Recovery – Getting Over Writing Roadblocks

February 27, 2008 at 10:16 am | Posted in Bria, getting organized, goal setting, motivation, writer's block, writing | 1 Comment

Writing is wonderful. Writing is difficult. Writing is relaxing. Writing is stressful.

And life multiplies each of those sentiments times ten.

As many of you know I’ve been jobless for 8 months due to lots of things (as you read this, I’m in training on my first day at my new job HURRAY.) During my unemployed time, I tried to make the most of my “struggling artist” phase and got a lot done on the writing front.

It was going so well. Too well apparently.

Flashback to several weeks ago when my laptop died and brought part of my hard drive with it. Now it’s back and I need to get remotivated, reorganized, and generally stop feeling bad for myself.

But how?

1. Assess
What did I lose and how can I replace it?
(ex: This week I must finish comparing paper trail to old saved hard copy)
2. Plan
Whenever taking on a large chunk of work, break it into smaller bits and schedule it. Goals can be motivators if they’re S.M.A.R.T. Goals
3. Act
Wallowing can be a huge barrier. Personally, I spent ½ the week wallowing and now it’s time to really jump into Step One.

A small writing disaster isn’t the only time we need to recover. We all have things that pull us away from our writing.

Computer issues
Family issues
Work issues
Transportation issues
Weather getting you down
Scattered Priorities

And tons of others – the key is not to let something that slows you down, stop you. I remember the days of growing up in sports and my soccer coach literally yelling “run through the pain” (I hear they don’t yell that until you’re in high school now) – but that is sometimes what you have to do:

Write Thru The Pain

Because eventually, it becomes a joy again.
Go Asses/Plan/Act – but, whatever you need to do, find your joy.

Vow To My Passions

January 9, 2008 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Bria, career, goal setting, goals, life, writing | 7 Comments
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It’s a new year and I must admit I’ve never loved New Year’s Resolutions. Instead, this year, I’m taking vows. Not holy ones, but one’s to my writing. I challenge everyone to make some vows to their own passions.

I, Bria Quinlan, do solemnly swear to treat my writing as a career and not just a mistress-hobby. I will behave professionally when representing my writing and myself and I will work at it as though I am already being paid.

I will do something every day to further my writing craft, whether it be writing, editing, polishing, learning, thinking or researching.

I understand that, just like any other career, vacations are necessary, and – just like any other career – should be planned for and scheduled ahead of time.

To further my writing as a career and a passion, I will continue to learn by reading authors I respect, craft books and attending classes and conferences.

While I respect the input of others and understand that most people give their input in an attempt to be helpful, not destructive, I will learn when to bend and when to remain faithful to my own words.

This year I vow I will transfer my knowledge of management and time and space organizational skills into a workshop for artists so that others can learn the skills so readily available in the business world.

And finally, my beloved writing, I promise you I will send you off with a faithfully penned query letter to at least ten agents by our anniversary, April 19th, so that you may grow to your greatest potential.

These things I swear.
2008 – a year of promise. What are yours?

The Order Of Things – Time Management

January 2, 2008 at 12:29 pm | Posted in Bria, career, goal setting, goals, life, management, time management, writing | 4 Comments
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In my non-writing life I do a lot of Management Training (as well as personal and professional growth development and classes) so with the new year upon us, I thought I’d bring a little of that knowledge to this corner of the world.

This is an exercise usually done on the spot – It should take you no more than 12 minutes. To get the most out of it, don’t think too much, just go with what feels right. If you don’t have time to do this now, come back or print it out, but don’t read ahead.

What you need: Pen and Paper – turn the paper horizontal and make 3 columns of 10 rows.

STEP ONE:  In the first column write down the ten most important things in your life right now. Don’t worry about the order, but do try to make them clear. For example:

“Friends” is not a very clear category. What’s a friend versus an acquaintance? Do you mean a close group or a couple of people? Maybe the most important are only your closest two friends even though you love all your friends.

Some other categories I’ve seen: husband, children, faith, learning, exercise, health, writing, work . . . you get the picture –

Your list can have as few as you want, but now more than 10. Play with the list till your comfortable – – – erase / cross-out and rewrite until you’re comfortable with your list.

