I Took The Leap

And I’m shaking with excitement.

I’ve wanted to write since before I can remember–it’s one of the very few constants in my life. What I wanted to “do” for a living always bounced around, and was generally more “practical,” because I’ve rarely had self-confidence as a writer.

But that’s been changing recently, over the past year especially.

Not my insecurities–those abound still. But my commitment to making the effort anyway. To making time for writing every (or almost every) day. To stop making excuses for myself. To work to get better. To work to get good enough that I produce work that people want to buy. To build enough self-worth that I don’t feel guilty asking for money for my stories, because I put lots of time and blood and sweat and tears into them, and if someone gets value from that, I don’t want to feel guilty for thinking that I deserve to be compensated for that value. To make my life meaningful to me, and, in doing so, hopefully brighten the lives of others with the stories I create. To live the life I want for myself, joyfully and unapologetically.

Because in doing so, I become the best and happiest version of myself–and thus the best person I can be for the world, for my potential readers, and, most importantly, for my loved ones.

So what’s the leap that I’ve taken?

Today, I bought Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula, through the affiliate link from Holly Lisle (so that I’ll also get author-specific bonus marketing content for Jeff’s course from her).

If you want to run your own online business–either as an indie author like myself, or in a more traditional market–I suggest you take a look. Registration for the course closes in about 8 hours (11:59 PST), and so far it looks amazing. I can’t recommend it without reservation (yet) because I haven’t completed it. But Jeff’s success and the success of his students speaks for itself–and, if you know her, you know that a recommendation from Holly Lisle does not come lightly.

By this time next year, I’ll have finally finished my revision on Wingless and launched it to the public, and my next book–as yet untitled–with be prepping for its own launch, if it’s not there already.

I haven’t been active here on the blog much because I’ve been so focused on writing, but I’ll be around more now that I’ve quit my second job (which was another leap of its own, and will probably get its own post soon). I will keep you updated on the revision, my new WIP, and how Jeff’s course is going for me, along with general posts that I think you’ll find interesting. (Although specifics about what Jeff teaches will, of course, be withheld–he puts work into his courses, and I won’t be giving away freely what he deserves payment for.)

I hope you stick around on the journey with me. And if you’re following me for my stories, not updates like this–rest easy. Remember the blog hop? It’s going to be a quarterly thing now, so I’ll have another free story for you in November–as well as links to more free stories from more fantastic authors.

Writing is my passion, writing for a living is my dream, and I’m sorry for the long post, but I’m just so excited to be finally taking this to the next level and working actively towards my dream instead of just sitting on my ass hoping people will find my work.

So, what’s your dream? And how are you going to work to make it happen?

(That isn’t rhetorical, by the way. I’d really like to know, and I’d really like to see you succeed. Because I know I’m happier when I work towards and accomplish my goals, and I want to see a world in which everyone does the same, and experiences that same indescribable joy.)

Cheers, and please leave a comment below. I’ve been sharing enough of my story, I’d love to hear yours. ;P

 

Writing and 8tracks

Recently, 8tracks has become my go-to for finding good music to write to.

In case you’re unfamiliar, 8tracks is a free internet-radio-type website akin to Pandora–except instead of stations, they have playlists created by users.

I don’t really recommend the site as a whole. There are some fantastic hidden gems among those playlists, but I tend to find them hidden amongst entirely too much frankly awful music.

But for instrumental playlists? Well, for that, 8tracks is golden. If you’re looking for good, wordless, emotionally resonant music to write (or draw, or whatever) to, I absolutely recommend checking it out. I usually just search “writing” and “instrumental” together, and then take my pick. This is a great one, and one of my personal favorites so far.

(And a few days ago, I discovered it can be good for an other thing, too. Namely, for listening to epic motivational speeches to kick-start my day. I found one playlist in particular, entitled Go Further., particularly inspiring.)

That’s all, folks.

The Art of Setting Goals

Nineteen days into the year 2015.

Normally, by this time, any goals I’d set or resolutions I’d made for the new year would’ve fallen by the wayside, and I’d be telling myself, “I’ll work on it tomorrow,” or “next month,” or “next year”…

Pretty pathetic–I know. Or, at least, that’s what I would’ve been thinking to myself. And then, of course, finding the motivation to brush it off and follow through on my goals would’ve become impossible. Because what’s the point in trying if I just keep failing myself?

But this year is different. And it’s different because towards the end of last year I learned–and began to truly accept–two very important facts:

1. You’re only as successful as the goals you set.
2. You shouldn’t fear failure.

I’m still working on accepting that second one. I’m a huge perfectionist, so it’s hard, but I’ll get there. And I know I will, because now I know the art of setting goals. And the secret is crazy simple:

Set goals you can accomplish.

