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Life Lessons Gleaned from Novel Writing

By Carolyn Astfalk

After I’d given birth to my first child, I vowed I’d never allow any task or experience to intimidate me again.

After all, despite my worries and fears, I’d just delivered a little human being, sans medication no less. If I could do that, I could accomplish anything.

But time has a way of dulling memories, especially those surrounding childbirth. (Thanks be to God.)

When in November of 2010, I decided to give National Novel Writing Month a shot, I was intimidated.

Surely fifty thousand words in thirty days would be less daunting than childbirth, right? But the bold sense of empowerment I’d felt after my son was born had faded. And childbirth had a clear advantage when it came to completion. A healthy pregnancy culminates in birth at the appointed time without much determination on my part. Birthing a novel? Those words weren’t going to write themselves, pushing themselves out of orifices and spilling onto a page in a coherent format, i’s dotted, t’s crossed, plot threads wrapped as neatly as a swaddled newborn.

Completing a novel may be a monumental task often compared to birthing a child, but the truth is, it takes a different set of life skills.

What I discovered, however, after completing those fifty thousand words and several books worth more, is that those skills and habits translate well into other areas of life. The lessons I’ve learned can be applied to a variety of tasks, projects, and seemingly unattainable aspirations. Put simply, writing novels taught me how to accomplish big goals over long periods of time.

Here are the universally-applicable life lessons I’ve learned:

  • Never stop learning. However much you may know or think you know, you’ve not learned everything there is to learn. However skilled you’ve become, you can improve. Whether it means taking classes, skimming blogs, listening to podcasts, attending workshops, or reading books, others have lessons to share with you. Be a ready learner, easily teachable and eager to improve.
  • Be patient. Big tasks take time, particularly those that involve big changes and new ventures. The world is not waiting for your success. Often what you see in your mind’s eye is a streamlined path to success and completion, free of barriers, setbacks, or a realistic assessment of how much time things take to come to fruition. Do not rush to the finish simply in order to check an item off of your list. Take the time to do things the correct way, even if it adds weeks, months, or years to your plans. Things worth doing are worth doing right.
  • There will be setbacks. There will be sick children, family emergencies, death, births, vacations, and celebrations. Your pace will slow or you’ll backslide. Your motivation will wane. Your time will ebb. Your feelings will change. Persistence is imperative. Don’t worry so much about your rate of progress so long as you resume moving in the right direction, however slow your progress,
  • Get over yourself. Humility is an underrated virtue. Yes, you are unique and special, and perhaps your accomplishment is stellar. But there are millions of other unique and special people on the planet who have also done great things. Maybe things much greater than your thing. Don’t let pride creep in, preventing you from accepting constructive criticism or the simple fact that everyone has an opinion and you’ll never please everyone. You can accept that even if what you’ve done isn’t the best or greatest, it has value, if not for others then at least for you.
  • You have unique value independent of whatever you do or don’t do. You may fail. You may succeed. You’ll probably do both many times over. Regardless, you retain your dignity. Don’t confuse who you are with what you have or haven’t done.
  • Don’t go it alone. Even the most introverted of introverts can’t go it alone. We’re meant to live in a community. You’ll need others, even if only a few trustworthy allies, to offer a listening ear, a helping hand, or a commiserating (maybe virtual) hug. Learn from others’ mistakes and successes, and then share your experiences with others. Having trouble staying motivated? Your compatriots can offer accountability too.
  • Just because you can’t do a lot doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all. It’s the old “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” So, you’re only able to make minimal progress. Maybe your rate of success is abysmal. That does not negate the value of what you’re doing. Small steps, small increments of time, and little acts, however seemingly insignificant, have purpose and meaning and will eventually grow into something much larger.
  • Don’t make your ambition your life. This thing you hope to accomplish, it’s not everything. Balance your life as best you can, being sure to care for yourself as well as the important people in your life. Make relaxation and your spiritual life a priority. You will be better off for it. Time spent outside of the relentless pursuit of your goal is not wasted time. Time spent re-charging or re-fueling, or sometimes, doing nothing of consequence, is exactly what you need.

Success – let’s be real, getting by – in some areas of our lives comes easier than others.

You may not need reminders or lessons in some disciplines. Because I had the necessary drive to write that first novel, I hung in there long enough to learn these lessons. The challenge is to apply them in cases in which my natural motivation is lacking.

With fourth births and three published novels behind me, I hope I can take these lessons and apply them to other areas in my life. Maybe I could apply them to the neglected areas I choose to avoid or ignore for the same reason that so many people set aside the seemingly impossible idea of writing a novel. Things like adding exercise to my routine, keeping up with the housecleaning, de-cluttering neglected areas of the home and garage, losing weight, and on and on. Surely you have a similar list. (Please say that you do.)

I’ve written a novel, but that was just the beginning. The lessons I’ve learned will help me accomplish my other goals too.


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Top 10 Ways Good Marketing Is Like Good Parenting or,

What’s Your Definition of Success?


 

Carolyn AstfalkCarolyn’s debut novel, Stay With Me, will be released on October 1, 2015. At that time, she hopes to earn a few pennies to contribute to her family’s wealth and offset the time and financial drain of her word habit. Until then, you can find me playing with letters and words at My Scribbler’s Heart Blog. Carolyn resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

What’s Your Definition of Success?

In my mind, success looks like stacks and stacks of books at a wholesale store.

Every time I go to Costco, I pass the end table where the books are and I look and I say to my kids, “Someday, my books will be there.” To me, that a mark of success.

If I come to that point in my career, then I have a tangible reminder of the success I’ve accomplished. And I want this to be the right kind of book — a novel — not an “I lived through a disaster and now I’m going to tell you my story” kind of book.

What's Your Definition of Success?

The authors who have books at Costco are household names. That’s why they’re there. So when ordinary moms like me are out buying cereal and fruit and twenty pounds of chicken thighs, they can look and say “THAT BOOK!” or “THAT AUTHOR!” if you get your books at Costco, you’ve already paid a LOT of dues. You’ve put in your time and worked hard. Those books at Costco sell themselves.

If Costco is my measure of success, it has to come after a million more tiny successes preceding it.

I will have to be successful in building a platform and attracting the type of publisher who usually deals with Costco. I’ll have to write not just THE book but book after book after book to get me to the place where THE BOOK is more attainable.

My definition of success is not a one-time deal after all. It's a journey.

But if I am so bold as to have such a finite measure, then there are some questions I need to ask myself.

If this is my definition of success then what will happen after I achieve it? What then?

If this is my definition of success then what will that make me if I don’t achieve it?

What if I do all the work, write all the words, put out all the books, develop the platform and never make that goal of having books at Costco?

Or what if this? What if you get to the goal and you find out that it is not satisfying? What if that goal isn’t enough?

I believe a healthy definition of success is one that doesn’t tie our identities to it.

The goal of having books sold at Costco is kind of arbitrary, really. Perhaps there are other measures that are just as satisfying, just as attainable and just as worthy of a celebration. Maybe my definition of success should include other things too, like selling thousands instead of hundreds, getting on a best-seller list, or earning enough that I could support my family.

I also believe that healthy definition of success should be based on what I can do today.

  • Did I write 1000 words?
  • Did I read great books?
  • Have I tackled my to-do list?
  • Have I practiced the discipline that being a writer requires?