Once you’ve COMPLETED Step One, move on to Step Two.

STEP TWO:  Now take the list you came up with and put them in order of importance – the top one being most important.

Once you’ve COMPELTED Step Two, move on to Step Three.

STEP THREE: Using the same list, put it in order from what takes up the MOST TIME WEEKLY to the LEAST TIME.

You’ll notice right away that while work may not be near the top of your “Important” list, it may top your “Time” list. This is normal, work is general a set number of hours and that’s part of life, but let’s look at the rest of your list.

What type of trend do you see? If you’re prioritizing your personal life well, the Important list and the Time list will look pretty similar. If they don’t it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions.

What if one of the top things on your Important list is at the bottom of your Time list? This might be where it belongs, but are you sure?

Let’s think about writing as our example – I did this exercise with some writers, not long ago, most of which were moms AND worked outside the home. Right there most of their time belongs to other things. Some of them managed to still have Writing as one of their top 4 on the Time list – I know you won’t be surprised to hear that this group constituted most of the published authors.

As a group, we shared tips and brainstormed other ways to move Writing (and other Important categories) higher on the Time list:

  • Writing at games/rehearsals/practices
  • Speaking into a digital recorder on your way to pick-up kids
  • Keep a notebook in your bag – think your story through while shopping. Write down your notes while standing in line
  • Give up Television – Or cut back. When everyone else is involved in your favorite sitcom, that’s 30 minutes of time to write
  • Keep a notebook by your bed. One author said the five minutes before she gets up in the morning is often the most productive – her body has quit needing the alarm to wake her now that she’s excited about her morning routine
  • Have an accountability partner – how many days in a row can you have an email/phone conversation where you say “I wrote nothing” before you start finding 5 minute chinks of time

One of the first things people ask me when I sit down to teach or discuss time management with them is how I fit in so much more than them. The answer is: “I don’t.” That’s the honest truth. But I have started fitting in more of the right things.

The thing most people don’t understand about Time Management is this, it’s often Priority Management.

To a successful manager, this becomes second nature at work, but she’ll often leave the skill at the office door. If you aren’t clear what your priorities are, then you aren’t sure what to spend time on, then you aren’t sure how to balance that time.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m sure everyone reading this is saying, “Yeah, but you don’t know what my day is like.”

You’re right. I don’t. But the honest truth is every person can say that. Life is too short to grudge your way through. If you want to enjoy this one chance we have, know what you want out of life and put it on your list.

I do this exercise myself every 6 months – after the first 2 years, I was pleased to see that prioritizing my life had become more of a habit than a chore. I’m doing more of what I love and less of what I tolerate.

Oh, and book one is done.

In two weeks the Heartlettes will be blogging about Time Management. We’d love to hear your own personal tips.

And then, get organized and Go Write!

Where the Heck is my BLOG?

August 2, 2007 at 4:06 pm | Posted in Bria, career, goal setting, goals, writing | Leave a comment

Wednesday. Wednesday is my day to blog. I look forward to it each week. The running of ideas and the reading of my fellow Heartlettes’ posts as well as the hoping and thinking of something that someone (ANYONE!!!) might comment on. 

And so yesterday I posted. Today I returned to check out our site and the only thing I can say is “WHERE THE HECK IS MY BLOG?” 

Unfortunately, I didn’t save this blog on Delia O’Dell (my lovely writing partner / laptop) so, there won’t be a re-post going on. But it got me thinking, I’m am ridiculously self-competitive. I love to run myself against goals or personal bests. I knew my fellow Heartlettes wouldn’t have a problem when they knew the reason (yeah, someone explain it to me if you can) why my post wasn’t up on Wednesday, but it bothered my sense of meeting timeframes and goals – the feel of letting them down as well as myself. 

Knowing this about myself has been one of the driving forces in my accomplishments. In my other life, I coach people around their careers and developing that though their strengths and desires. One thing I always stress is not only know why you’re driven, but how you’re driven.  

If you like to run against numbers, then setting up measurable goals ahead of time is imperative. If you compete against others, then having a worthy (and hopefully willing) compatriot in that is great. 

