Friday, November 30, 2007

Goal Setting Lesson Six A Little Time Management

Session Six: Time Management Begins

I love time management. I always have. Ever since high school, I've believed there was a better way to do everything and I've spent the past *^& years chasing those ways. Some of my experiments have flopped, some have exploded in my face, but some have yielded some fabulous results. In fact, I've actually written a time management book -- which was lost in my last computer crash because I didn’t have it on a back up CD. Yes, I should be shot.

So when I tell you I adore time management and all its theories, I'm not kidding.

So...Where do we start?

Well, today, we're going to be talking about four things. Number one: Finding blocks of time. Number Two: Learning to work ahead in "bits and pieces." Number Three: Being prepared. And Number Four: Mood reading and writing.

Let's jump right in with Number One: Finding your blocks of time.

When it comes to finding blocks of time, I always advise people to start right where they are. I never advise anybody to change anything until they've spent a week evaluating. Why? Because in all my years of helping people evaluate their lives, I have discovered that there is always a block of time in everybody's schedule that can be used to accomplish their goal. And when you find that block of time and simply begin to use it, you won't so much as create a ripple of a ruffle in the feathers of your family's life.

And that's really what you want to do. You want to find the time to accomplish your goal in such a way that you don't disturb anybody else's life or ask anybody else to sacrifice. Why? So you're not fighting your own personal inertia, along with a troop of deprived family members!

Here"s an easy example of how it works:

I'm an early riser. My family sleeps late. When my kids were still in grade school, I could easily set my alarm for an hour (or two) before their scheduled waking time and get my writing done before anybody stirred. (That reaped the added benefit of my working in a completely quiet house, too!) Nobody even had to know I was working. No one challenged me. No one wanted on the computer. No one had a button that needed sewn or a nose that needed wiped. They were all sleeping.

That was perfect time.

But what if you're not an early riser? Worse, what if you are but your kids are too! Or what if there simply is no way for you to use that system?

You go in the opposite direction. Can you stay up an hour later and use that time productively? Note that there's a restriction to that. You can't just stay up an hour later, what you do in that hour must be of good quality. If not, that's not good for you either.

So if you can't get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later and produce good work, what do you do then? You start evaluating. Really look at how you're spending your time. Journal for a week or even a couple days and you'll see where your writing time is hiding!

For instance a friend of mine was addicted to the 7:00 and 7:30 back-to-back airing of her favorite sitcom (Golden Girls). She would get a cup of coffee, sit down and watch an hour of television while her husband had his quality time with their kids. When she told me this, after having sobbed about having no time to write, I gasped. My Lord! You waste an entire hour on a sitcom? There's your writing time!

The funny part of it was, she didn't even see it because the habit was so ingrained.

Here's another good example. This is something I recently started to do because I suddenly needed more time for my web page, PR, and correspondence. I had to find a way to take a bite out of time and when I examined my schedule, this is what I came up with...

My husband is a big fan of Walker, Texas Ranger. I ... well, I can take it or leave it. I used to win points by letting him watch the show a few times a week while I crocheted at his side. Now, I let him watch it every day because that's another hour he's occ-u-pod-o and I'm free to do whatever I want.

But television isn't the only culprit or opportunity. There are other hidden blocks of time of your life that are going to waste. Blocks you might not even realize you’re wasting!

You wait in line at the grocery store. You wait for your doctor. You wait in traffic. You wait for your beautician. You wait while dinner cooks. All these blocks of time can be put to use.

Now, granted, you probably can't 'write' in some of these blocks. But you can read research books, other writers' work, and how-to books. You can also jot down plot notes, bits of scenes, and descriptions.

And that takes us to topic number two of our time management lesson...Learning to do things in bits and pieces.

We have a tendency to look at everything in big chunks. But, you know, a good writing How-To book is read one word, paragraph, section, and chapter at a time. Your own work is written one word, paragraph, scene, and chapter at a time. When you begin to look at it that way, fifteen minutes spent writing a paragraph or page suddenly has new value. And so will all those fifteen-minute blocks of time you have that go to waste.

I do odd things like write out descriptions in advance. Houses, rooms, offices, secondary character features, the way my hero looks in the throes of passion, and any detail I can pinpoint that needs a clear, well worded description.

I write and revise opening paragraphs for chapters. I write (and revise or polish) ending hooks. And I do them at the dentist, the doctor, waiting for dinner to cook, and watching Walker Texas Ranger (when I can’t get out of it).

Do you know how helpful it is for you to have descriptions written out in advance? I can't begin to tell you how much fun it is to have a 20-pages-per-day goal and have six or eight one-paragraph descriptions that can be "dropped in" in the appropriate places. Six or eight one-paragraph descriptions is two or three pages! Three pages of pre-written text that you can count as part of that day's goal.

For those romance writers among us...Have you ever thought of writing your kiss or love scenes when you have a spare fifteen waiting for your hair dresser?

For the romantic suspense and suspense writers...Have you ever thought of writing a particularly hair-raising scene while waiting for your doctor, your accountant, or your lawyer (I think the lawyer's office is a particularly scary place, very conducive to those tense, nail-biting scenes) and having it ready to drop into place when needed?

There is a caveat to all this great advice, however. And it's Topic Number Three for today's lesson: Be prepared.

If you plan to use your wait at the doctor to revise the ending hook of all your chapters, you have to have the last page of all your chapters printed out and ready to take with you so you can work on them. You must have a pen and paper with you if you plan to write something from scratch. In other words, you have to have the supplies you need, when you need them.