If I focus on these day to day goals my big Costco goal becomes less intimidating. It also becomes less important. I should be proud of what I do on a daily basis so that if my “success” never comes, I can look back and say, “I did my very best.”

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I’d like to suggest that we balance our to-do list and daily word counts with a mindfulness of contentment. Today is a success if we give all we’ve got.

We are successful if we:

  • Choose to work with hope.
  • Tick things off the to-do list with joy.
  • Don’t beat ourselves up if we fail.
  • Put relationships first.
  • Never compare what we do to what others do.
  • Stretch ourselves, grow as artists.
  • Never give up.
  • Enjoy the journey.
  • Write regularly.
  • Read regularly.

Conversely, we are failures if we:

  • Compare ourselves to others.
  • Try to please everyone.
  • Disrespect the rules of excellence.
  • Disrespect our readers with shoddy work.
  • Feel sorry for ourselves when we don’t succeed on the first try.
  • Obsess about numbers, like sales or followers or rankings.
  • Lack discipline.
  • Expect instant success.
  • Isolate ourselves from other writers.
When we get to the end of our writing careers, we need to be proud of what we’ve done, who we’ve touched, and how we grew into something bigger.
Perhaps it will translate into sales somehow or a bestselling list or a table at Costco. You never know.

Success should not just be what happens to us that day. Success comes every day that we make good decisions about how we spend our time, what attitudes we embrace, in whom we’ve encouraged.

Ted Talks have an amazing collection of videos about this concept of success and how it shapes us. I highly recommend them. If that doesn’t inspire you, check out this article on how famous people define success. Note how few of the definitions are as absolute as my Costco one. Then, Harvard Business Review asks the same question I ask, “What Does Success Mean To You?” Perhaps by seeing what the experts say, you can clearly define what success means to you and be inspired to be excellent every day.

So what is your definition of success?

 What are you doing today to make it happen?


If you liked this post, you may also like:
Top 10 Effective Ways I Deal With My Evil Inner Critic or,
Top 10 Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful

 


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Free & Not-So-Free Writers’ Conferences For The Poor And Anthropophobic

 

It’s Conference Season!

Another spring has arrived and you will not be going to a writer’s conference. I’m so sorry. I’m not either.

I’ve been trying to get to the ACFW conference in September every fall for the last ten years and I’m not any closer now than I was ten years ago.  I did, however, get to go to the Mountain Valley Writers’ Conference in Lake Guntersville, Alabama a few weeks ago. And I have the bug to go, and speak, at another one. But it may not be for a while. I loved speaking to a group of writers. But then I had to talk to them and that was scary!

Because I can’t go to writers conferences, I can do one of two things. One…

The other option, and the one that is a lot more entertaining, IMHO, is to create my own conference!

You can do this too!

Free and Not So Free Writers Conferences for the Poor and Anthropophobic

If you do your own conferencing in the privacy of your own home, it’s free and there’s the added bonus of not actually having to talk to people.

For us financially strapped anthropophobes out there, this is a win-win.

I’ve created a list of some of the hundreds (if not thousands) of free resources for writers online.

This is NOT exhaustive. But it will certainly get you started if you can’t afford to go out to learn how to be a great writer. There are blogs, websites, videos, virtual conferences, podcasts and groups you can participate in. And DON’T forget your local library (although you should put clothes on to go there, and you may have to actually speak to someone!)

Need To Feel Like You Are Actually At A Conference?

Colgate Writer’s Conference on YouTube, Or The Thriller Online Writing Conference or the Science Fiction and Fantasy Conference.

Need To Listen To Celebrity Authors Talk About Writing?

 Anne Rice on YouTube, Susan Conley at TedTalks, Rick Riordan,  Need more? How about the 15 Best Youtube Channels for Writers?

Support 10 Minute Novelists

General Fiction Writing Tips and Strategies?

Start here: Inside Creative Writing, episode one from Florida State University, then, you can YouTube search: fiction writing. Or try Gotham Writers Workshop!  You will find DOZENS of videos to watch. Watch them all!

Need Ideas For Marketing?

 Eighty-nine book marketing ideas that will change your life. And Five Easy Ways To Publicize and Promote Your Book or, if you’re a member of the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook Group, you can read the feed of the chat we had a few weeks ago “Messy Mash-Up Marketing Marathon: My Notes From The MacGregor Literary Seminar”.  What? You’re NOT A MEMBER OF OUR FACEBOOK GROUP?  You can click here and join!

Getting restless? Wanna actually do some writing?

 Here’s a link to 10 Universities that offer free writing courses! FREE EDUCATION!  All you poor impoverished xenophobes out there don’t even have to get dressed!

Other things you can do!

Listen to podcasts. Here’s a link to the best podcasts on writing. 

Sign up for writers groups. Here are online writers groups that can help you!

Read everything about writing you can get your hands on at your library. Here’s a list of the best books on writing! 

Find a coach or mentor. This article tells you how to do that! 

Read agents’ blogs. Read editors’ blogs. Ask authors if you can interview them.

Don’t forget to write!

And Follow Our Pinterest Boards!

10 Minute Novelists have over fifty writing related boards on Pinterest that link you to hundreds of resources on craft, marketing, social media, writing prompts, structure, character, everything!

And if you are willing to attend a live one, make it this one. We’d love to have you!

Yes, I have to stand next to the financially strapped and anthropophobic writers this year, but that’s not an excuse for not learning all I can about how to write well. If I can do it, you can too! 

What To Do When Darkness Keeps You From Writing

I have a section in my book called Facing The Darkness.

Most writers I know have a resistance. This is usually an antagonistic force that they need to deal with before they put words on paper. This darkness has been misunderstood — at least by my readers — in that some think that it’s about the thriller or horror genre (nope) or that it’s an excuse not to write. This darkness is deeper than a lack of motivation or lack of creativity. The darkness I’m referring to are the penetrating lies that are keeping you from pursuing your dreams.

If you don’t have darkness, then consider yourself blessed.

What to do When Darkness Keeps You From Writing

Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way,  calls this darkness “core negative beliefs.” She writes:

None of these core negatives need be true. They come to use from our parents, our religion, our culture, and our fearful friends. Each one of these beliefs reflects notions we have about what it means to be an artist.

Once we have cleared away the most sweeping cultural negatives, we may find we are still stubbornly left with core negatives we ahve acquired from our families, teaerhs, and friends. They are are often more subtle -- but equally undermining if not confronted. Our business here is confronting them. 

My darkness was over forty years deep.

My own core negative beliefs included: “My dreams aren’t worth the trouble.” “I’ll probably never succeed, so why try?” “I’m not good enough.” “I’ve failed before, so I’ll probably fail again,” and “shouldn’t wifehood and motherhood be enough?”

It took me many years to completely free myself from these. And even though I am pursuing my dreams (and have published books to show for it) I still wrestle with this darkness occasionally. I understand that my darkness is a powerful force and has the ability to paralyze me and keep me in anxiety and fear.

I understand that my darkness is a powerful force and has the ability to paralyze me and keep me…

What you can do to fight your darkness:

Find someone to talk to. Best scenario? A licensed therapist is a really good bet and most insurances will cover it. Even if you can’t find someone, try a support group, look at meet up or search an online group.It’s likely that you’ll find someone who has been in your similar circumstances.

Write your frustrations out. I highly recommend using the exercises in  The Artist’s Way as a good place to start. Even if you don’t pick up that book, you can still find mental and emotional benefits in writing our your pain. And lucky for you, science is on your side with the therapeutic benefits of writing.  