Seem too simplistic? Too obvious? Too underachieving, maybe? It’s not, once you understand the most important word in that sentence, and why it’s the most important.

Set goals YOU can accomplish.

It used to be the case that, when I decided I wanted to do something big (like, say, quit smoking, write a book, lose ten pounds, whatever), that’d be it, that’d be my goal. Say I decided I wanted to write screenplays. My goal, singular, would be: write a screenplay.

Inevitably, I’d stall out–usually within a week or two–because no matter how hard I may work, I wouldn’t feel any closer to my goal. I’d consider it another thing I couldn’t accomplish, and blame myself for not living up to my expectations, never wondering if perhaps it were my expectations that were failing me. (Spoiler alert: it was.)

Because I cannot write a screenplay. It’s an impossible goal.

Perhaps, if you’ve already got the characters and plot in your head and you’ve got no need for sleep and you’re more-than-a-little insane, you can sit your ass down and write a screenplay. If you’re human, however, all you can do is write one word at a time until you get a few pages, and keep doing that every day until you’re finished.

If I change my goal from “write a screenplay” to “write 10 pages of script everyday,” it becomes a lot more doable.

And this is where the you comes into play in setting goals: because while one person may be able to crank out 10 pages a day like it’s nothing, maybe you can only do 5. Or one. Or maybe you can manage 20 pages a day… but only every other day. You cannot look at someone else and say, “well, she wrote a 100k-word novel in three months” and then think yourself a failure when you cannot do the same–because you’re not that person.

The trick is to set goals that you can accomplish, based on the time and capability you have. If you decide to write a book, but haven’t managed to write a word in months or years–and especially if you’ve never written at all–don’t tell yourself you’re suddenly going to write 30 pages a day. If you’ve never worked out in your life, don’t tell yourself you’re suddenly going to start each morning with a 5-mile run.

Instead, maybe try 10 pages a day, or half a mile. If you can’t manage that, cut it down to 5 pages, or a couple laps around the block. You’ll work your way up–and because your new goals are doable, you’ll see your progress each day, as you’re able to check “finish the day’s writing” or “finish the day’s workout” off your list, and see the pages pile on, or the pounds drop off.

Start with something you know you can do, but that’s just a little bit more than you’ve been doing. It may (and probably will) seem slow going at first, but as you get in the habit of doing it, you’ll feel the rush of accomplishing what you set out to do on a regular basis, which will drive you to do more. You just need to find that little bit that you can do every day, and start doing it–even if you’re only working on your goal for 10 minutes a day. Just ten minutes.

If you can’t put in ten minutes a day, then maybe you don’t really want what you’re saying you want.

But if you’re trying to devote two hours a day right off the bat, and can’t manage that..then maybe you’re just expecting too much of yourself too soon.

And that’s okay, so long as you reassess your goals, make them work for you, and keep chipping away towards the things you truly want.

 

Don’t Look Back

If you’re anything like me, your brain spends a good portion of its time and energy reminding you of all the things you should’ve done, however big or small. Making you feel guilty for never learning how to draw, or taking a trip abroad, or working out, or writing, or whatever.

If you’re a lot like me, that guilt becomes crippling. In my case, it hits me hardest when I skip a day of writing. (Or two. Or three…)

The left side of my brain, my Inner Editor–that pesky perfectionist–gets stuck in a loop. She looks back at my screw-up, whatever it was, and replays it a thousand times, analyzing it, and making me feel like crap for not getting it right the first time.

Sometimes, if it’s really bad, she’ll replay my entire life, questioning every choice, criticizing every action and lack of action. (She especially enjoys doing this right as I’m trying to fall asleep, or right when I sit down to write).

Can you guess what happens next?

Nothing. She stays stuck in that loop, pushing each of my flaws and failures to the forefront of my mind. And then I feel so awful that I continue not to write, or work out, or go abroad, or learn to draw, or whatever. And that just adds more fuel to her fire.

“You should’ve spent time writing before you went out yesterday, Paula.”
“Should’ve cleaned the apartment first thing, instead of procrastinating the day away.”
“You should’ve started exercising years ago.”

On and on she goes.

When I allow myself to spend too long looking back, I have a hard time looking away again. Because my Inner Editor is a huge perfectionist, she focuses on the things I got wrong (never mind all the things I got right)–and she stays stuck, because she wants so badly to fix those errors. But she can’t. It’s in the past, it’s done.

