Tag Archives: goals

Dreams of a Lifetime

So yesterday was my birthday. And in honor of that special day, my mother made me read through my entire baby book, which is basically a scrapbook covering the major points of my entire childhood. The only benefit, besides making my mother happy, was discovering a true treasure from my youth. My first story.

For the sake of readability, I’m going to be my own editor and fix any spelling mistakes and capitalization errors there are. But here you are.

“Silly Potatoes”

Once on a Saturday night, Ms. Vanilla and Mr. Vanilla were in the kitchen cooking potatoes. The recipe book said wait five minutes. Ms. Vanilla could not wait. She opened the oven door. Out popped Fred Fryer and Ms. Mashed with their little tater tots. They skied out of the house on French fries and never came back. So from now on, Ms. and Mr. Vanilla listen to the recipe book. Or they will starve.

THE END

My mother and I laughed so hard when we found this. I loved how I left it open ended. It just amused me for a while, and I had to share it.

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I suppose the main thing I wanted to talk about is pursuing your dreams. Since I was a child, I’ve dreamed of being a writer. Though this story is clearly some kind of school assignment from first or second grade, to me it still speaks to this lifelong dream I’ve had of creating and sharing stories. But what does it really mean to pursue your dreams?

When I was little I would always tell people I wanted to be an author when I grew up. When I went to college and started studying English, I still knew that was what I wanted to do. But at the same time I recognized it wasn’t the most logical choice of career in terms of a steady income, so I’ve moved writing to a side pursuit while making teaching my main focus at the moment. However, as I start into my adult life, I’ve had to wonder how this is all going to work out in the end.

I’ve recognized there need to be sacrifices made for this to work. For now I’m working at the YMCA with children, helping them with their own learning, encouraging them to chase their own dreams. And in my free time I write. And I continue to imagine the future, hoping one day I’ll actually have a book out on the shelves.

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I watch America’s Got Talent a lot in the summer, and I always have to shake my head at the people who say they dropped out of high school to be a singer. I suppose it always makes me wonder if that truly is chasing the dream. If that’s the best decision. For me, my dream has required balance. But maybe for others that isn’t the case. In the meantime, I pursue my writing in my own fashion, hoping one day maybe I’ll be published, but recognizing that the pursuit is the beautiful thing in itself. Looking back and seeing these old stories. Knowing I’ve finished novels in my lifetime. Those are beautiful. And I hope many more milestones will be met over the course of my life, even if those aren’t my only pursuits. Each little accomplishment is important to me. And I take what I can, while I try to balance my dreams with the realities of life around me.

What dreams do you have? How do you choose to pursue them? What sacrifices do you make for your goals and aspirations?

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Practice Makes Perfect

So one of the things I’m doing this summer is teaching an older couple in my neighborhood French. They’re both incredibly sweet people, and have done quite well all things considered. One of them has never learned French before, and the other learned it in high school and has since forgotten most everything he learned.

I think one of the biggest problems for myself is that I’m finding my own rustiness the more I try to teach them. I’ll look back through my lessons later and realize how badly I messed up a simple conjugation, or they’ll ask for clarification on pronunciation and I’ll realize I pronounced something wrong. And it’s extremely frustrating after all the time and effort I’ve put into learning a language. But the thing is I haven’t been using all that much French, so in a lot of ways it makes sense I’m not up to where I used to be. It’s not unlike me pulling out my violin after a year without touching it and trying to play again. Let’s just say that didn’t go so well either…

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Me in Paris during study abroad.

The same idea applies to writing, at least for me. If I don’t use my writing skills they rust up, it stops feeling natural. And it’s the reason I’ve been continuing to participate in Writing Challenges on twitter where I have to write 500 words a day. Not only is it a great way to make friends with fellow writers, but it’s been a way to keep myself diligent and keep my writing skills from getting rusty.

Last month I wrote a total of 60,000 words. And yes I now know I probably could do NaNoWriMo if I wanted to. But the one problem is that most of what I was writing isn’t something I’d publish. I’ve been dinking around playing with different story ideas that I don’t consider in any way worthy of publishing. I haven’t really touched my novel I was working on since I graduated. And sometimes I feel ashamed that I’m not working on something more important or worthwhile.

But the truth is that those words still count. Every one of them counts. Maybe they aren’t going towards the next great American novel, but they’re going towards continuing to make me a better writer. They’re going towards creating confidence in myself and my abilities. They’re going towards continuing to practice and perfect the craft I love so well.