Know yourself. If you’re agitated, you need to figure out why. If you’re angry, you need to own up to it without feeling guilty about it. Clarifying your emotions is the best way to know how to deal with them. Through talking with someone or writing, be honest with what has upset you and deal with it appropriately.

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Know that everyone has dark days. It took me decades to realize that if I were having a tough day, either emotionally, physically or creatively, that it was normal. Once I started being aware of sleep patterns, hormone cycles, how often I exercised, and what I ate, I could do something about it. I didn’t know how important self-care was until I was an adult. Often I start with the basics and find I can keep the darkness at bay.

Stay away from substances. Apparently, sensitive writer types like to look for stimulants or depressants in order to get inspiration. I wonder where we got this idea that this would help? As tempting as it is to drink, smoke, or shoot up to ignore or at least temporarily mute the darkness in you, it’s a poor long-term solution. But you should know this. If you’re having trouble staying away from substances, get help. You deserve to be at your best in all of your life.

Know that you’re in good company artistically. Steven Pressfield makes a big deal about The Resistance in his book Do The WorkFor some artists, it is a daily battle to make the right choices. Everything in you could be telling you that the easy, comfortable and safe paths are the way to happiness. They’re not. As he says,

“The three dumbest guys I can think of: Charles Lindbergh, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill. Why? Because any smart person who understood how impossibly arduous were the tasks they had set themselves would have pulled the plug before he even began. Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur’s indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be—and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway. How do we achieve this state of mind? By staying stupid. By not allowing ourselves to think. A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate. Don’t think. Act.” 
― Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

Stop and reflect.  Meditation or relaxation tools are available to help you deal with your darkness. In my darkest times, I found that concentrating on the good things in my life was helpful. I also make a point of retelling my own success stories to myself so that I can find the courage to face the future.

You can be bigger and more powerful than your darkness.

You are worth fighting for.


Did you like this post? You may like these too:

Nine Questions To Ask If Writers’ Block Has You By The Throat

Or, 5 Hopeful Strategies For When You Don’t Have Time For Your Dream


Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Five Signs To Keep Writers From Going Wrong

By TLC Nielsen

Are you a Writer Gone Wrong?

10 minute novelists are an upbeat, happy group of writers striving to be all they can word-ly be.

But unbeknownst to many is another, small group of writers who hoard their words, shudder from social interaction with other (competing) authors, and cannot restrain themselves from talking/chatting/emailing about their books, blogs and other writings far more than necessary. This group of writers took dangerous forks on the writerly road, ending up down a path they never intended to take.

Here are 5 road signs to keep you, and me, from joining Writers Gone Wrong!

5 Road Signs To Keep Writers From Going Wrong by TLC Nielsen

Road Sign #1 Writing Conferences- To go or Not to go

Beware the path that leads you away from attending writing conferences. I’m thankful my writing path started 6 years ago when a persistent writing friend invited me to a local, annual writing conference. Yes, it was expensive, but so is any 4-day conference with room and board attached. It took two years of writing for a scholarship before I won a full-ride award. By attending this conference, I moved from being an amateur writer to becoming a serious wordsmith. I proved to myself, my family and other writers that I was “in it to win it.” I have gone to a yearly writing conference ever since and I wouldn’t have finished my novel without the support I found there. Attending a conference also gave me a deadline, making me work harder and smarter to have my one-sheet, short biography, and manuscripts ready to go.

Road Sign #2 Word Hoarding versus Sharing

Finding an amazing critique group requires some hunting and some sacrifice of time but the alternative is scary. Left to themselves, writers gone wrong will think everything they’ve written is amazing or, more like me, that it all stinks and should be destroyed before anyone can smell, I mean read it. Writers need to be actively involved with a peer group of fellow wordsmiths they can trust to help them edit and improve. The first draft isn’t called the “vomit” draft1 for no reason.

It took me three years of attending that local writing conference before I found a handful of writers who lived close enough to me to start a critique group. I trust these writers because of their keen insight and the amazing works they share with the group. I had been involved with a library writers’ group previously, which left me scarred and scared; there were a few alpha writers who positioned themselves to be in control. That was my first experience with writers gone wrong and it took me ten years before I would try again. So, as a self-confessed word hoarder, I implore all writers to become word sharers, even if it means starting your own critique group and having to be its president for a few years. The benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.

“Writers need to be actively involved with a peer group of fellow wordsmiths they can trust to help them edit and improve.” — TLC Nielsen

It’s truly an honor and privilege for me to be involved with the serious writers in the On the Border chapter. When this group first started, we looked at a variety of organizations before choosing to join Word Weavers, International. These organizations are a great way to get support and find writing groups in your area. I joined the 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook about the same time my critique group started and my fellow writers, both online and in-person, are responsible for my success as a word sharer on this word-strewn journey…together.

I joined the 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook about the same time my critique group started and my fellow writers, both online and in-person, are responsible for my success as a word sharer on this word-strewn journey…together.

Road Sign #3 Lone Ranger or Accountability Partner – that is the question

Writers who’ve gone wrong may sometimes attend a writing conference and occasionally pop into a critique group. They may be too much of the lone ranger type to seek out a mentor or accountability partner. When I attended my first conference five years ago, the presenters hammered out the trifecta of writer success: conferences, critique groups and one-on-one relationships. Eugene H. Peterson in a 2017 publication summed it up well: “I am not myself by myself.”2 He may have been referring to the church, but I think his statement stands for writers – I am not my writerly self by myself. If no one reads my words, I am simply a journal writer, not an author. To be an authentic author takes accountability, sometimes the uncomfortable kind.

Road Sign #4 Using Your Writerly Powers for Good or…

Do you give or take in your writing? Literary agent Leslie Stobbe said if you want to be a writer, then write! 3 Find an organization to use your skills to help, for the need of volunteer writers is vast. There are numerous ways to use your word powers for good. Here are two basic mainstays: always a) quote your sources and b) ask for permission to use other folks’ words whenever possible.

However, there can be a dark side to having writerly powers, when it’s too easy for authors to stray into taking more than they give.  Oh, they may pretend to offer something for free but there’s a catch – you owe them. A true gift comes with no strings attached. It takes dedicated effort to use words to help others, whether offering to write guest blogs for writer friends, volunteering free writing services to a worthy organization, or sending thoughtful letters to others – just give back full-heartedly. And remember the advice from Leslie, if you’re a writer – then write.

“Being a participating member of 10 Minute Novelists is a great start!”

— TLC Nielsen

Road Sign #5 Decimal Point Growth or Decline

In chatting with my mother, a published botanist, she encouraged me to mention becoming Decimal Point writers, “people who are incrementally increasing their skills.”4 She clarified that even though 1.4 writers are still considered at “1” a small increase to 1.6 catapults them towards “2.”

Writers who have gone wrong, however, tend to think in extremes – I’m a “10+” or I’m a “0”. I’m learning to celebrate the small incremental steps of my writing journey in order to dodge the doubt that plagues me. My small successes include reading books for pleasure while on the stationary bike, writing a monthly blog and bringing something, anything, to the critique group to which I belong. I’m also entrusting my novel to beta readers, a step of trust in my word-ly journey. 

While my book has not been published yet, I hold on to the 10 minutes a day commitment that gets me ever closer to my goal. 