The only way to get my mind out of that loop is to grab my Inner Editor by the ears and force her to turn around and look aheadTo envision myself in the future: six months down the road, a year, five years, ten. To glimpse the person I want to be, the things I want to accomplish. And then, before I can waste time daydreaming, to stop looking towards the future and look right here, right now, and start doing what needs to be done to get where I want to be.

Never mind all those times I didn’t accomplish what I set out to. No looking back.

I can’t change the years I spent dreaming of writing and never actually doing it. I can write right now, and keep writing every day for the rest of my life. Ditto for exercising, learning to draw, whatever it may be.

And if I slip up, there’s no point dwelling on it. Dwelling never helped anything. What does help is brushing myself off and moving forward, getting better.

Daenerys Targaryen has a great mantra in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series: “If I look back, I am lost.” She means it a little differently than I do, but the phrase holds true for me nonetheless, and maybe it holds true for you, too.

Because when I look back, I often do get lost. Very, very lost.

So here’s to looking ahead.

 

Failure is the First Step

Anytime we do anything, we risk failure.

Let that sink in for a moment. Really, really sink in.

Anytime we do anything, we risk failure.

Let’s take walking as an example–because most people have (or have had) the ability to walk. It’s something we do every day, without even thinking about it.

With every step you take, you risk tripping or stumbling or otherwise falling flat on your face. But when was the last time fear of that little failure, fear of stumbling, stopped you from walking? When was the last time that actual failure, actually tripping and falling over, made you stay on the ground, refusing to ever try walking again?

My guess is never.

We’ve all heard that old cliche, “Success is a journey.” But too often we forget that failure is the first step. And often the second, and the third, and the fourth…

The only way for us to learn to walk is to stumble, again and again. And even when we think we’ve got it down, even when we’ve been doing it for decades, the risk of stumbling is still there, always lingering.

The same can be said of anything we choose to do, and especially those things that make life worth living: sports, art–and, for me–writing. The possibility of failure is always there, and especially so when taking those first wobbly steps.

Yet too often most of us, myself included, let our fear of certain kinds of failure blow insanely out of proportion. The fear of failure cripples us. Or rather, we allow the fear to cripple us.

Example: if (when) I do fail as a writer, and write something awful, what’s the worst that could happen? My hard drive won’t explode. My grandma won’t have a heart attack.

The absolute worst possible outcome is that I write something I don’t like…and learn to do better next time. Which makes each moment spent on that “failure” worth infinitely more than all the hours wasted doing something with no (read: less) risk of failure. Why should I be scared of failure? Failing is the first step.

We forget that failure is not only inevitable, it’s necessary. That without it, we cannot improve. That without the threat of it, everything would easy–and easy can be fun, but it’s never satisfying.

Most importantly, we forget that failing isn’t a big deal. It’s actually a good thing. To fail, you have to at least be trying–and nothing is a greater mentor than past mistakes. I am especially terrible at remembering this.

So this is me, reminding myself, and reminding you: give yourself the gift of failure. Without it, you cannot walk. And if you cannot walk, you certainly cannot run galloping through the fields of success.

Making Time

I saw the most ridiculous commercial today. (Well, all commercials are ridiculous, but this one was especially so.) It was for some kind of exercise machine, and it started with the statement that:

The number one reason people don’t exercise is time.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Not having enough time may be the number one excuse people give for not working out, but the number one reason that they don’t is that they don’t really want to.

When people say they don’t have time for something, what they’re really saying is that they’d rather spend their time doing other things–but they don’t want to say that, because they feel like they “should” be doing whatever it is that they aren’t (exercising, writing, whatever).

If you want something, if you really want it, you will make time for it. Because if you want it, it will drive you, and you’ll learn quickly that if you sit around waiting to “find” time, it will pass you by. You have to carve that time out of your schedule, and gift it to yourself.

And if you let go of all the excuses you have for not doing those things you didn’t really want to do in the first place, you’ll free up a lot of mental energy to focus on doing the things that actually do matter to you.

So, if you want it (whatever “it” is), do it. Make it happen. Make time. Give up the excuses. If you’re not doing what you love, what you want, then you’re only hurting yourself, and you’re wasting nobody’s time but your own.

And if you don’t want it… give up the excuses, too. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you should be going after something that, in your heart, doesn’t matter to you. Instead, go after what you do want, and don’t feel the need to explain why you’re spending time on the things you love, instead of the things other people think you should love.

You don’t need an excuse. It’s your life. You only get one. Make it matter to you.