So this is my encouragement for language learners, musicians, writers, or anyone else who is doing something that requires some level of practice to continue to function: set small goals for yourself. You might not be able to go to a foreign country and immerse yourself, but pick up a movie in the language and watch that. I like taking my French Bible to church with me and using that as a once a week tool. For an instrument, try to set a certain number of practice days a week for an instrument or join a group that will keep you going. And for writing tell yourself to write a certain amount. Maybe that’ll be a hundred words a day. Maybe a weekly goal of 500 words is more up your alley. Or maybe just have a goal to finish a chapter or short story by a certain date. Find what you’re comfortable with and set that as your goal. But find ways to continue practicing.

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That doesn’t mean you have to remove the fun element either, and recognizing the usefulness of moments that aren’t professional but help you practice are great. Take joy in those moments you get together with a few friends who also play instruments and jam just for fun, even if you’re not making money performing. Or enjoy just reading a blog in another language, even if you’re not off translating for someone important. Or simply realize that writing for fun has its uses too, even if it’s not something you’ll publish. Each word you write keeps you practiced and ready to continue writing when more important occasions should arise.

What goals do you set for yourself? Do you feel like writing for fun is still useful? How do you keep in practice with writing or other activities you might do? Have you had times you’ve felt rusty at something you once were good at?

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Na NO Wri Mo

Before anyone gets fooled into thinking this is a post about NaNoWriMo, guess again. Nope, I’m not going to be talking much about National Novel Writing Month. I’m going to be talking about my own self made NO writing month.

October was my writing challenge. I did 500 words every day for 31 days. And it felt incredible. But it was also terribly difficult. I only kept at it thanks to the terrific support. But after exhausting myself trying to come up with more than 15500 words for fun, I simply can’t participate in any kind of a writing challenge this next month, particularly while dealing with awful writer’s block.

Now, that’s not to say I’ll be doing no writing at all this entire month. Forcing myself not to do any is often as painful as forcing myself to do so every day. So I’m implementing a rule that I’m only allowed to write when inspired. No deadlines, no goals, nothing but the simply pleasure of doing it for fun when I have time. And I’m hoping this might allow me to spark some new ideas again, and create a renewed motivation towards writing again. If anyone has good ideas for writer’s block, or coming up with new writing projects let me know. I always love getting feedback.

Don’t worry blog readers. I’ll try to see if I can post some older stuff on here when I get a chance, so I can at least keep some regular posts going. Just might be a bit before I have new inspiration. As to any October Writing Challenge friends, I’ll try to be back for the December one.

Wish me luck!

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Goals Needed, Help!

So I want to address some struggles I’ve had lately. I may try to detail them more vividly in a later blog, but for now I’ll just mention I’ve been having a very hard time nailing down any sort of novel idea and feel rather unfocused in terms of my writing direction. This is made all the more difficult by my decision to have a daily writing goal each and every day.

I’ve participated in October Writing diligently, writing 500 words daily and tweeting and logging my word counts without fail. I’ve even written by hand at times when I haven’t had a computer. And this month has showed excellent progress, and yet it hasn’t exactly taken me where I’d hoped.

I had hoped this might get me out of my little writing slump where I feel incapable of coming up with any new ideas or making any progress on current ones. I was wrong. I still have failed to truly rid myself of this troubling problem.

My participation has not faltered. I’ve written at least 500 words everyday. Sometimes it’s been blog posts (some of which have not been published). Sometimes it’s been poetry. Other days it’s been trying to get a bit of novel out one way or another. But I suppose blogging has been one of my bigger projects, and I’ve appreciated having the challenge to allow me to focus.

Nonetheless I still feel something’s missing in spite of my diligence this month. And that is concentration. I’d like to actually buckle down and finish a project. I’d like to stay focused on a goal and see it through. And I know myself well enough to know if I have readership I’ll focus better on something, which is part of the reason blogging has been more successful for me lately (thanks to my wonderful readers).

So, in light of wanting to concentrate more fully, I’d like to ask readers to vote on what they’d like to see more of in this blog. And with that in mind maybe I’ll have more of a goal to work towards.

For a novel excerpt example see here: Braving a New Frontier- First Page Review

For a poetry example see here: Perched upon the Window Sill- a poem

For a writing prompt example see here: One Little Change- a Writing Prompt

For a short story example (also a writing prompt) see here: Soaring- A Writing Prompt

For movie/book thoughts example see here: Easy Analysis: the Reasons Hawthorne Still Shows up in Hollywood

For writing advice see here: What’s in a Name?

For anything not listed in the poll feel free to comment or add your own.

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Discipline in Life and on the Page

I let out a groan as my muscles strained with exertion, feet pushing firmly against the plastic biting into my tennis shoes. Thick droplets rolled down my forehead and dripped into my eyes, momentarily blinding me. I panted as I worked the bike up the ever so slight incline going home, my muscles screaming as they begged for a rest. Sure, I was out of shape, but it’s more the fact that I was trying to be in shape that was killing me at the moment. An hour of cardio at the gym followed by a bike ride home in the sun at midafternoon with a heavy backpack, did not make for a happy body.