This probably means you'll need to carry a pen and pad with you everywhere you go. You don't have to cart a legal pad. You can buy a little pad that fits into a shirt pocket or your purse. Or, if you're really ambitious, you can create a folder that you can take to doctor's (and similar)appointments that has your synopsis, pertinent information, paper and a pen.

You may need to begin carrying a paperback with you all the time so you can read in unexpected down time, like when your bus gets stuck in traffic or you at the back of a long line in the grocery store.

But, that's okay. Do you know why? Because people who carry paperbacks are perceived as intelligent ... So I would go for that one if I were you.

This also means, though, that you have to have plenty of books on hand. You must have novels, nonfiction and research books available to take to your doctor's appointments, beautician's shop and dentist's office. But to most readers this is not a hardship.

Plus, I've learned to "mood read" and "mood write" because mood reading and writing reaps the best results for me -- which is Topic Number Four and our last topic of the lesson.

If I'm in a distracted mood, nonfiction is usually best for me to read. If I'm feeling attentive, I prefer fiction (because I need my brain to analyze what I'm reading.) So I know when to take a non-fiction book or a fiction book to my dentist so that I not only read the most, but also retain the information I'm reading.

But more than that, if I'm feeling lousy and I'm writing a book in which someone needs to die, my mood and the scene are a match made in heaven. I can easily write the scene! When I’m happy, I don't try to write the black moment of a book. I write a tender, happy scene. In fact, if all the tender happy scenes are written, it's better for me to go back and revise and polish a happy scene when I'm happy, then to try to write the black moment. It simply will not be good enough. And, frankly, I will have wasted that time.

The point? I don’t struggle trying to write a happy scene when I'm mad or an angry scene when I'm happy. That's counter-productive. And counter-productive is a waste of time!

I find I write some really great death scenes in the doctor's office after I've been kept waiting over an hour for a ten-minute check-up.

I write the best kisses in my beautician's shop. Why? Because they're always chit-chatting and happy there. And there's nothing like a happy mood to inspire me to write a kiss.

I"ve also been known to pen a black moment or two waiting for the dentist.

And that's our first four points to time management.

Number One: Find blocks of time where they already exist!

Number Two: Learn to work ahead in "bits and pieces" (and probably write better!)

Number Three: Be prepared. Take books, notebooks, pens with you everywhere you go!

And Number Four: Mood read and write. Take advantage of your mood to improve your prose and save some time!

So, what's your assignment for the next few days? Look for your blocks of potentially available time and figure out ways to use them. Find your Walker, Texas Ranger hour (the hour when your kids and husband are entertained to the max) when you can slip away and write. Buy yourself a stash of books. Especially a few good writing how-tos. You may not have time to read the classics waiting for little Regina to get out of volleyball practice, but if you read only one good tip a day from a writing how-to, your crafting ability would increase dramatically!

Begin to identify your moods and write with them. (Even if it's only a paragraph or two to get you started!)

And get some "stuff" that you can carry with you. Decide if you're going whole hog by creating a folder with your synopsis and putting in pen and paper so you can write actual scenes while waiting for the doctor. Or if you're a dabbler who needs only the little tablet and pen for shirt pocket or purse.

And get to it! Use your time!

susan meier

Goal Setting Lesson 5 The last four steps

Session Five: The other half of seven steps to Goal Setting

In the last session I told you that the seven steps to goal-setting are:

1. Decide what you really want
2. Write your goals out on paper
3. Determine the price you have to pay
4. Make a plan
5. Take action immediately
6. Do something every day that takes you to your goal
7. Resolve in advance that you will never quit.

Two lessons ago, we delved into understanding what we really want. We decided that we don't want money or toys as much as we want emotions like happiness, security, love, respect, affection, and self-respect. Then we also realized that "want" of those emotions is the true bottom line reason behind why we do things like work hard at being a good parent, or pay our bills, or get married. Then I instructed you to set goals, or, more realistically put, decide how you will spend this year's time, based upon the emotions or "states" you need to achieve.

In our last lesson, we took your goals and we refined them to be clear, specific, measurable and time bound. We also accomplished steps two through four. We wrote our goals on paper, determined the price we would have to pay to achieve them and made a plan.

We deserve a round of applause because all of that was hard work. And important work. But today we get to the good stuff.

Why are steps five through seven the good stuff?

Because anybody can know what they want, anybody can write out those goals on paper, anybody can determine the price they have to pay and anybody can make a plan. But not everybody can take action immediately, discipline themselves to do something everyday that will take them to their goal and resolve in advance that they will never quit.

These last three steps, taking action, disciplining yourself to do something every day that would get you closer to your goal and resolving never to quit are the hardest part of any goal, because they are the "heart" of the goal.

Let's start by examining step five, take action immediately. Why is that so important? Why is that part of the "heart" of your goal setting process?

Because, quite simply, by actually taking action on your goal, you physically say you are committed. You tell yourself you believe you can do this.

If you don't take action immediately, there's always a question mark. Sure, you said you could write your book this year, but you haven't even turned on the computer, so do you really think that you can write a book this year?

Or were you wishful thinking again? Do you really have faith in yourself? And if you don't...

Have you chosen the right goal?

The ability to take action immediately speaks volumes about your self-confidence, your capabilities, and your belief in your talent.

Conversely, if you won't take the steps, if you will not immediately do something that takes you in the direction of your goal, it also speaks volumes and you should be listening to what your subconscious is telling you!

Maybe you need to set a different goal?

But there's another reason to take action immediately. The beginning of any project is the hardest. Once you set your goal and then take action, the difficult hurdle of "beginning" is handled. Your goal no longer seems like something off in the distance. Instead, it's something you've already started.