The choices writers make EACH DAY will either expand or contract their growth: in conference attendance, word sharing commitment, community mindfulness and accountability and, most importantly, in giving back.


1 Bob Hostetler, WTP 2016 conference, Wheaton, Illinois. “Vomit draft” quote, source unknown.

2 Eugene H. Peterson, CT Pastors: “The State of Church Ministry in America”, 2017 (p. 30)

3 Leslie Stobbe, WTP 2012 conference, Wheaton, Illinois

4 Botanist Linda W. Curtis, self-published author of three books on plants:

Aquatic Plants of Northeastern Illinois, Bog-Fen Carex of the Upper Midwest and Woodland Carex of the Upper Midwest.  Permission granted


TLC Nielsen fights her writer-gone-wrong tendencies by being the current VP of the Word Weavers On the Border writing chapter, mentoring new attendees at a local writing conference, and belonging to the 10 MN group. She’s editing her first novel, By Land or Sea, and will be attending only one conference this year, at her spouse’s request. She uses her writerly powers for the better by occasionally judging book contests. Her decimal point increases include playing trombone on Rich Rubietta’s CD Resting Places, contributing a story on p. 68 of I Believe in Healing by Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk, belonging to the 365 Writing Club here at 10 MN as well as interviewing ordinary folks with extraordinary stories at this monthly blog: https://lookandbe.blogspot.com.  You can find her occasionally on Twitter as Read2Mii2.

Top 10 Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful

By Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

I believe we can accomplish great things if we get our thought life under control.

Good thoughts produce good habits. Good habits produce good patterns. Good patterns help us grow in discipline, which makes us more confident, which allows us to succeed. 

I strongly encourage you, as you are facing the end of this year and the beginning of the new one, that you consider what you think about and focus only on the good things. 

In June, I posted, Top 10 Things You Could Be Saying To Yourself That Will Guarantee Your Failure As A Writer  Today I want to do the opposite!

op Ten Things You Should Be Saying To Yourself That Will Help Make You More Successful

1. Everybody Makes Mistakes.  This is huge! You need to be reminded that every successful writer has a team behind them of editors, agents and publishers that help them make their book the best it can be. Don’t freak out over the errors in your manuscript. Just fix them and move on!

2. Tomorrow Is Another Day. Plan on making every single day the best you can to pursue your goals, but be realistic. Some days, you’re not going to get your words in, or write that blog post, or get those tweets out. It’s okay. Try again tomorrow when life doesn’t interrupt.

Think postivie (1)

3. Look How Far I’ve Come! It’s easy to get discouraged when you see so many authors around you who are more successful than you are. Instead of looking to the left or the right, look behind you. Remember where you were a year ago, or two years ago and get excited! You’ve made remarkable progress!

4. My Book Isn’t For Everybody. This is a tough one to swallow, especially when you get a few 1 or 2 star reviews. But it’s true. Your book isn’t going to be universally loved. Put your energies into those people DO get you.

5. I Can Learn How To Do This Better! Getting discouraged with your lack of skills? Don’t worry. Everyone was a beginner once. You can learn  to write better, revise better, edit better and market better. It takes practice and it’s worth doing.

Think postivie (2)6. I Don’t Have To Do Everything.  Don’t feel like you have to do Facebook AND Instagram AND Tumblr AND Twitter AND Pinterest AND Google+ AND whatever else is hot right now. Instead find the two or three that you’re comfortable with and ROCK THAT! You’ll be spending your time and energies more wisely.

7. I’m A  Lot More Than My Sales Numbers Or Amazon Reviews. Sigh. Quantity can’t accurately measure quality. Your book for sale is just a book. It’s not your soul, not your identity, not your life. Your passions, your loves, your spirit, your responsibilities, these are what make who you are. Give yourself a hug!

8. My Dreams Are Worth Pursuing. If you’re a mom, like I am, it’s easy to get sucked into guilt for not doing more for your family. But you must find time to nurture your passions even if it’s for 10 minutes a day. If for no other reason, your family will see this and be inspired to follow their passions too.

9. Hard Work Trumps Talent. Down on yourself because you don’t think you’re any good? The solution? Put your butt in your chair and write. Talent is nice, but success, both commercial and critical, comes to those who aren’t afraid of the work involved. Go for it! You’ll never know what can happen.

Think postivie10. I Don’t Know Everything! Print this one out and paste at the top of your computer! You don’t know everything. You don’t know all there is to know about drafting, revising, editing, publishing and marketing. And there is so much to learn!  Take advantage of as many free resources as you can. Read books. Take a class. Listen to your peers, critique group and readers. Be humble and teachable and you’ll see that you’re a stronger and more confident writer! 

Got another one? I’d love to hear what you tell yourself to succeed!

Top 10 Tricky Things You May Have To Do In Order To Achieve Your Goals

We can’t be the writer we want to be if we keep doing the things we’ve always done.

This is the time self-involved, sensitive writing types, think about how we can make this upcoming year the best ever. Especially if we are participating in Nanowrimo. This is an exciting time of year and it’s also kind of scary.

We’re going to have to make some changes. Sigh.

This week’s list is the Top Ten Tricky Things You May Have To Do In Order To Achieve Your Goals.

Top 10 Tricky Things You May Have To Do To Achieve Your Goals by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

1. You may have to say no to the expectations of others. This is tricky because in the past you may have said yes too much. You may not have been firm with your boundaries. You may not be known for taking time for yourself. If you are a 10 minute writer, then it is very reasonable to request that the people around you allow you that little bit of creative time.  I want to encourage you to love yourself enough to say no. This is an excellent article from PsychCentral about how to reclaim your boundaries and take care of your own needs. 

2. You may have to write down a plan and stick with it. This is tricky because in the past, you may have given up on things too early. You may remember the sting of failure. You may remember the times that having goals did nothing but taunt you because it didn’t work out. But writing down goals and keeping them visible often create a hope in us to keep going. Here’s another list of 10 — 10 Simple Strategies for Sticking to Your Goals. This is good advice.

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
Louisa May Alcott

3. You may have to go to bed earlier or get up earlier to find time to write. This is tricky because sleep has a way of claiming us. Setting an alarm means we have to take action. Being disciplined often isn’t as much fun as late night television. But your writing goal will cost you. I’d like to remind you that if you can find an extra ten minutes each day to write, and you write 500 words in that 10 minutes, that’s 3500 new words this week. That’s 14,000 new words this month. That’s 168,000 words this year. All you have to do to get those kinds of numbers is set your alarm. Here’s another encouragement to do this from Write To Done.

4. You may have to make writing a priority even though you’ve never treated it as one. This is tricky because this means you may have to face your fears. Some aspiring writers aren’t writing for legitimate reasons, like say, their fingers are broken, or their computer was smashed by an angry toddler. But some non-writing aspiring writers don’t write because they are just afraid to sit down and do it. They fear failure. They fear disappointment. They fear rejection. The difference between a writing aspiring writer who is afraid and a non-writing aspiring writer who is afraid is that the first one is sitting on their butt, putting words down.  All of us are afraid. Write anyway. Find a way around your broken fingers and record your voice instead. Get out a sharpened pencil and notepad while you wait for your computer to get fixed. Despite your fears, write for 10 minutes today. I bet you’ll want to keep going. 