So I suppose it begs the question, why go to the gym knowing you’ll only have to bike home and be miserable later? Well I suppose that’s a matter of knowing I need the exercise (as evidenced biking home) and because I like applying a certain level of discipline to my life. It gives me motivation, makes me work harder.

But exercise is not the only area of my life which requires discipline. No, school work, my job, and other elements do so as well. But this month I’ve been trying to apply this to writing as well.

I don’t really remember where I found out about October Writing Challenge– a twitter monthly event that requires writers to do 500 words or 1 hour of editing every day. I’d heard of NaNoWriMo of course, but the popularity of the event has always rather thrown me off truly pursuing it and last year I did my own 1000 word challenge instead, focusing on making sure I spent regular time writing rather than focusing on one particular project.

It’s always been important to me to write regularly. I go crazy if I go more than a few weeks without any ideas. I require something to occupy my attention. But making sure to do so each and every day is a challenge I both enjoy and benefit from. Even so, as I approached the end of the week, I had much the same reaction as I did on my bicycle earlier today. My writing “muscles” feel exhausted, they are demanding why I’m not giving them much of a rest, especially when I have homework to consume my time as well. However, like when I’m on my bike I’m just trying to ignore it and press on. Because I know the benefits will pay off in the long run. We’ll just see if I can make it all the way through the month. Fingers crossed!

However, there is one element I appreciate more than my 1000 word challenge last year. And that is community support and accountability. Knowing people are going to see if I post my word count or not is a fantastic way to keep me going. It’s like having a workout buddy, or a fitness trainer. I have someone waiting and watching, seeing if I’ll fail or succeed. And when I have that I tend to do well.

It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But I feel in a lot of ways it’s like climbing a mountain. The exertion I feel right now is merely payment for the beautiful results I’ll see at the summit. And I’m looking forward to ending this month only to look back at a great view of how far I’ve come.

So if anyone is interested in building some writing discipline and endurance, check out the writing challenge. It’s fantastic and really works, at least for me.

What are some ways you motivate yourself to meet your goals? What discipline strategies do you apply to writing or any other task?

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No I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo and Here’s Why

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So with a new month approaching many writers are quickly signing up to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo or for those who don’t know National Novel Writing Month, a time when writers strive to finish a 50,000 word (or a goal word count of their choice) novel within the course of November.

My first attempts at NaNoWriMo started in my junior year. However, I was disheartened after failing to come up with a good story idea and quickly turned away from the challenge. My senior year I had an idea, but my hands were trapped in splints and it was near impossible to type. By my freshman year of college I had already completed one novel and was in the middle of working on a second so I decided NaNoWriMo would be too much of a distraction.

This year the annual debate came round about whether or not to participate. And I made a firm decision not to do so and instead to set my own goals of writing 1000 words a day of whatever I chose. This is of course a personal choice, but I figured I’d share my reasons to see what other writers thought. Some might be surprised I decided not to do NaNoWriMo, but here’s why:

1. November is a crazy busy month. Like ridiculously busy. Lots of homework for students, getting to mid semester and figuring out if you’re going to pass a class or not. It’s the season of Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday rush to start preparing for Christmas. No, it is an awful month for people, especially students. Why it couldn’t have been in June, September, or January (I mean what happens in January besides unending longness?) is beyond me.

2. I don’t like forcing inspiration. My best story ideas are the ones I come up with at the spur of the moment. Forcing myself to sit down and make up a plot just makes the story, the characters, and everything else seem forced. I don’t want people to read works that seem fake and prefer giving a real life to characters that only comes when I give them room to breath and move and grow into their own stories and own personalities.

3. I like having freedom in what I’m writing and moving between different forms. I think this is my biggest problem with it as a writer. I believe there is an importance in being diligent to your craft, but I believe you should do it in whatever forms you feel most compelled to. So during this month I’ll be blogging, journaling, composing poetry, writing novels, and putting to paper anything else I feel I want to write.

4. I dislike the rush to get the product done and feel it thereby loses some quality. My first novel I was probably finished within a six week period if not a little more. The problem was I rushed to get it done because I was so excited to be able to claim I’d finished a book. As a result the writing was sloppy, the plot was poor, and I don’t even know what the real purpose was other than to boost my own ego. NaNoWriMo encourages a rush to finish work and no time to really perfect it. One cannot construct good motifs, foreshadowing, and themes when simply aiming for a word count on a page.