It becomes real, manageable, and you begin to feel the sense of ownership necessary to commit for the long haul.

Simply put, step five, take action immediately, speaks of self-confidence and commitment!

But so does Step six: Do something every day to take you closer to your goal. Except it doesn't merely speak to commitment, it also has two other advantages.

First, doing something every day, a piece of your project every day, breaks your work down into manageable increments and pieces, and teaches you that any task can be handled when taken one step at a time.

Second, working on your goal every day keeps you involved in your goal. You can't forget it. But more than that, you can't fall behind. At least not so far behind that you feel overwhelmed. Working on your goal everyday keeps you active, involved and moving toward the prize.

And that usually clips procrastination off at the ankles. Do you know why? Because most of us procrastinate out of a feeling of overwhelm. Consistently and consciously, do something everyday that takes you toward your goal and you will never feel a sense of overwhelm, and probably won't procrastinate again.

Step Seven: Resolve in advance never to quit. No matter how difficult things get.

This step is the best. The resolution to keep going, no matter how defeated you feel, no matter how far your faith has depreciated, will actually walk you through the hard times. It will get you through the times when you want to quit, when you feel like it's pointless, when your back has been broken by criticism or a rejection.

Face it. You are going to have days when you don't feel like doing your daily portion. You will have days when your plan seems insane. You will get rejections, hear of friends who sold or got agents, get poor critiques, lose contests and face every form of hurdle known to writerkind.

But...If you've made the vow that you will not quit, that you will stick it out for your year (or whatever time period you’ve assigned) or until your book is written or the twenty pounds lost (Susan...twenty pounds...)then you will see yourself not merely face, but also overcome (or outlast) hurdles that might have otherwise defeated you!

Sometimes it really is nothing more than a matter of making a commitment. So today that's what you need to do. Make your commitment. Take your first action toward the goals you've set. Make the initial calls, write the first few pages, start a synopsis, buy the crafting book, find the internet sites...Take all those first steps.

Then resolve to continue on to do something every day.

And then resolve never to quit.

But do one more thing...

Did you ever notice that we can keep all of the promises we make to our kids, most of the promises we make to our husbands, a big percentage of the promises we make to our friends and parents...But the promises we make to ourselves frequently get lost in the shuffle?

Once you resolve never to quit, I also want you to resolve to keep the promises you make to yourself. Don’t shortchange yourself. Don't treat everybody better than you treat yourself.

Keep the promises you make to yourself.

susan meier

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lesson 4: Seven Steps of Goal Setting

Session Four: Seven Steps to Goal Setting (Steps 2 through 4)

According to Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar (two time management, business motivational speakers) there are seven steps to goal setting. They are:

Decide what you really want
Write your goals out on paper
Determine the price you have to pay
Make a plan
Take action immediately
Do something every day that takes you to your goal
Resolve in advance that you will never quit.

Last session we did step one. You should have decided what you want. In fact, you should have a list of things you want.

Now we're going to modify that list, refine it and turn it into actual goals.

We'll start with Step 2: Write your goals down on paper.

Knowing what you want is only part of a goal. All the goal setting gurus agree that a goal must be clear, specific, measurable and time bound.

Clear means that it is easily under stood. (If you told your cat, she would nod in agreement.)

Specific means just that. That it is specific.

Measurable means that you know when it is achieved. You can measure it.

And time bound gives you a deadline ... because a goal without a deadline is only a wish. And we're done with wishes. We're serious. Writing is our passion.

So, if your goal is to sell a novel this year. Is that clear? Yes.

Is it specific? Well, sort of, but not really. What kind of novel do you intend to sell? To whom are you going to sell it? And, really, do you have enough control of the situation to say that you will actually "sell" it this year? Probably not. You have no control over how long your book could potentially sit on an editor's desk. There are too many variables to that goal.

So we have to amend it. How about this:

I will write a romance novel this year and SUBMIT it.

That's pretty good. It's clear, it's specific ... Well, sort of ... The truth is, the "romance" genre is now so big that "romance novel" isn't really all that specific. So you might want to amend this goal again to include a line or a subgenre. (Such as paranormal, short historical, women's fiction with romantic elements.)

All right. Let's write out our make-believe goal one more time.

I will write an Intrigue this year and submit it to...

Whom? To which editor would I send an Intrigue?

Hum. Maybe we have some investigative work to do...or maybe we should leave this open?

How about this:

I will write an Intrigue this year. I will participate on a few internet loops, visit eHarlequin and submit it to the editor who seems to be requesting the most manuscripts.

Better. Much better.

It is clear. It is specific. It is time-bound (Albeit that it's a broad time limit because you could spend until December 31 writing and researching, and then mail the sucker at 11:30 that night...) and it is measurable. You know you are done when the book is in the mail.

It's also flexible. And that's something that a lot of goal-setting guys don't mention specifically, but lots allude to. Because circumstances change in all of our lives we need to be flexible. If you were to state that you were going to send your manuscript to a specific editor and she quit, or got pregnant, you would probably panic. You might even be stopped dead in your tracks. However, because you wrote your goal in a realistically flexible way, you now won't flinch or blink at any editor changes. You will simply keep up with the editor changes at publishers (via the Internet -- as we stated in the actual goal) and make your decision of where to send the book right before it was ready to be sent. No problem. No panic. No work stoppage!

So, we now have set a real live example goal.

In 2008, I will write an Intrigue. I will participate on a few internet loops, visit eHarlequin and submit it to the editor who seems to be requesting the most manuscripts.