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
Albert Einstein

5. You may have to change your expectations for time spent in other areas, like housekeeping or meals. This is tricky because we have to live. I understand this. There are seven people in my household and they’re under the impression that they should wear clothing and eat occasionally. I believe that all of your required, general life tasks can be made more efficient so that you can find little pockets of time here or there. My favorite ways include doing my errands all on one day, or making meals in my crock pot and rice cooker. I also delegate most of my household chores to my children. Take a day or two to think through exactly how your time is spent and come up with a plan. It’s likely you’ll find pockets of time that will make all the difference.

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ― Karen Lamb

6. You may have to apply yourself to learning about craft and then be teachable. This is tricky because beginning writers often have a lot of confidence. Or worse, they have well-meaning relatives who sugar-coat what the aspiring writer. If you’ve never been in a critique group, taken a writing class or workshopped your story, you may not know where you need to improve. If you are serious about pursuing your writing dreams, then you need to be serious about learning. Here’s a list of cheap and not-so-cheap ways to learn to be a better writer. Here’s a list of ways to meet other writers so you can know your work is “good”. And then, of course, a link to the coolest writing group on Facebook. 

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

7. You may have to express your needs to your spouse or significant other. This is tricky because your determination to write will definitely affect your relationships. You may have to communicate your needs. Some spouses and significant others will jump at the chance to help. Others may not be so enthusiastic. Take the time to express how much you need space to work and time to work. Come up with practical solutions that create minimal interference in others’ lives. Make sure that you are reciprocating and supporting them in in their goals too. Jeff Goins has some great stuff to say about this. 

8. You may need to learn a new organizing tool or system in order to reap the benefits. This is tricky because if you’re like me, you’re lazy. If you’re like me, you don’t get excited about learning curves. If you’re like me, you believe that the old ways are good enough. They may be, but if you’re in the habit of losing your work, then you need to find a better system. If you follow 10 Minute Novelists on Pinterest, then you can use our board on apps and software that can make your writing life easier. Good organization is critical for good performance. Don’t let laziness or reluctant learning get in the way of you being your best.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

9. You may have to lower your expectations on social media. This is tricky because everyone tells authors that they need a Facebook page, a blog, an Instagram account and a million other things and they all take time to keep up with. I suggest that you pick 2 or 3 social media platforms that you are the most comfortable with, and get the most excited about, and only do those. I have a blog, I lead a group on Facebook and I try to maximize Twitter and Pinterest. Are you leaning toward Twitter, but you don’t know how to make it work? I can help! 

10. You may have to go easy on yourself in some areas. You may have to kick yourself in the pants in others. This is tricky because every day is a battle. We have to overcome our inner selves to face the tasks in order to achieve the goals. Every day we have to make the little choices that will add up to the big choices. Every writer faces this. You are not alone. I’d like to suggest that the most important step you take in becoming a writer and pursuing your dreams is knowing who you are. Once you know, or at least have a hint, then it will be far easier to make all the changes I listed in steps 1-9.

The creation of words, at times, can be the expression of the inner workings of our soul. The more secure we are on the inside, the more excellent our words will be on the outside. 

You may have some tricky things to do now. 

 Do them anyway. If you fail, keep going.

Your dreams are worth it.

Top 10 Ways To Prepare For National Novel Writing Month

by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

National Novel Writing Month is an international event where, in the month of November, writers from all over the world attempt to put down 50,000 words of a story in thirty days.

Ideally, these 50,000 words are all coherent, have a great plot, have full, 3-dimensional characters, and the story is thrilling, romantic, sweet and/or satisfying. That’s the goal.

Nanowrimo is really good for people who need motivation, community and tangible goals.

Nanowrimo is also great for experienced novelists who need the daily writing goals to push them forward in the WIPs. Nanowrimo is for those people who appreciate the prep work that goes into it (if they’re a plotter) or the freedom to write down everything they want, follow any tangent, break every rule (if they’re a pantser). Nanowrimo is really good for people who “pants”, who have low expectations of the final result and who understand that the final product should never be publishable.

Nanowrimo is not good for people who spend hours revising as they go, who may over-outline, and who think that it is quantity not quality that creates a novel.

Nanowrimo is the literary equivalent of taking a test drive in a sports car.  Or it’s the literary equivalent of trying a neighborhood 5K fun run. Or climbing Mt. Washington but can’t afford Everest.

Nanowrimo, over the course of thirty days, asks this simple question: do you have what it takes to make it? 

Top 10 Ways To Prepare for Nanowrimo! by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

How do you prepare for Nanowrimo? You can be fully ready if you spend a little time on these 10 easy steps.

1. Think about the time commitment! How will this impact your daily life? When and where will you put down your 1667 words per day? I believe that you can accomplish it in 10 minute increments. Here’s a list of ways that you can find those 10 extra minutes.

2. Think about your workspace! Do you have a place that you can work every day, with minimal distraction? Here are six must-haves for the time-crunched writer!

3. Think about your organization! Do you have your files or apps or software in an easy to access location? Here’s the 10 Minute Novelists’ Pinterest board that’s all about apps and software to keep you organized!

Click on the image to buy the mug!
Click on the image to buy the mug!

4. Think about your story! Before you start, you may want to review what story structure is, read a few books, check out a few blog posts, print out a graph. Here are my Top 10 resources for story structure. Enjoy!

5. Think about your genre! It may be obvious to you that the only decent stories you need to tell are dystopian vampire romances set in 1641. But if it isn’t so obvious, review the rules of genre. Rules, you say? There are rules? Yup. Like all romantic comedies have happy endings. Sometimes knowing what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do, can keep you focused.

6. Think about your plot! You’re going to need a plot. On this Wikipedia page, Christopher Booker explains the seven major plots that are basic foundations for all stories. If you haven’t got a plot yet, chose one and allow it to be your blueprint for your characters’ objectives.

7. Think about your characters! You need a main character (if this is your first novel, keep to just one) a few supporting characters and an antagonist. Check out these three Pinterest boards that I created just for this very purpose — Main Characters, Supporting Characters, Antagonists. Make notes, play around with them, base them all on people you know. I think character development is the most enjoyable part of the whole process.

I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends
I am a 10 Minute Novelist and I Have Amazing Friends

8. Think about your setting! That means jot down a few key locations that your scenes will take place, like the barbershop, behind the middle school, on the moon and somewhere in the Great Coral reef. Your setting is just as important as your main character. It will need detail and description. When you write your story  you should try to visualize what’s going on in each scene. This will strengthen your story and your reader will find it interesting.

9. Think beginning, middle and end! If you’re into math, (and really, of the people who read this blog, we have -2 people who like math) then you need to see that the beginning or set-up of the story shouldn’t be any longer than the first 10,000 words or so, the middle be up to the 40,000 word mark or so, and then the wrap-up, or third act, in the last 10,000 words. This post on three act structure may be able to help you!

10. And then? Go for it! If you followed points 1-9 then you have all the basic ingredients of a story. The rest requires putting your butt in your chair and moving forward in the story a little bit every day. Here’s what you can do if you’re stuck! 

Thousands of people win Nanowrimo every year. You can do it too!

What strategies have you used? What are you doing to get ready?

Top 10 Things You Can Ask Yourself If You’re Looking For Extra Time To Write by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Ever since I decided to find 10 minute increments here and there to write, I’ve viewed the time in my day differently.

Now, I compare wasted time to a designer coffee that I might buy daily without thinking about it.

I’d like to suggest that in the area of time management, conscientious writers need to consider the latte factor.