5. I dislike designating all of my writing to a certain month. I like making goals at all times and feel doing NaNoWriMo may encourage me to start feeling November is my writing month when really all of them are being dedicated to my writing. No, I am a writer always and I write novels no matter what month it is.

6. I want my writing to really come from my heart, not just a vain attempt to claim I finished a novel in under a month. What I’ve experienced starting NaNoWriMo several times before was that I selected the first storyline that seemed decent, and not one I actually cared about. My best novels have been the ones I wrote not because I had a perfect storyline, but because I had the motivation to want to share something with the world.

7. I’ve already written four books so I don’t feel it’s as special as other writers might. There’s kind of a “been there done that” feeling to NaNoWriMo even if I’ve never officially participated. That may sound vain but it’s the truth. Though finishing a book is always exciting it’s nothing like the rush of the first time ever.

8. I’m afraid of commitment. This is probably the biggest truth out there. I hate the idea of starting and failing. Even though I did start the last few years I never got more than a few days in and I never officially signed up on the website or anything like that. I’d attempt for a bit and then give up. I suppose that’s just a personal issue I have to work through in being willing to expand into putting my energy into things that will require me to commit. I know other areas of my life are affected by this as well.

For all those of you doing NaNoWriMo this year I wish you the best of luck. I’ll be cheering from the sidelines while working on my own goals. For any writers out there who agree with me that there are better things to do with your busy November than write a whole book, I encourage you to set your own goals for whatever you think would be best for your writing. Maybe you’re not much of a poet so you think writing a short poem everyday might help you expand better. Maybe you just need to read more so reading a few pages everyday. Maybe you have a terrible vocabulary and so you have a goal to learn a new word everyday. Whatever it is, set goals, write and do what you love.

Any NaNoWriMo writers out there offended by my post? I apologize if so. I really do admire you guys so don’t take it too personally. One of my close friends wrote an awesome book a few years ago, and I have always admired her. So, what are your books about? What ways are you keeping yourself on the path to novel success? I really would love to hear from you. I like knowing what my readers are up to!

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Reaching for your Goals

Writing goals

So, with school starting I haven’t had much time to blog, but I thought I’d sit down today and actually write. Last weekend I had something exciting happen. I finished writing my fourth novel.

Now, I don’t really like to brag, but that’s a pretty big accomplishment for a 20 year old (almost 21!) Sure, there are people who have written more, but for me that’s a lot and it’s even more exciting because I’m continuing to achieve my goals. What are my goals you might ask?

Well, ultimately I want to be published. But for now I’m content merely practicing the art of writing a novel, stretching and challenging myself to do better each time. So I’ve made it a goal to write a novel every year from my 18 birthday onwards. So far I’m actually ahead of schedule. I suppose that one will get to be a bit challenging when I end up in the real world, but for now it’s something I want to try for. This summer however I simply had the goal to finish one novel over the course of the four months. I did it…though there were definitely some challenges. Let me quickly advise you against setting goals while co-writing. That tends to make it difficult and merely cause stress and tension.

Anyhow, here’s what I really want to get at. I was a Girl Scout all through high school, so if there’s one thing I can tell you about it’s goals. I advise all of you writers to set goals, and here’s how you should do that. With SMART goals:

S- Specific: Don’t just say I want to be a better writer. Say…I will write a page every day. Make it something clear-cut so you don’t get confused about whether or not you’ve achieved your goal.

M- Measurable: Again this should be something easy to see progress in. Getting better at something is clearly not very easy to measure, but choosing to type a page without spell check on and try to get fewer and fewer errors each time is something you can see change in.

A- Attainable: So, I’ve already realized my one a year novel goal may not be attainable in the long run. You have to know yourself and your limits. If you’re an extremely slow writer who takes a long time just to finish a short story I would not advise NaNoWriMo. Don’t choose something too hard, but don’t make it too easy either.

R-Relevant: Choose a goal that’s relevant to what you want to do better at. Saying, I will learn more about commas when you are doing fine with commas is a waste of your time.

T- Time-bound: Always give yourself a time to finish the goal in. This creates more motivation. If you say, “I’ll have fewer spelling mistakes” you’ll never have as much dedication as you will if you say “I’ll have fewer spelling mistakes by March 31”. Then you’ll have to do some practice between now and March.

So alongside that you should always evaluate how well your goals are going and reevaluate if necessary. If you follow some of these simple steps you’re bound to become a better writer. Also, make sure you always have your goals recorded and check them off when you meet them. If you need someone to hold you to your goals then try to find a friend that can help you, and maybe you can help them with a few goals as well.

What goals do you have as a writer or otherwise? Have you got better ways to form goals? Any exciting accomplishments in the last few weeks? Please share some motivation and support!

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