Good goal. At this point I would tell our imaginary goal-setter she could set a few other goals, if she wanted, but, frankly, this is a fairly hefty one for writing. I don't think I would set another writing goal. Unless our imaginary goal-setter believed she could realistically write more than one book in a year. Or unless the additional goal was something to do with crafting.

For instance, the year I wrote this workshop I had 3 books to write. (I ended up writing four...but I digress.) Anyway, I didn't see room in my schedule to attempt any other writing project, but I could attend lots of Internet workshops and I did. I also went to three conferences. I also had three books to promote.

Extra "writing" goals you set should also enhance or compliment your big writing goal. Online workshops are a godsend. You don't even have to leave your home to attend. They are cheap. And you can print them out to refer to again and again. You not only get good crafting information that should update your skills, but also completing this goal enhances -- it doesn't interfere with -- your major goal of writing that book and submitting it before the end of the year.

So basically, when it comes to creating writing goals you could have the big ones (the "I will accomplish this much work" writing goals), crafting (that's going to workshops), industry (that's where reading comes in) and PR. People tell me it's never too soon to start promoting yourself, so -- hey -- get your publicity pix taken and start studying how you will promote your books when the time comes. There's nothing like being prepared.

Once you've worked through what you want to do as a writer, and perhaps written a few personal goals (like lose twenty pounds before June 1 yes, Susan, I'm talking to you), and family, community goals, write them down, as clear, specific, measurable and time-bound things you intend to do.

That completes step two. Write down all of your goals. But let me take it one step further and talk for a second about what you do with your goals once they are written down.

I have a small notebook that I can carry in my purse and I write my goals in this notebook. Why? So I can carry it with me and review my goals regularly.

The pundits say you should review your goals once a month. Any more than once a month, and it becomes meaningless because your progress is frequently too small to measure. Any less and it becomes worthless because you aren't analyzing enough.

Writing them down and reviewing them regularly reminds you of what you want to accomplish and gives you the chance to record progress, which motivates you.

And we all now know how important motivation is! So don’t just write them down and forget them. Write them down in something you can carry with you and look at them about once a month!

Step Three is Determine the price you will have to pay to achieve your goals.

This is another one of those toughies. If your goal is to get a book to an editor before the end of the year and you know it will take a lot of your time to write the book, then the price you will have to pay isn't merely the expenditure of time. It is also the "loss" of whatever else you would have been doing in that time.

My big deal is TV. I think all of us could find enough time to write something the size of the Bible, if we stepped away from the tube.

I watched almost nothing in the late eighties and early nineties when I was working full-time and also writing one book a year for Silhouette. Did I miss Dif'Rent Strokes? Did I lose something because I rarely saw the Facts of Life? Am I fashion-impaired because I never watched Dynasty and Dallas? Lord, I hope not.

Rather than think you have to give up going to your son's little league games, why not go in the direction of cutting out TV? Rather than miss time with your family, why not wake up an hour earlier?

But, wait, I'm tripping over into time management and we don't want to do that yet. For now, write your list of things you can realistically give up to get the time you need to write. Some people give up bowling leagues, and then get back to them once their book is finished or when they are writing enough they can quit their day jobs.

Some people, believe it or not, have to give up critique groups or writing groups. I'm one of those people who is always called upon to do work for my writer's group so when I have a deadline or special project, I just disappear for awhile.

And that's what you need to do. Figure out what things you can most realistically give up.

Then make a plan. Step four. Sit down with your list of goals and list of things that you're giving up (so you know where you're getting the time to accomplish your goal) and make a plan for how you will achieve your goals.

Before you actually pick up your pen and start writing your plan, however, remember that writing a book is more than writing! Hitting your goal of writing a book this year might realistically require you to research first. In the same way, a goal of attending a certain number of workshops might require that you spend time on the internet looking for online workshops. Either of the above might require that you set your alarm for an hour earlier than you normally would. And writing a book this year might require that your plan include a per-day page count. It might require that you assign chores to your kids so you don’t have to do all the housecleaning! (Ah-ha! Now we’re getting somewhere!)

Again, think it through. Think through your life. Think through your goals. Think through your work habits, your work style, and your goals and make them click.

That's your assignment for the day. Set some specific, measurable, time-bound goals, write them down, figure out what you have to give up (mourn the loss, kiss stuff goodbye, promise to return, but give it up at least temporarily), and then make a plan.

Then set at least 2 realistic goals for 2008 and meet me here for the next session when we talk about goal setting steps five, six and seven.

5. Take action immediately
6. Do something every day that takes you to your goal
7. Resolve in advance that you will never quit.

susan meier

Goal Setting Workshop Lesson 3 Are We There Yet?

Session Three: What kinds of goals should you have? (Are we there yet?)

So are we ready to set goals yet?

Yes. As my dad used to say, "Ring the tambourine." (When I was six that was hysterical.)

There are seven steps in goal setting. In the next session, we'll work on steps 2 through 4. In the session after that, we'll work through steps 5, 6 and 7. But today we're only working on Step 1:

Determine what you really want.

Today we're going to figure out what kinds of goals you should set and maybe even how many.

In the last session, I asked you to figure out if you worked more to avoid pain or to gain pleasure. Actually, what I asked was...

Are you motivated more by fear of loss or hope of gain?

If you answered that question honestly, you now know a great deal about yourself and how you work. What makes you tick.

And that's going to help you to set goals that will motivate you, but goals which also (I hope) will achieve the purposes you most need in your life!

So, the question is ... What do you need?

On one of his tape series, Tony Robbins gave a lesson on the Power of Why. Why do we do the things we do? He gave an example of something he wanted and continued to ask and answer the question "why do I want that?" ... until he ultimately said, "To be happy."

