If you read my last post on January 1, you know what happened to my 2014 goals. When I sat down to set out my goals for 2015, I kept in mind what last year did to my plans. I kept focused on what I committed to in that same post on January 1. My goals for 2015 are simpler and shorter than last year’s, beginning with a focus on the mandate I set for myself of facing frustrations and interruptions with flexibility.
While I will never meet the physical flexibility seen here, I realize I need more attention to flexibility during my daily scheduling.
Goals for 2015 include:
As mentioned above, more flexibility in dealing with daily demands and schedules. I have more than writing to attend to each day: family relationships, preparing meals, household chores, laundry, errands, exercise, and professional reading.
In order to get these all done, I need to realize I cannot commit every day 100% to writing. In 2015, I intend to select one day from Monday through Friday and devote it to my book. The schedule will be kept free of distractions.
Goal #2: Thanks to the artists and writers cooperative where I had registered for a writing class held September-November, I will be able to restart that class in April. Surgery and recovery interrupted my attendance, and the group was fair in extending a large part of my registration fees to join back up in January or April. I chose April to ensure I was fully healed. Returning and finishing this class is important to me.
Goal #3: Work diligently at building platform as I anticipate completing, publishing and marketing my memoir. My newsletter has gained some momentum but not what I’d like to have seen so I need to educate myself on how to increase readership. I’m also leaning more toward using Twitter as my primary social media outlet, and I’ll need to come up to speed there. Sitting on a shelf nearby is the idea for another eBook for my newsletter subscribers, but that is not a definite goal for 2015.
Goal #4: With completion of the class addressed above, I hope to have finished the second draft of my memoir. It is my further hope that I will be able to work with my class instructor in finalizing that draft and readying it for editing and later publication. However, this is not a deadline item and will never be as there are too many changes that can occur in the editorial and marketing process.
Goal #5: In 2015, I want to increase my participation in this writing community I so thoroughly enjoy. My ability to get around and read every blog post has fallen by the wayside, and I’m looking to find a better method for reading and commenting on others’ work. I also want to continue my efforts in supporting other writers by reviewing their memoirs here and other genre on Goodreads and Amazon.
These are all the 2015 goals I intend to set out in black and white. As I said in my last post, there is only one me in each day I’m given and only so much time in that one day to work at the things calling my name. To attempt more would be the closest thing to implosion of a human I can think of at the moment.
As I review that list now, it turns out those could not have been truer words.
Christmas Day 2013 found my husband in excruciating pain that would last until back surgery in March 2014. At the same time, what I thought was allergies turned out to be a respiratory problem with a long recovery time.
With Bob’s home chores falling to my shoulders as well as his health care and my own, the writing life seemed to disintegrate before my eyes.
About the time the dust began to settle, I had the opportunity attend the annual Willamette Writers Conference. Local Portland writer and teacher, Jennifer Lauck, author of Blackbirdand several other books, facilitated two of the sessions I attended. I had met Jennifer before but not in the workshop environment. Jennifer excited me with her mode of teaching, her excitement about the written word, and her palpable desire to help others achieve their dreams.
By the end of the next week, I had registered to take one of Jennifer’s upcoming classes at a local writers’ cooperative. I made it to two sessions, and a bomb dropped the last weekend in September. Pain I hadn’t experienced since spinal fusion riddled one side of my body. A multitude of tests showed no reason for the pain. I had to decide whether to continue the class or taking care of myself. The latter won out. Dropping out was a huge disappointment.
Finally we insisted on another test, and a diagnosis took me into surgery. I am recovering well, and I feel better than I did 18 months ago. That in itself is a bonus.
I share all this with you to underscore the truth of goal-setting, making resolutions, resolving to adhere to a set daily schedule and/or to do list: [tweetthis]A writer’s “other life” doesn’t always cooperate with the plans for the writing life.[/tweetthis]
Lesson learned: I am one person with one life with days presented to me singularly to accomplish what I can. When all the parts of my life and days gifted don’t mesh, I will attempt to be flexible and set frustrations aside knowing there will be tomorrow.
