’t, not sure why, luck of the draw perhaps. Apple is also trying to get into the market but, like Spotify, I’m yet to try out their service. The only problem with this approach is that you can’t entirely control what gets played, so you may get jolted out of “the zone” by an unexpected blast of canons fire or bashing symbols, be warned.

Top Recommendations

  • Classical music, in general
  • Earlier period classical (a brief history of music can be found brief history of music)
  • Baroque (Bach,Handel and Telemann)
  • Haydn
  • Mozart (one member reported it as “hurry-up music and it affected her pace, might be good for a writing sprint)
  • Renaissance
  • Debussy rates pretty high and is a personal favourite of mine
  • Neils Bijl (beautiful classical saxophone)
  • Schubert
  • Adagios by Barber and Albinoni
  • Chopin
  • Beethoven
  • Stravinsky and Mussorgsky (for a more “punky” mood)
  • Brahms (for a spiritual mood)
  • Rimsky Korsakov (for high drama)
  • Music in a foreign language (like Kavin Kundra’s Tere Liye). Just make sure it’s a language you don’t speak.

The point of music is to inspire you and help your muse to whisper the right words into your ear. I like music that takes me away from the reality of my desk and switches of that thinking, critical part of my brain, letting the creative side flow freely.

If you have any other recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

Posted in My rambling thoughts Tagged with: , , , ,

NaNoWriMo Calendars

Print

Planning on doing NaNoWriMo 2015? Then you need a calendar to count off those days and, more importantly, that word count.

I’ve created two printable calendars that will help you win NaNo2015.

The first calendar is your default 1667 words per day. This is your NaNo stock-standard word count goal. You can check off the days as you go with that growing sense of satisfaction at seeing your word count grow each day. I’ve also provided your weekly goal so if you fall behind one day you can aim to have it back up to the weekly total by Saturday night.

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Nanowrimo_standard

 

 

 

Number two is my personal favorite. Many people, myself included, start out strong with their life goals, new years resolutions and NaNo word counts included. However, we start to slow down as the days and weeks progress. Those lofty goals get pushed aside as “life” gets in the way. Not this month.

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With the second calender you have a daily word count that starts off HUGE and then decreases to a piddly couple of hundred words on the last day. But, you also get two “catchup” days in the first and second weeks and one in the third week. I like this method best because, well, you know what they say about good intentions, life happens and you pave that road to hell (if you believe in hell, which I don’t, but I like the metaphor).

 

The other thing I like about the second calendar is that you can just ignore the daily word count goal and focus on the weekly goal. Strive high in those first two weeks and relax a little in the final two and a bit. I like breathing room, it helps me, well, breath. For those with young kids, chronic illnesses, unexpected work hours etc, seeing a more flexible goal can really relieve the stress – wait, there’s an idea.

 

Ok, some fiddling with my documents, another screen grab and BAMO I now have a third calendar choice – write your own goal. I’ve added a tiny reminder around the halfway mark to encourage you towards having that 25k by then. Add your own daily goals that fit around your own personal life schedules, do it in advance or at the start of each week when you know how your schedule might fit around your writing.

Nano_fillyourown

 

 

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Good luck everyone, let me know if you find these calendars helpful, share them around as much as you like.

 

A few other useful NaNo2015 resources are:

 

P.S – has anyone seen my muse? I’m sure she’s around here somewhere…

Posted in My rambling thoughts, NaNoWriMo Tagged with: , , , ,

Top 20 books for writers

Another gem to share from my Women Writers, Women’s books group on Facebook. Someone asked for book recommendations for budding authors, the responses piled in, as you would expect, but one awesome member compiled the responses into an easy reference list (thanks Wendy):

The top 20 books for would-be authors

(you can find them all on my Goodreads shelf)

  1. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
  2. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
  3. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  4. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  5. Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
  6. Write Away by Elizabeth George
  7. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King
  8. How Not to Write a Novel by Sandra Newman
  9. Becoming a Writer by Dorthea Brande
  10. Write to be Published by Nicola Morgan
  11. Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life by Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz
  12. Never too late: your roadmap to reinvention by Claire Cook
  13. The Writer’s Little Helper by James V. Smith, Jr.
  14. Stephen King- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
  15. The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass
  16. Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke
  17. Harry Bingham’s books
  18. Monkeys with Typewriters by Scarlett Thomas
  19. Editor-Proof your Writing by Don McNair
  20. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

As a bonus I’d also like to highly recommend the following, I’ve used these books a lot recently and want to give them a shout out:

  1. K. M. Weiland‘s books – Outlining your novel, and Structuring your novel and their associated workbooks
  2. The Positive Trait Thesaurus, The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Emotion Thesaurus, by Rebecca Puglisis and Angela Ackerman

I find when I get stuck, I can flick through these books and they help trigger a new way of looking at the story, a scene or character that sparks me off again.

 

Do you have a must-read guide for writing or a particular book you constantly find yourself referring back to? Tell me about it and I’ll add it to the list.

 

Posted in My rambling thoughts, On Writing, Tools Tagged with: , , , , ,
Has anyone seen my muse

I am many things, among them mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, spoonie and most emphatically, writer. Read More

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