The truth is most of your goals are created to try to fulfill the overall purpose of being happy. Most of us became parents, wives/husbands, community workers (like volunteer firemen and PTO members) and writers to fulfill an "emotional" need. We all want to be happy. That's why a lot of us end up with ambiguous goals like "Be happy this year."

But though that fulfills a need, it isn't really tangible. It's not measurable. And it's also a state. You can't accomplish "happy" but you can take steps to accomplish something that makes you happy. And those steps are your goals.

So I guess what we could say then is that the first trick to setting goals is to figure out what emotional state you want and then determine the steps you have to take to get it.

Do you want to feel secure, be happy, end the year with a sense of accomplishment, boost your self-esteem, have a sense of purpose or pride by helping a child or one of a hundred other emotion-based bottom lines.

The truth is you don't want to sell a book to get money...Well, you might. Lord knows, I did. But there are other driving forces at work here and when you figure out what it is you really want ... happiness, security, accomplishment, purpose ... then suddenly all those goals like get a book published make sense. And so do your more ambiguous goals like be a "good" mom.

When you isolate your purpose for the year, then you're not just arbitrarily making a 'rule' for yourself. You are trying to fill a need and you can easily figure out the necessary steps to accomplish something that will satisfy that need. And, again, those steps become your goals.

This also works in the reverse.

For instances, when you know that you want security (financial or otherwise) you might realize that the goal of quitting your day job isn't realistic this year. So you wouldn't set that goal. Rather, you might set a stepping stone goal that helps you get to the point where quitting your day job is possible next year or the year after.

So how do you figure out what it is you really want? What are your driving emotions? Your driving needs?

You consider your life roles and your basis behind why you got yourself into those roles.

Why did you get married? To argue all the time? Or to share your life?

If you got married to share your life, then setting the goal of writing 22.5 hours a day impinges on the need of sharing your life with your husband and you won’t do it. Your goal will sabotage fulfillment of your need every bit as much as a desire to satisfy your need will sabotage your goal. In a nutshell, you will drive yourself nuts.

Why did you get your day job? For security? For money? To be able to have somewhere to wear your Gucci shoes?

If you did it for security, or for money, then leaping into the publishing world without a safety net is going to be scary and you might find yourself making excuses for not writing, rather than writing.

Setting goals that conflict with your internal needs won’t just sabotage your life; they can actually be the cause of depression and confusion.

Whew! Doesn't that make sense!

So, I guess we’re now saying the second trick to goal setting is figuring out what you really want and making sure that accomplishing one want doesn't interfere with another want.

Now, before you begin to think this is limiting, let me assure you that you can want lots of things. It's not unreasonable to want to be happy, to be successful, to be satisfied with your performance as a parent, and to be satisfied with your marriage. You simply have to be realistic about it, to balance it, to find a way to make it work.

This might mean that you can only set one writing goal. But, you know what? If it's a good, solid goal, and you achieve/accomplish it ... Isn't that better than setting 50 goals you never achieve?

So your assignment is to give your roles some thought. Get to the bottom line of why you are in the roles you are in and what emotion you hope to get from being the person in each of those roles. Then do Step One: Determine what you really want.

So, go for it...

What do you really want?

susan meier

Friday, November 23, 2007

Goal Setting Workshop Lesson 2

Session Two: The good, the bad and the Ugly: Motivation isn't always a positive, happy thing.

After reading the first session and writing out a list of what you want and what you need, you probably realize that there's a big difference between what you WANT and what you NEED. Wants are typically positive things. They are a way to gain pleasure. Needs are usually things you must have in order to avoid pain. (Like pay your mortgage so the bank doesn't foreclose on your house!)

Needs drive us more, farther and faster, because most of us will do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure. Let's face it, fear of busting the button on our slacks --

in front of a group to which we are giving a workshop --
at a writer's conference where we are well-known --
and at which our greatest competition is also giving a workshop --

will get us away from a second piece of fresh apple pie a lot quicker than the ambiguous, vague desire to 'look good'.

Why? Because we can feel that fear. That fear is very real. The embarrassment would be very real. We cannot feel the accolades of looking good -- Well, granted, we can envision a few people walking up to us saying, "Hey, you look great!" and for some of us that really is enough to motivate. But when it's Susan versus the apple pie, the fear always motivates better.

Or here's a simpler example. When it's a choice between using our mortgage money for a trip or paying the mortgage so the bank doesn't foreclose, most of us wouldn't go on the trip. We'd pay the mortgage. The fear of losing our house is much stronger than the desire for the pleasure of going on the trip.

But all of our choices aren't that clear. Particularly not when it comes to writing. So let's go back to the story of Lucia asking to see my manuscript.

I'm not the first writer to be asked to submit a manuscript to a specific editor. I'm not the only one who has been published because of this kind of encounter at a writer's conference. In fact, I would be willing to bet that fifty percent of the published authors I know got published because of an editor appointment at a conference that resulted in a requested manuscript. Unfortunately, and sadly, I would also be willing to bet that fifty percent of the unpublished writers I know have also been asked to submit a manuscript and never submitted.

These people had the same kind of motivation that I had. An interested editor. A once-in-a-lifetime shot. Yet they never submitted. Why? Because their fear of failure was stronger than their belief that they would succeed. Or their fear of success was stronger than their desire for success.

Ah, now we're getting down to the good stuff! Fear of success and fear of failure.

Think this through. Why was I able to go home, write a book in a short amount of time and submit it to Lucia? Because I was on my last chance. This was do or die for me. Fear of failure propelled me to do what I had been unable to do for the five years prior to that.

But, Susan! You just said fear of failure kept the others from submitting! Now you're telling us fear of failure caused you to submit! That doesn’t make sense!