Based on this newly ingrained bit of wisdom, I will be setting goals for 2015 and selecting a word to focus on as I move forward through 2015 while remembering what 2014 has taught me.
What about you? What did 2014 teach you that will impact how you plan as a person and/or a writer for 2015?
There’s an exchange in my memoir Any Road Will Take You There between my father and me as we sit at my kitchen table late one night. My young child, my first, and their mother are in bed. The two of us are alone drinking bottles of beer and talking about my new role, fatherhood. It’s a key scene in the book. Still, no one else but the two of us could have remembered that conversation.
I wrote about that moment after my father had died. So, I had to recall a decade old dialogue the best I could and rely on only my shaky memory. I didn’t expect to recall our exact conversation, of course, and honestly didn’t need to, but I was determined to write about that night in the truest, most authentic way. I wanted to capture the essence of that evening. Of course I had only my own recollections. But is that fair? Doesn’t Dad have a say here? And how could he have a say now?
There is no other way to a write a personal story than to tell it like it is. But what if you can’t run the details by someone, check the facts? First of all, you are not writing journalism, but you do want to recreate the spirit of the truth. Be honest with your story, honest with what you remember, and even if others have passed on and you can’t verify, try to step away to consider other perspectives. I truly believe the reader will know when you are not being honest with yourself, and ultimately will sense when you are not being honest or mindful of how another may have remembered that moment, incident, or conversation.
And what about the living?
In my first memoir, Accidental Lessons, there are several scenes with my ex-wife. First, I must tell you, the two of us are good friends. It is far from the stereotypical friction laden relationship of former spouses. Despite this, my publisher insisted on signed releases from everyone mentioned in the book. When I presented the release to my former wife, this is what she said: I’ll agree with one condition. When it’s made into a movie, Susan Sarandon plays me.
Just for the record, no movie deal yet and nothing in writing from Susan.
In general, I believed everything I wrote about my ex-wife was quite flattering. It wasn’t that I necessarily set out to write all great things about her, it’s just that what was needed for the narrative, her part of it, did not need to be about the times of our lives that were entangled in disagreement. So, when she read the manuscript, she had little problem with any of it. Was it true? Yes. I needed to reveal only what was needed.
But what do you do when someone you write about is absolutely appalled by what you plan to publish or is outright angry about your words? Maybe their version of the same incident is much different in their eyes, and this creates serious tension, risking the relationship with that individual.
If possible, let all those who are main subjects in the story read your manuscript. Prepare them for what you have written; let them know it may not be easy to read and that you are writing about difficult matters. Then, allow them to tell you exactly what they think, to point out errors, minor or major, and permit them to suggest changes. And if possible, ask them to write down their version of the scene or incident in question. Our truths are completely our own. They are no one else’s, and you must be true to your story. But permitting input from others can help you understand their truth, and some version of their story might actually be very good material to add to a redraft. It could, and many times will make your story better.
In the end, the narrative is your responsibility and you alone should decide whether or not to include others’ suggestions, thoughts, or versions. In the end, no matter what, the story you have written is yours. Keep it yours.
Get to Know David Berner:
David W. Berner–the award winning author of Accidental Lessons and Any Road Will Take You There–was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he began his work as a broadcast journalist and writer. He moved to Chicago to work as a radio reporter and news anchor for CBS Radio and later pursue a career as a writer and educator. His book Accidental Lessons is about his year teaching in one of the Chicago area’s most troubled school districts. The book won the Golden Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature and has been called a “beautiful, elegantly written book” by award-winning author Thomas E. Kennedy, and “a terrific memoir” by Rick Kogan (Chicago Tribune and WGN Radio). Any Road Will Take You There is the author’s story of a 5000-mile road trip with his sons and the revelations of fatherhood. The memoir has been called “heartwarming and heartbreaking” and “a five-star wonderful read.”
Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and SonsAny Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons is a heartwarming and heartbreaking story told with humor and grace, revealing the generational struggles and triumphs of being a dad, and the beautiful but imperfect ties that connect all of us.
Recipient of a Book of the Year Award from the Chicago Writers Association, Any Road Will Take You There is honest, unflinching, and tender.
In the tradition of the Great American Memoir, a middle-age father takes the reader on a five-thousand-mile road trip–the one he always wished he’d taken as a young man. Recently divorced and uncertain of the future, he rereads the iconic road story–Jack Kerouac’s On the Road–and along with his two sons and his best friend, heads for the highway to rekindle his spirit.
However, a family secret turns the cross-country journey into an unexpected examination of his role as a father, and compels him to look to the past and the fathers who came before him to find contentment and clarity, and celebrate the struggles and triumphs of being a dad.
Paperback: 242 Pages Genre: Memoir Publisher: Dream of Things (September 17, 2014) ASIN: B00NVBMDZ0 / ISBN-10: 0988439093 / ISBN-13: 978-0988439092
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In a perfect world, our days would be filled with limitless hours of writing time. However, ours is not a perfect world. At least mine isn’t.
Despite living in retirement, my days are still filled with what seem to be unending household chores, yard and gardening chores, errands, maintaining a small business other than my writing, and more.
I am not an expert on increasing writing productivity. Perhaps like you, I struggle every day trying to find the time to write.
If you look around–in books, on the Internet, magazine articles, there is a plethora of advice on how to increase your writing productivity.
Here’s a sampling of what I’ve found:
1. Eliminate Distractions.
As difficult as it may seem, sitting down to write means limiting distractions and interruptions. One easy tip is to close all open tabs on your computer and have only your manuscript or working document open. If you are still tempted to hop over to Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, perhaps an app like StayFocusd to limit the time you allow yourself to visit social media sites would help. StayFocusd is free to Google Chrome users. Other such apps include: Freedom, Anti-Social, RescueTime (my choice), and ColdTurkey. A search for “social media blocking apps” will offer a longer list.
2. What is Your Process?
Do you have a process for writing? Or do you sit down and just start writing? Are you enjoying the process of writing? Or have you started something that doesn’t please you or feel right?
Remember, you don’t have to be what everyone else is–historical novelist, memoirist, chick lit writer, biographer. You don’t have to write the same way every other writer does. You can be whomever you want to be as a writer.
Look around your space. What books do you see that you’ve kept after reading them? What fills your shelves? If those are the books you’ve enjoyed as a reader, maybe they fall into the genre you will enjoy writing. Take a good look at the process these writers chose. Discover the writer you want to be. Know yourself, and try to forget the critics.
3. Set a Daily Goal
Determine a daily goal, either by number of words or pages or choose a time increment, such as an hour or maybe two. If you choose to follow a time increment system for daily writing, set a timer for the amount of time. Then write until the timer goes off. A handy app for accomplishing this is Pomodairo, a Pomodoro time-based timer and task management app.
4. Give Yourself Breaks
After you’ve accomplished what you sat down to do, give yourself a break. Take a 10-15 minute walk or stretch, have a cup of tea or coffee, do something to move out of your chair and breathe fresh air. Perhaps you have a note or personal card to mail–write it and get it ready to go in the mail. If that load of laundry is ready to be folded, that will only take a few minutes. Do that. Just do something to refresh your mind and body.
5. Devise a Method to Follow Productivity
I did not realize how important this could be until I signed on to Jeff Goins’ Facebook group, My 500 Words. The goal in this group is to write 500 words each day on something you’re working on or using the provided prompt. It provides accountability, support and encouragement. The accountability is what I was searching for when I signed up. In the process of organizing the group, Jeff mentioned the importance of accountability, including following your own productivity. Not long after, I came across a link to a writing progress tracker developed by author Jamie Raintree. Simple to use and handy in an Excel document on my computer, I can easily log in the number of words I’ve written each day and on which blog or project. Jamie has entered all the formulas to calculate the daily, weekly and monthly word count. Thanks, Jamie!