I did not coin the term Latte Factor. It was, however coined by financial guru David Bach. In his book, The Automatic Millionaire, Bach claims that consumers spend little bits of money here an there, say, buying daily designer drinks.

He claims, and rightfully I think, that these little bits add up. Wise consumers should see that this “money leak” is a problem in the long term. His suggestion is that consumers take active steps to stop those money leaks so that they can save money, perhaps significant amounts.

I’d like to suggest that we do the same with time.

We get only 24 hours in a day and we have to spend it somewhere. This may take some soul searching, but if you are really serious about pursuing your writing dreams, you’re going to have to make time for it.

Great gifts for writers
Mug says, “In the time it takes to drink this coffee, you could have written 300 words.”

I am a firm believer in writing in 10 minute chunks. And like Bach’s Latte Factor, I believe I  can find more time in my day if I look hard for it. 

I also believe that you can find 10 minute chunks of time to write if you are willing to  be brutal with the things that take up your time.

Top 10 Things You Can Ask Yourself If You’re Looking For Extra Time To Write

If You're Looking For Extra Time To Write by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

  1. Can you lower your expectations for the amount of writing you can do in a day?

2. Can you be brutally honest with yourself about those optional activities that you could eliminate, like PTA or that birthday party this weekend?

3. Can you get rid of time wasters, like mindless television?

4. Can you consider everything that you do, from the time you get out of bed each morning to the time you go to bed at night — where the time could be slipping from you?

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
Anthony G. Oettinger

5. Can you get up a bit earlier? Or go to bed a bit later without affecting your body’s needs?

6. Can you streamline tasks like meals and chores so that they take less time? Can you plan or prepare meals in advance?

7. Can you delegate to your family members any appropriate tasks, like cleaning, laundry or cooking?

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

8. Can you organize the clutter so that you don’t waste time looking for things?

9. Can you lower your expectations for holidays, extracurricular activities, or family events so that you can have more time?

10. Can you say “no” to people around who need your time and energy?

 

If you can write 10 minutes extra a day, every day for a week, that’s 70 extra minutes you can devote to writing this week. That’s 280 minutes more this month. That’s 14,560 minutes, (or 242.66 hours!) that you can write this year!

Our time is valuable and no matter how hard we try to hold on to it, it marches forward. Rather than giving up altogether, just look for those latte factor moments, make a few changes in your schedule and make the most of it writing!

 

Top 10 Things I Can Do To Build Up My Confidence – By Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

I’m not in a very good place to write about confidence.

I’m in a place where my expectations of what could have been are paralyzing my current choices. But if I’m going to go any further in what I do as a writer, I need to get over myself and grow in confidence. 

Top 10 Things I Can Do To Build Up My Confidence by Katharine Grubb 10 Minute Novelist

Today I have to return to the most important element in my writer’s toolbox: confidence.

I have lots of tools there that are important. Grammar is important. Storytelling is important. Connections are important. Reviews are important.

But the most important thing of all is self-confidence.

I have to believe, at least most of the time, that my dreams are worth pursuing. I have to diligently call out the lies that have been told to me (or that I say to myself) about what I really want. I must strengthen my own confidence. Unlike editing, proofreading and tweeting, I can’t outsource this. I have to find it in myself.

These are the Top 10 Things I can do to build up my confidence.

1. I can be vulnerable. Now this sounds counterintuitive. But I have to show the world my best and be willing to handle whatever reaction I get from it. The more I practice this, the easier it gets.

2. I can separate my mistakes from my identity. Instead of freaking out over my technical issues, I just need to learn from them. I will get better.

3. I can remember that art is subjective. What’s valued and praised by one person is rejected by another. This is what makes art art. This is why there’s a place for me.

4. I can ask for help. I need to be honest with myself about my weaknesses and get instruction. I can never be better if I’m not teachable.

5. I can knock on new doors. There have never been more opportunities for writers than there are right now (and there’s never a bigger competition for readers!) If I stretch myself to submit to new publications or opportunities, I just might have new rewards.

6. I can try new things. Writing is an art, just like painting or drawing. And I should take advantage of its flexibility to see what I can do with it. I may find a genre or a style I love.

7. I can stay focused. My art really is about pleasing myself first. If I’m having fun doing what I’m doing, it will show and others will be inspired.

8. I can stop comparing myself to others. My happiness and confidence levels will take a nosedive if I’m wondering what the writer next to me is doing. The more I focus on my work, the more I’ll grow in confidence.

9. I can choose happiness in this work. Writing is hard work, no doubt, but the more I remember why I am doing this, why I’m not doing something else or why I picked up my pen in the first place, the more my confidence will grow.

10. I can be involved. The more writer friends I have in my life, the more I can depend on them for encouragement and help. A strong community is also good for walking with me in the struggles and laughing at my jokes.

 Writer in this current market are nothing short of poetic masochists: we constantly have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try over and over again. We have to create our own confidence.

Without it we’ll never succeed.

 


Conquering Twitter in 10 Minutes A DayWant more tips on how to make Twitter work for you? CONQUERING TWITTER in 10 MINUTES DAY is available! Specifically written for authors, this book will help you think about yourself, your brand, your books, and your goals on Twitter, create great questions to ask and organize your time in such a way that you can get the most out of every tweet.

Available for $.99! 


I am a fiction writing and time management coach. I help time crunched novelists strengthen their craft, manage their time and gain confidence so they can find readers for their stories.

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community. 

 

Top Ten Things I Did Right Last Year That Made All The Difference

Happy New Year! 

I’m so glad we’re starting over with a fresh, shiny new year. 2016 has a lot of hope and promise. 2015 wasn’t too shabby for me personally, but I did suffer the fallout of some of the decisions that I made in 2014. 

2014 was the first year that I stood up for myself, aggressively took responsibility for my own happiness and walked in complete confidence. Today’s blog post is a throwback-what I did that year that made all the difference. I’m still processing 2015’s victories. I’ll have a post about them soon enough.

Hope you enjoy this one.  


2011 was a sucky year for me personally. Then 2012 got worse. Then, 2013 became the Papa Bear of bad years for me and my family. I was pretty happy that by the end of it, I had a new home, a new town, a new job for my husband, a houseful of new furniture and a chance to start over. I decided that I wanted to do things the right way for 2014.

If anything the previous three years taught me that many of our circumstances can’t be helped, so I decided that my attitudes  and actions — what I could control for the new year — would be completely different.

Top Ten Things I Did Right In 2014 That Made This My Happiest Year Ever

In January of 2014, my family and I started attending a new church and a new homeschooling co-op (both in our new town). This meant that everywhere we went,  I had to introduce myself, introduce my five children, leave some sort of an impression, and give it my best.It’s rather conspicuous to be new but it’s especially obvious when you’re the mother of five children from ages 8-16. We weren’t just new, we were the new parade that entered the room. If for no other reason, my kids were watching me and I knew that if I was fearless, they would be too. 

All these new faces and new opportunities made me a little nervous. I had always had this inner conflict in new situations, wanting to be bubbly and gregarious and yet feeling a sense of fear and dread in new situations. Something inside me told me I had a lot to give and people would like knowing me if they got to know me, but then at the same time, I believed that I was worthless, boring,  and worthy of rejection. I had failed in relationships and in new situations before. (We all have, haven’t we?) And I had plenty of regrets for NOT stepping up and taking the time to be with people and sharing my life. Now I was NEW again and this time, THIS TIME, I had to live differently.

I had to do it because my children were new too and they were looking at me for inspiration.