As a writer, I’m excited by the self-competition. Creating my goals, running against them, meeting them or being motivated to recoup them keeps me moving forward when I would otherwise stall out. And it has the added value of not creating a muck within my writing relationships. 

I would hate it if I was moved by desires such as “I’ll be the first Heartlette published” or some such other nonsense. My girls are a support and a banner to follow, pushing me forward in my low times.  My goals are a force that pushes me from behind up those big hills. How lucky am I to have such great energies surrounding my dreams. 

Good luck with your dreams and Go Write!


The Goal before the goals

June 20, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Posted in Bria, Fast Draft, goal setting, goals, writing | Leave a comment

I live by goals and I teach others to live by them as well.

The Big Goal is instrumental in driving your goals. One thing people often forget to do is the pre-work that goes into creating the Big Goal itself.

BUT, before we get going, I highly recommend that you read Jessica’s post about actually writing goals before moving forward. . . . . . . .OK, welcome back from Jessica’s Post.

I’m that person. You know – the one your boss tells you to go see when it’s time to move to the ‘next level.’

Good Luck! – Bria

The conversation often goes something painfully close to this:

Jane Manger:  Hi Bria. Mr. Boss told me to come see you about my goals for 2007. 

Bria:  Great! I love goals. Let’s talk about where you want to go.

JM:  Well, he says it’s time for me to move my group to the next level.

B:  Ok. What does that look like?

JM:  *blank stare*

B:  The next level. What is it? What does it look like?

JM:  A level above where I am now.

B:  Ok. Where are you now?

JM:  *extended blank stare*

And the work begins.

Before you can set goals, you need to know a couple of things first.

  1. Where are you now
  2. Where are you trying to get to
  3. How will you get there
  4. Is it possible (attainable)

Let’s try a run through:

I’d like to be a published author. That’s a Big Goal. BUT:

  1. I know I’m ½ through a fast draft (click here for more on Fast Draft)
  2. I need to  complete a manuscript and submit it to editors/agents
  3. I need to write the book
  4. Yes. It is attainable.

Jane Manager: So we’re done, right?

Not quite, my friend. Now we break this down into the goals.  The Big Goal sets the goals and the goals set the tasks.

For example, my current Big Goal breaks down like this for the month:

Write the Book

     Have a first draft of my first 8 chapters by July 9th

          Rip and Repair 74 pages between now and then

               R&R 3 per day week 1

               R&R 5 per day week 2

               R&R 7 per day week 3 (click here to check out my current goal sheet)

Everything after that becomes a task. A task being the actual work – write or edit.

What’s you’re Big Goal? How much pre-work have you done? What do your goals and tasks look like?  Once you break these things down (and done them the SMART way) it’s smooth sailing to success.

To Goal or Not To Goal

June 18, 2007 at 10:03 am | Posted in goal setting, goals, Jessica, writing | 1 Comment

This week’s topic is a particularly difficult one for me because when I tackle a goal-setting exercise I feel as though I have stepped up to an all-you-can-eat-buffet.  With so many tempting possibilities, my eyes tend to get bigger than my stomach and before I know it I have helped myself to so many offerings that I will never finish the task I have heaped on my plate.  And with goal-setting, that kind of overestimating can do more harm than good.             

The key to meeting goals is setting SMART goals.                   

If you’ve heeded the call to write, odds are you have a compelling reason for doing so — a mission, if you will. Whether you write for personal or professional reasons your mission statement describes your overall purpose, and any goals you set must work toward accomplishing that mission.  Think of goals as your road map to get you to where you want to go, whether it be this year, over the next five years, or an overall career plan. Goals should be short and long term.         

What do I mean by SMART goals?  The acronym varies slightly from one process to another, but for these purposes the goals should be Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic, and Timely.               

Specific: The what . . .           

Measurable: How to get there from here?            

Appropriate: Will this goal lead to the intended destination?

Realistic: Is the goal achievable and meaningful?

Timely: Does the goal have a specific timetable? 

One more vital aspect of the planning process:  WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS!  Write down every step in the process. You have a greater likelihood of staying on task and achieving your goals if you have them written. Keep them handy so that you can refer to them often — they will keep you motivated.  

And if need be, set yourself a reward structure to celebrate reaching each of these milestones. Every step moves you further along your career path and should be celebrated!


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