Sure it does! I used my fear. I didn't succumb to it. I used it. Most people buckle under to fear of failure when they should be turning it to their advantage!

And that's the bottom line. Fear either makes or breaks you. For some of us fear creates paralysis. For others of us, fear motivates. And for still others, it's a combination of the two. These people live their own brand of confusion because what works in one instance does not work in another.

So what do you do if you're dogged by fear of failure and paralyzed by fear of success?

The simple thing to do is figure out what you are afraid of and figure out if it motivates you or paralyzes you. If it motives you use it. If it paralyzes you, get rid of it.

That's right. If you have a fear that paralyzes you, you not only can get rid of it, you HAVE TO get rid of it. And right now I'm going to show you how.

We've said there are two major fears. Fear of success and fear of failure. So first let's get rid of fear of success.

If you're one of those people who is afraid of succeeding, I want you to stop reading and make a list of why you are afraid to succeed. In fact, if you're not sure if you're afraid of success but you've been experiencing procrastination or a bad attitude or one failure after another, I want you to make this list too.

For me, on my list of why I was afraid to succeed, one of the biggies was that I wasn't very good in crowds. I was an introvert. I didn't want people to know me. (I'm not like this anymore, btw.) I feared that if I became successful I would be inundated with phone calls and visits and swamped at conferences.

If this is one of your fears, take heart. Not only can writers remain totally anonymous if they use a pseudonym, but you don't have to go to conferences. Even better however, unless you're Nora Roberts or Sandra Brown, or one of the absolute writing greats, you don't get inundated at conferences. A few well wishers and fans may approach you, but these are usually wonderful people whom you will be very, very glad you met.

So there's no reason to fear becoming a "famous" writer. I just blasted that fear to heck and back. And that's what you need to do with everything you put on your list.

You need to write out all the reasons you are afraid of succeeding and then write the counter argument.

If you're afraid your husband won't love you anymore if you are more successful than he is, write out a paragraph or two about why he will love you MORE if you succeed. If you're afraid that your mother will be embarrassed by sex scenes in your books, write out a paragraph or two about why she will be proud of you. Or, if you can't make an argument for that, write out a paragraph or two that talks about accepting that you may have to use a pseudonym and not tell your mother about your books! (And add in there somewhere how much fun it will be to have this delicious secret!)

Destroy every fear you have about becoming successful by making the case against it. Nine chances out of ten, when you put your fears on paper they will immediately look stupid. Because most fears are. They are consequences or possibilities we've decided will happen. Which means they are also consequences and possibilities we can DECIDE will not happen. Either by realizing they are totally ludicrous, or by writing out the reasons we won't let them happen.

You may have to "prevent" them by making accommodations like a pseudonym but you can do it because for every fear there is a response that obliterates it, and once you find it, you will free yourself to succeed.

Now, what if you're afraid of failing?

That's a whole different track. To handle that fear you must make a list of all the good things that will happen if you succeed. You must make this list of "things you will get when you succeed" big enough to keep you working and keep you trying when your desire to quit is strongest!

Here is where the difference between NEED and WANT really comes into play. If you only WANT the things that drive you, they will only drive you so far. But when you NEED something that need will frequently supersede fear.

One of my big motivators was (and continues to be) that I cannot make as much money in any other job as I make as a romance novelist. I live in a very small city with a high unemployment rate. If I am going to succeed financially, romance writing is my only option.

My ONLY option.

That'll motivate ya!

So every time a deadline seems hard or impossible, when I feel the fear that I am wasting my time or going to fail, I tell myself, "You don't have the option -- or luxury -- of quitting."

That means that after you make your list of things you hope to get from reaching your goal, the next step is to see if you can turn those wants into needs. That might sound stupid but it's not. Very often some very motivational NEEDS come disguised as WANTS. You need to take a good look at your list of what you need and what you want and see if some of your items shouldn't be switching sides!

For instance, before I was published, on my list of all the things I could do with the extra money that being published would provide I had things like send the kids to college. Get new living room furniture. Pay off mortgage. (Back when I had a smaller, cheaper house!) Get a bigger house. (Which has given me a larger, more expensive mortgage but also a better house!)

I pretty much thought they were all wants. But each of them turned into a need before they came to fruition. When your living room furniture falls apart beneath a guest it quickly goes from a want to a need. So it's probably smarter to turn it into a need before it turns itself into a disaster!

Can you turn sending the kids to college from a want to a need? Sure you can. On the surface helping your kids with college looks like a nice thing to do, but trust me when college time comes around even if your kids get every loan and grant available, they will still need money from you. So having that money isn't a want. It's a need. Recognize it while your kids are still toddlers so you don't find yourself penniless and doing without things like vacations, nice anniversary gifts, a new car, and even necessary home improvements when your daughter leaves for Penn State!

That's the simple formula for handling fear of failure. You put yourself in a position where there are so many things you NEED that you feel absolutely driven to accomplish the goal that will get these things for you. So that when you have a bad day, get a rejection or are just plain too tired to work, you won't say, "It’s no use." You’ll say, "I have no choice." Or, like me, "I have no other option. I have to make this one work!"

Okay, if you've done the two exercises, you've handled your fear of success and/or your fear of failure, or, at the very least, you're beginning to understand them!

And that's the key. That's actually how you learn to use fear to motivate you. Once you understand your fears and decide if they motivate or paralyze, you can obliterate the ones that paralyze and use the ones that motivate.

Trips, money, prestige (of a sort), a good signature line will all motivate you, but you should never underestimate the power of negative consequences. They are as real in each of our lives as "good things".