I had to do it because I knew that relationships did bring me joy and I had no choice but to extend my hand and speak up if I were going to have any at all. I also knew that only one of these voices in my head was the correct one. The fearful and anxious one had never yet made me happy, perhaps the other one would?

I didn’t just listen to my happy, confident voice I did other things differently too.

This is what I did differently

1. I practiced standing in my Wonder Woman pose for up to 2 minutes before I was put in a new situation. Um, yeah. This works. I love it.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 5.26.44 PM

2. I looked people in the eye.

3. I wore my boots because having a bit of a heel makes me feel more powerful. I’m also short. Heels help a lot.

4.I told jokes.

This was easy. I love being silly and making funny comments. I have an off the cuff humor and I decided that if nothing else, laughter, either with me or at me would loosen new people up and make ME feel better.

5. I had no expectations of the people I met.

I knew I wasn’t going to meet a BFF right off the bat. I still haven’t, but that isn’t important. What’s important is that what I once thought I needed a BFF for, like calming my fears, I can do now myself.

6. I volunteered.

I signed up to serve others at my church at and my homeschool co-op. Not only is this scary, but I had to deliberately place myself in a submissive role. This wasn’t always fun. But I did it.

7. I left my business card with people.

When I left it at the library I specifically asked the librarian to give it to the next homeschooling family that came in. That woman, Jennifer, took my card, invited me to the local McDonald’s for a play date, invited me to her church, met me at her church and now she and her family (who live a half mile from me) are very close to ours. (My teens babysit her littles!)

8. I stopped equating my value with my mistakes.

On March 24, I fell down the stairs in my home and broke my ankle in two places. It took me months to fully recover. The old me would have blamed myself over and over — believing that I was klutzy or stupid or I should have known better. The new me knew it was just an accident.  And I made the best of it. It was a result of being stuck on my butt for weeks that I got the idea for the Facebook group that lead to the development of this website. Maybe falling down the stairs was the smartest thing I did all year?

9. I set boundaries with people early in my relationships.

If I felt like something wasn’t fitting well, I spoke up about it and I was surprised at how well most people respected my position. I was not mean spirited, I just made sure that my boundaries were clear.

10. I assumed that people would like me and that I would succeed.

This was probably the most revolutionary thought of them all. Now while it was true that not everyone was warm and cuddly to me when they met me, most were. By believing in myself more, I actually became more fearless and secure in who I was and I cared less what people thought of me.

 As a result of these changes, I met hundreds of new people, took chances, had many wonderful opportunities, laughed a lot, and enjoyed myself at every turn. This ten things utterly changed everything about my life in 2014 and I think that this last year was the happiest year I’ve ever had.

So 2015? (And 2016 too!) I’m facing you the same way!

And it’s going to be awesome!


 

Want to face 2016 with great tools for Time Management?

Please sign up for my Time Management Boot Camp.

Top Ten Ways You Can Find Time To Write in 2016 by Katharine Grubb

Every Monday, for eight weeks, you’ll get an email from me that gives you specific, step by step tips on how to find more time to write. I’ll address each one of the previous ten points. I’ll give you ideas on how to organize your home. I’ll give you resources like time-saving recipes. I’ll give you vision for training your kids to help you with household tasks. The ultimate goal? More time for you and your writing dreams.

Sign up for Time Management Boot Camp! 8 Weeks of Practical Tips & Encouragement to help you find time to write!

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Get the email every Monday morning!

I love January. It’s so full of hope and promise. This year, I tell myself, will be the year that I hit all those goals, that I become a better person, that I change for the better.

You can do it too! I believe in you! 

How My To-Do List is Often Like a Misbehaving Toddler (And What I Can Do About It!)

My to-do list is long. It taunts me.

As soon as I cross something off, three more things jump on.

The battle I have with my to-do list is like chasing a naked, hungry, willful toddler through the house. I yell and reach. I grab and contain. I wipe, dust, clothe, scold and hug and yet there are more things to do. My list is ever demanding, ever whining, ever messy. 

I asked for this.

I asked for the expanding boundaries and the places of influence. I asked for the blessings and abundance. (And it comes with more responsibility and more tasks?) I asked for more people in my life with whom I run the risk of disappointing. I asked for more opportunities with which I run the risk of missing. I asked for more challenges and I now stare at them,  convinced I won’t rise to meet them.

The one thing I must do today is look at these things, these tasks and these events and call them what they are.

They are symbols of my blessing.

They are connections to people. They are the pathways to my bigger dreams. And I am in control of all of them. They submit to me, not I to them. I will not let their tyranny, their demands nor their temper tantrums control me. 

How should I face my to-do list?

I will tackle each task with grace. I will be calm and discipline in doing them. I will not fear failure. I will anticipate success. I will inhale this truth — that few of these are life and death issues. I will exhale power and confidence. There is no deadline I have written down that owns me. My failure will never materialize if I handle these tasks in my best. And if the worst should happen, if I fail, if I disappoint, if I crumble, my identity is not wrapped up in this list. 

I am more than this. 

These tasks are what I do.

They are not what I am. 

I will do my best today. I will hold my head up high, grap this to-do list by it’s hand and say, “I’m the boss of you. Now let’s get busy.” 

And watch it behave as it dutifully complies. 


Please sign up for my Time Management Boot Camp.

Top Ten Ways You Can Find Time To Write in 2016 by Katharine Grubb

Every Monday, for eight weeks, you’ll get an email from me that gives you specific, step by step tips on how to find more time to write. I’ll address each one of the previous ten points. I’ll give you ideas on how to organize your home. I’ll give you resources like time-saving recipes. I’ll give you vision for training your kids to help you with household tasks. The ultimate goal? More time for you and your writing dreams.

Sign up for Time Management Boot Camp! 8 Weeks of Practical Tips & Encouragement to help you find time to write!

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The first email is coming January 4, 2016! Sign up today! 

I love January. It’s so full of hope and promise. This year, I tell myself, will be the year that I hit all those goals, that I become a better person, that I change for the better.

You can do it too! I believe in you! 

Top Ten Ways You Can Find Time To Write In 2016

My house is a disaster.

We’ve moved furniture around to make room for holiday shenanigans. We’ve forgone our schedules for calorie packed merriment. We’ve embraced the season with so much fervor, our wallets, our stomachs and our emotions are upset in a mostly good way. But the party will be over soon and Monday, January 4, will be here, all bright and shiny, waiting for us to make our mark and start good habits in the New Year.  

Top Ten Ways You Can Find Time To Write in 2016 by Katharine Grubb

We should all collectively rename January and call it “Good Intentions Month” instead.

Because, really, by February we’ve forgotten all we want to accomplish and we’re back into old habits and patterns. We’re not exercising every day. We’re not flossing. We’re not making time to write and pursue our writing dreams. We don’t have the time that we thought we would have to do what we want to do. We’re not writing the words we want to write. We’re not published yet. We never got that dusty manuscript out of the drawer.

I believe, though, that the mid-winter fizzle doesn’t have to come. I believe that with encouragement, practical planning and accountability, you can find time to meet your writing goals for 2016. 