6. Read Less, Write More
This is an area I need to improve on. I lose writing time each day because I think I should ready everything I find on becoming a better writer, how to write memoir, and more. I can’t resist the idea that someone has a better idea about how to write. Slowly I’m learning that I must stop reading what others think and get on with the writing. As I look around my writing space, there are dozens of books and articles on writing that I have yet to read and in that state they aren’t supporting my writing efforts. I’m finding I tend to learn more by doing than reading about how to do it. If I encounter a problem in my writing, then I’ll go look it up and see what I’ve missed in the doing.
7. Read Your Genre
There is one area you’ll want to read, and that is books in the genre you’ve chosen to write. From these writers, you will learn more about your chosen craft. Watch how they open and close chapters. See how they have developed their characters. How do they use dialogue? Then see if you can apply them to your work. This is not plagiarism as you’re not copying what they wrote–you are modeling the principles of writing they used.
8. Set Goals
Some of us are goal setters, and some are not. If you are so inclined, set large goals first. Then work backward from the deadline established for that goal and set smaller goals along the way to help in accomplishing the larger goal on time. For instance, if you want to publish your book after the first of the year, you will need to have it edited and revised in October or November to leave time for edits and rewrites. What this means is that the book needs to be finished in late summer. This is an example of how you need to set your goals in order to timely complete your project.
Accountability needs to be worked into goal setting. Perhaps there is someone you can tell about your goal(s). A critiquing partner, a writing group member, or a close friend or family member. You’ll note on the right sidebar I have a countdown set. Believe me, I see that more often than is comfortable these days. You can also set the dates on your calendar and set up pop-up reminders for each one.
9. Work When No One Else Is and/or When You Feel “On”
How do we know the best time of our 24 hours each day to write? Some writers wake early in the morning before their family members wake up, and they get in an hour or more of quiet writing. Young mothers who are writers wait eagerly for nap time. I read a post recently by Ellis Shurman on how he found an extra hour in his daily schedule of commuting, working fulltime, parenting and more. Others establish blocks of time on a calendar and then tell their family members they are off to write and are not to be bothered. (Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn’t!). Actually, for you it might be looking at what you have to carry out and doing that during the part of the day when feel your best, really “on.” Suit yourself. You are the writer.
10. Write Now, Edit Later
You have all heard it. Write until the first draft is completed. No stopping for edits, errors, corrections, rewrites–just write. The temptation for some of us who are Type A personalities to make that first draft perfect is overwhelming. I have finally taught myself to write, write, write–don’t stop. It hasn’t been easy but it does go faster when you’re not continuously stopping to make corrections. Once you’re finished with the draft, then you can sit down with a copy, or maybe you like to do your editing on the screen, and make the necessary corrections, perhaps a little rewriting here and there. I think we may all be familiar with Anne Lamott’s quote on this subject.
11. Bottom Line–Write Your Story and No Harpies Allowed
In your writing, be yourself. Be honest. Tell your story. It is after all your story. Yours to tell, and only you know it and can tell it. If you don’t write it down, how will anyone remember it after you’re gone? How will anyone ever read it and gain any perspective from your life experiences?
We mustn’t let the harpies get in our way. When one settles on your shoulder, close your ears to what you hear: “You can’t write.” “Who is going to read this garbage?” “What makes you think anyone wants to now what you think or feel?” “Get over yourself–you’re not a writer.” remember you are the writer, you own the story, and you can write it without any outside help.
This is not an exhaustive list. If you search the Internet, there are so many ideas about what we writers should do or not do in order to be productively producing our books and essays, our poetry and rhyme. Yet it all boils down to how it works best for each of us individually, doesn’t it?
Do you have a process that works for you? Are you willing to share ideas with the rest of us? Leave comments, ideas, questions, criticisms, etc. in the comments below. Let’s discuss!