And sometimes fearing a bad result will get you going a lot faster than wishing for some ambiguous 'good' thing!

You need to look at yourself and understand what drives you!

That's actually what I want you to do for your assignment. If you didn't do the fear of failure, fear of success exercises, I want you to do them now. But I also want you to take a look at your life.

Are you motivated more by fear of loss or hope of gain? Do you have some genuine fears that drive you? Like a fear of looking awful in jeans that keeps you from dessert, or a fear that you're not keeping up with your peers that drives you to quickly write five pages before your critique group meeting?

Write 'em down. Get to know them. Snuggle with them. They will become your best friends. Because when the chips are down, these are the things that are going to save you!

susan meier

Monday, November 19, 2007

Goal Setting Workshop Lesson !

Session One: Introduction -- Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

We all love goals. In fact, it's been proven that people who regularly set goals and "check up" on themselves accomplish something like fifty times more than people who don't. It amazes me when I hear someone say he or she doesn't set goals because I know they work.

But, my friends argue, that's exactly why they don't set goals. Their goals never seem to get accomplished the way mine do.


Being a person who apparently has too much time on her hands or who is maybe a tad too curious for her own good, I wanted to know why. But, I also had to admit that not all of my goals were accomplished either, and that made me doubly curious.

So I analyzed which of my goals were accomplished and compared them to the goals I had which were not accomplished to see if I could figure out why one goal comes to fruition yet the one right beside it, maybe even one that should have been simpler, doesn't. And I made an odd discovery.

The goals I accomplished "fit" my life. The goals I did not accomplish did not fit my life.

What the heck do I mean by that? Well, I reached the goal of getting published and earning a few extra thousand dollars each year when I desperately needed it. I reached the goal of selling enough that I could write full time, quit my day job and stay at home with my kids when they became teenagers and refused to have a baby-sitter anymore.

Conversely, I haven't reached the goal of keeping off my twenty pounds of yo-yo weight. I haven't ready any of the classics. I really don't know anyone who has, so I wouldn't have anybody to discuss them with anyway. So (aside from personal fulfillment) there's no "reason" for me to accomplish either of those goals. Which means that as soon as my doctor tells me that twenty pounds is causing a health risk, I will lose it and keep it off.

When I came to that conclusion, I realized that was the answer to my little study. I accomplished what I needed to accomplish, exactly when it needed to be done -- and that means success or failure in goals setting all boils down to motivation.

Motivation (or need of a specific result) is what keeps you working when you would rather be watching Wheel of Fortune. It nudges you to read an hour a day when you think you don't have time. It causes you to think creatively about your time, to find little blocks you didn't realize you had and to use them. Because, let's face it, we can all find blocks of time ... but do we always use them?

So if we do what we are motivated to do -- what we need to do -- then why do most of us set goals then try to manufacture motivation? Or, worse, we set goals with no thought to motivation at all?

Good questions. And questions that I can't answer except to say that's why we fail. We don't "need" most of our goals and a goal is only as good as the reason behind why you want to reach it.

Let me tell you a story that proves that. (And btw, here comes my usual disclaimer. I use stories about myself, not to promote myself, but because I don't want to be sued. Please don't think I'm an egotistical nutcase, just know that I'm someone who would rather not have to call her brother-in-law the lawyer and get a lecture about talking about other people on the Internet!)

Okay, here goes...

Years ago (a little over a decade, actually, but who's counting) I went to my first writer's conference. The trip was one of those last ditch efforts. I had been writing unsuccessfully for four years and I was depressed and defeated. Something either happened for me at this conference or I was quitting. So I packed my bags and left for the airport more depressed than excited. I felt I was walking through the last chapter of my writing career story. I was sure nothing good would happen and come Monday morning when I returned I would no longer be a writer.

Pretty darned said, huh? I get misty just thinking about it.

Anyway, on Saturday morning when the workshops began, I made the mistake of attending LaVyrle Spencer's session on description. For those of you who don't' know, LaVyrle Spencer was the master when it came to description. She read passages from her books to illustrate her points and I swallowed hard. I could not write like that. In my first workshop I had found the answer to my write/don't write dilemma. I had no place in this world and no business calling myself a writer.

So I went back to my room in the hotel, drew the drapes and started repacking. (In the dark. When I get depressed, I pull out all the stops.) About fifteen minutes later my room mate found me repacking. She was shocked. And a tad angry. She couldn't believe I was leaving when I hadn't really given the conference a change! I explained that I had but she said I hadn't and the next thing I knew I was promising to go back downstairs.

But I couldn't face another workshop. So I took my cigarettes (back then I was a chain smoker. I no longer smoke.) and sneaked to the lobby seating area and settled in to "be at" the conference, but not really go to another workshop.

I sat next to a woman who (immediately after I said hell0) gently told me she was tired and on a break and didn't want to talk about writing. To her surprise, I said, great. I'm sick of writing too. Feeling I had found a kindred spirit, I proceeded to chain smoke while we chit-chatted about nothing in particular. After about fifteen minutes of discussing anything but writing, she asked if I wrote. I told her I used to. I explained that coming to this conference I realized I knew nothing about writing. I didn't know all the "rules" everybody kept talking about...Heck, I didn't even know there were rules. All I knew was that I read two books a day for five years and loved them so much I wanted to write them, but apparently I couldn't because everything I sent in got rejected.

She said, "Hum...are you writing what you know?"

I told her I was writing what I liked. Marriage of convenience, secret babies and larger-than-life heroes. She said, "Can you somehow take the stories that you like and infuse them with your life experience?"

I said I didn't know, but what she said made sense.