  1. Know your specific goals. You can’t develop a good writing habit if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish. Come up with a clear goal for the day. Will you write for ten minutes? Will you write a thousand words? Will you get up an hour early every day?
  2. Have a space that’s just yours for writing. If you don’t have a designated space to write, then it will be much harder to commit to your goals. Take some time to clear off a table, restart that old laptop or unpile the desk. If you take your workspace seriously, you’ll be more motivated.
  3. Have an organized, easy to access document. If you only have a few minutes a day to write, you don’t want to waste it looking for that old file from Windows 98. Get everything together either on your computer or on your desk and keep it handy.
  4. Evaluate your time commitments. This could be the most challenging thing you do in this process. Slowly go through all your obligations and evaluate their importance. If you can say no to an obligation you don’t love or need, then you can fill it up with writing time.
  5. Look for time wasters throughout your day. We’re all given the same amount of time a day. We get no more or less. Make sure every moment of your day is useful. You may be surprised at how much extra time you have if you turn off Netflix, combine errands or stop playing Crossy Road.
  6. Delegate your responsibilities. Is it possible that other members of your household can take over a few tasks? Analyze what can be given to spouses, children or teens. By gently instructing them and trusting them in your tasks, you’re giving them value and having them share your vision.
  7. Communicate your needs to your family. Have you expressed a need to the people that you live with that you want time to write? Can you ask for ten minutes here and there? This also brings them into your life and they be your biggest cheerleaders.
  8. Have low expectations and grace for yourself. Your writing goals for 2016 should not be unrealistic and lofty. A NYT best-selling title in the next 365 days isn’t in your future. Instead, think about small, daily changes that can make a difference in your time management.
  9. Learn to work fast. If you only have ten minutes to write and you’re fussy over each word, you’re not going to go far. Practice free writing or sprinting so you have something on the document. This habit will build your productivity and your confidence.
  10. Silence your inner critic. This is probably the hardest thing to do. Let 2016 be the year that you look your inner critic in the eye, call him a dirty name and kick him out the door. You can’t succeed if you have that inner critic giving you trouble.

I’d love to encourage you in the specifics of all ten with step-by step instructions, personal encouragement and accountability for the first eight weeks of 2016.

I believe that your writing goals are doable. I believe that no one is so busy that they can’t give their dream ten minutes a day. I believe that households can be run, jobs can be attended to, meals can be made, kids loved and an aspiring writer can find ten minutes. 

Please sign up for my Time Management Boot Camp.

Top Ten Ways You Can Find Time To Write in 2016 by Katharine Grubb

Every Monday, for eight weeks, you’ll get an email from me that gives you specific, step by step tips on how to find more time to write. I’ll address each one of the previous ten points. I’ll give you ideas on how to organize your home. I’ll give you resources like time-saving recipes. I’ll give you vision for training your kids to help you with household tasks. The ultimate goal? More time for you and your writing dreams.

Sign up for Time Management Boot Camp! 8 Weeks of Practical Tips & Encouragement to help you find time to write!

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The first email is coming January 4, 2016! Sign up today! 

I love January. It’s so full of hope and promise. This year, I tell myself, will be the year that I hit all those goals, that I become a better person, that I change for the better.

You can do it too! I believe in you! 

Top Ten Things To Do If You Feel Burned Out As A Writer

My 2015 was full.

I released three books. I spoke two times. I attended four live book selling events. I launched a podcast. I was featured on three other podcasts. I wrote more than 365,000 words (that averaged 1000 words a day).  I was successful in Nanowrimo, writing my 50,000 words. I launched my weekly encouraging newsletter. I also took on a part-time job as a homeschooling tutor. I did all this while maintaining my household, hosting two chats a week, homeschooling my five kids and baking my bread from scratch.

This all looks very impressive until you pull the curtain back and see the truth: I was a nervous mess for most of the year.

I worried about the various launches. I was disappointed in my subsequent sales. I was disappointed in  the trickling reviews. I lost sleep. I spent a three month period, between mid-August and mid-November in severe pain in my neck and shoulders.  Also, from January to December, I had an almost nonstop struggle with various relationships over this theme: I have boundaries now.

By the end of my amazingly productive, amazingly stressful year, I was completely knackered. I was so exhausted that I was ready to walk away from writing fiction, from blogging, from ever publishing anything ever again.

Fortunately, I had the good sense not to make any rash decisions. I was tempted, more than once, in this down time to confuse fatigue with failure. I found that it felt good to not have a deadline or a project or an event to plan. But in I way I felt empty too, like I should have been doing something. 

Instead, I just sat back for a few weeks. I unplugged figuratively and literally.

Sometimes the best something you can do for yourself is nothing.

This is what I did during this six weeks or so of resting.

Top Ten Things To Do If You Feel Burned Out As A Writer by Katharine Grubb www.10minutenovelists  

 

  1. I didn’t  feel guilty. I needed a break. I needed to retreat, go back and rethink what my next writing and publishing steps are. I’m still not completely sure of them, but I’m not going to stress about the unknown in my life.
  2. I didn’t feel rushed. It’s almost always better to move thoughtfully and purposefully than harried and hurried. This can apply to most things in life.
  3. I didn’t have high expectations. This was the toughest thing I had to let go.  I set aside a month to avoid writing and rest. But in the back of my head, I was, at times, convinced that this month was the key to the really big idea that will launch me into fame. Those expectations will make me crazy and neurotic. I don’t think it’s worth it to worry about the future.
  4. I practiced good self care. During my time off, I tried make sure I was doing everything I needed to do. The obvious: sleep, water, exercise, good food was just a beginning. I also took a few hot baths, got massages, read a lot of books and stopped anxiety at the door of my mind.
  5. I had a plan. Kind of. I started by asking myself what was the most important thing to me. I was surprised at my answers. It was from this clarification of my values that I was able to envision 2016 a little clearer.
  6. I looked for answers. I spent this down time reading books (and discovered how much I like travel nonfiction!).  I asked trusted friends for advice. I read old notes. I went back and remembered the highlights of 2015. What do I want to repeat?
  7. I tried new things. This meant for me new books and introducing my teen girls to The Gilmore Girls.  I also listened to the Ted Radio Hour and This American Life. I think the novelty of this entertainment kept my mind distracted from listlessness.
  8. I curbed negativity. This is probably the hardest and most important thing on this list. My negative thoughts will have more of an impact on me than anything. My wails of despair and disappointment are not as powerful if I distract them with happy memories and positive thoughts.
  9. I paid attention to the stories around me. That’s why I love Ted Radio Hour and This American Life. They have fascinating fresh stories that I believe will take root in my self conscious and give my future art depth. This is what I think it means to be filled up with art before you can overflow.
  10. I wandered both figuratively and literally. I walked on the trail behind my house. I let my thoughts go to happy, unpredictable places. I invented dialogue for ghosts of characters that will never materialize. I couldn’t plant a stake in an idea, but I didn’t let it bother me.

I didn’t do all of these perfectly, by no means. And I didn’t have this list to go on — I just let things happen. And truthfully, I’m in the middle still of this rest period and I’m still figuring it out as I go.

But I think it’s a reasonable expectation for an artist to have down times.

I think there is nothing abnormal about a dry season or a hiatus or a holiday. Our minds and schedules need breathers and even though it had been years really since I had been able to take one, I’m glad I did.

I still don’t know what my projects for the future will look like, but I’m determined to approach my words as if they are my toys, not my taskmasters.

I’m going to be nice to myself and enjoy this time between deadlines. I’m not going to worry about sales or rankings, because those figures have rarely brought me joy.

2016 could be my best year yet.

What about you? How have you rested in between projects? What did you do to take care of yourself?