We chatted some more about my kids and husband and her family and what it was like to live in NYC, then she rose. She really had to get back to things. But she also handed me her card. She said, "I'm Lucia Macro from Silhouette Books. Send me your next manuscript and we'll see if you really should quit."

I was surprised, but my friends almost fainted. I was so out of the loop that I didn't realize Lucia was an exceptional editor with whom most writers would love to work. I wasn't even going to send her anything. I thought she was just being kind by asking me to send her something.

Well, technically, she was, since she had never seen my work. But through out conversation she recognized that I loved the genre and love for any genre frequently translates into good writing for that genre. And she had a reasonable expectation that if pointed in the right direction, I could write good books.

So, that night my friends and I set about to figure out a plot for a new book. (Since all my others had been rejected.) And that Tuesday night, after work, after the kids were in bed, when I could have been watching television, I was back at my computer.

I had a reason to write. I had someone willing to give me more than a cursory glance. If I was lucky, I had someone who was willing to help me. If I didn't send her something, I would miss the chance of a lifetime.

That's motivation.

Now, the rest of the story is that I couldn't use the plot my friends and I came up with because it wasn't "me". It was a reflection of my friends' life experiences, etc., and as Lucia said, I had to figure out a way to take the well loved story lines and infuse them with my experience. I did that and set in the book. Silhouette had it for over a year and I was again on the verge of quitting when I got the call. Then I had to throw out the second half of the book and write a new one, but the end result book was very good, very "me" and launched a career that I love.

Motivation, I think, is the promise of something good or the fear of something bad that compels us to take action. Without action, we don't reach our goals. So when you're thinking about setting goals, you should be trying to figure out the things that you are willing (or eager) to take action to receive.

And that means that when you set goals, you should be looking at your life. Not just randomly deciding that within the next year you would "like" to publish a mystery or learn to rock climb. You should be looking at your life thinking: I need exercise so I'm going to...

You fill in the blank. Learning to rock climb might be the answer, but it might not. Rock climbing might not be a realistic way to get the exercise you need and might actually prevent or preclude you from accomplishing the goal of getting exercise.

Conversely, if you're a person who bores easily and likes to do interesting, exciting things, you may have missed the mark of your goal of "exercising" every year because running, video aerobics and floor exercises bore you. So, "learn to rock climb" might be exactly the kind of answer you need to your exercise dilemma.

There must be a link between real life, your personality type and your desires. And, that, I think is where most of us miss the boat.

And that's also the end of lesson one, as well as today's assignment. Since we're close to the end of the year, you may have already made some "new year's resolutions" or goals for 2008. If you haven't, dig out last year's resolutions. Do they fit your life? Do they fit your needs? Are they YOUR resolutions or things you think your husband, your mother, or your writer's group want you to accomplish?

What do YOU want? What fits YOUR life? Who are YOU?

Next answer the question: What do you NEED? You cannot leave behing parental responsibilities, marriage responsibilities, or your day job just yet. There are things you want and things you need. Responsibilities you must meet. Make a list of both.

Don't language them as goals. Just write two lists of things you want and things you need a/k/a responsibilities that you can't ignore.

Think tht through until the next lesson!


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Princess Diary...November 10, 2007

I'm back from a few days of resting and reacquainting myself with my family after my week-long trip.

This week's Princess Diary is all about going on a diet...or maybe learning how to eat again. I started Gwen Shamblin's Weighdown Workshop. I had great success with this eating plan a few years ago and decided to try again. This time making the principles permanent. (I hope!)

What are the principles? Well, there are three main components to this eating plan. First, only eat when you're hungry. (What a concept, huh? LOL). Second, stop when you're satisifed, not when you're full. Satisified is very different than full...and once you learn this distinction, it will revolutionize your life! The third is to PRAY when you want to eat when you're not hungry or can't stop when you are satisifed.

There are no food restrictions. In fact, you're encouraged to eat what you're hungry for to stop the craving. You simply must stop when you're satisfied. That means no bag of potato chips...ten or twelve. A real portion size.

I started on Wednesday and had my first real success last night when we ordered pizza for supper and instead of eating 3 I normally do...I ate one!

This could be fun. (And might actually work)

What's on the bedside table?

Body butter. The weather is cold here in Western, PA and our furnace is running. So the air is dry. Skin needs super help this time of year, so body butter is a life saver.

I'm also reading Katie MacAlister's Ain't Myth-Behaving book from Pocket. It's witty and fun. Just the right thing if you're looking for something bright on a cold winter day!

Tip of the Week?

Start your Christmas shopping! Especially if you're a catalog shopper. Get your orders in so your gifts arrive on time.

Also...consider books for Christmas. With our lives as busy as they are many people don't have time to shop for books. Surprising someone with a book by a beloved author...or someone new...can reignite their passion for reading.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Back From The Beach Retreat

I'm back from a wonderful week in South Carolina with a group organized by Nina Bruhn, who writes for Nocturn and Silhouette Romantic Suspense. We had such a wonderful time that Nina absolutely deserves a round of applause for creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere that allowed each of us to relax and learn!

All the attendees were bright and talented. I'd say all of the ladies...except then I'd be neglecting Roger...who was working on a story that will someday knock everybody's socks off.

I came home rested and happy. In spite of a 12-hour trip home that included two plane rides, one long layover and traffic once I hit Pittsburgh.

For as much as I miss the ocean and the great company, I'm eager to get started on my next Harlequin Romance, which is a Christmas story. Believe it or not, this time last year I had the foresight to plan this. So as we enter the holiday season, I'll be writing a story of love lost and found in the holidays.

I plan to enjoy this!