Honoring Your Journey

6 01 2016

2015  ReleasesI usually set goals and make resolutions this time of year. I like the thought of a shiny new year with all those beautiful blank days ready to fill like journal pages. As I look back over last year’s journal and accomplishments, it’s easy to see how I spent most of my time. Writing and illustrating took up a lot of it.

I had 6 books come out and signed with an agent, who sold my Amish novel in a 3-book deal. I traveled to quite a few speaking engagements and finished my classes for my MFA in Children’s Writing and Illustrating at Hollins University.

Those were all tangible results, but I remember many years when my only progress consisted of stacks of rejection letters, half-finished manuscripts, and a brain full of ideas. Although I put in a lot of work, I didn’t feel a real sense of accomplishment. Now I wish I could go back and celebrate those achievements, because if it weren’t for those years of drudgery and disappointment, I wouldn’t be published today.

So wherever you are on your journey (whether in writing or other pursuits), honor the hard work you’ve put in — even if it didn’t bring the rewards you hoped. Find a way to keep track of what you’ve done and celebrate the small milestones along the way. Rejection letters indicate you’ve been submitting, partially finished manuscripts prove you’ve been writing, doodles in your sketchbook show you’ve been drawing. Yes, you may not have gotten as far as you’d hoped, but rather than looking at where you expected to be, rejoice in how far you’ve come. You’ve made progress, and that’s the most important thing.

What small strides did you make toward your goals this year that you haven’t given yourself enough credit for?


Climbing toward a Dream

26 01 2015

ladder to sky I always loved this picture of a ladder reaching to the sky. When I first decided I wanted to write, I drew a symbol like this as my logo. I pictured myself climbing that ladder to success, rung by rung, each rung representing a new skill, a new publication, a new height. And slowly, I started learning and climbing.

Some of the most important steps along the way were joining SCBWI, participating in critique groups, reading craft books, and taking classes. I even added an MFA to my goals. But the most important step was doing the writing itself. I’d read somewhere that to become an expert in any skill, you needed to put in 10,000 hours and write 1,000,000 words. So I did.

And the work began to pay off. First in small writing assignments and then in books. During the early writing years, I drew another picture in addition to that logo–a stack of books. A tall stack set up in a spiral shape. I was reminded of that recently when I decided to take a picture of the books I’ve written in the past five years. That drawing looked almost exactly like this:

7_BooksInterestingly enough, some of the titles I put on those books were related to the topics of these books. I’m a big believer in using visualization to achieve goals, but I was surprised at how much the two stacks resembled each other.

I’ve seen so many writing dreams come true  in 2014. This past year has been filled with book contracts and book releases and speaking engagements. All of it fun, although sometimes exhausting. Sometimes the sign hanging behind me at this reading was definitely a reality.

8_reading  One of my long-term goals was signing at BEA, and I not only got to do that, but I got to watch friends and a CP sign too. And that was one of the highlights of the year — seeing so many friends and acquaintances making their dreams come true.

And 2015 is promising more of the same. Several CPs have signed book deals, and I know more will follow. I’m looking forward to what this year will bring. And wishing all of you a move up to the next rungs of the ladder to your dreams.

Are Your Goals a Piece of Cake?

12 04 2014

As a former cake decorator, I love Dana Carey’s comparison of goals to CAKE! Who wouldn’t want to eat this delicious cake layer by layer?

The Monthly Goalpost for April.

Have a Little Faith

3 06 2013

When you venture into the unknown, trust yourself and believe that there’s great blessing heading your way:

~ by Jonathan Fields

Reaching for Goals

17 01 2013

cardinal in snowLooking over my goals from last year  made me wonder why so many stay the same. Do I really want to achieve those goals? Deep down where it counts? Or are they things I think I should do? Or do I feel guilty spending time and effort on them?

I once read that you should get rid of everything in your closets or drawers that you haven’t worn in the past year. You know the stuff–the too-small sizes you hope to get back into someday, the too-big clothes you keep just in case, that favorite pair of pants with the broken zipper that you plan to fix someday. I’m wondering if it isn’t the same thing with goals. Maybe I’ve outgrown some of them. Or maybe they just don’t fit right now. So when I clean out my closet, I’ll also make a clean sweep of the Yearly To-Do Lists at the same time.

If I haven’t done it this year, will I really do it next year? Seriously? Most likely not. So why have it hanging around, making me feel guilty and inadequate? Why not give myself permission to jettison it?

This year I’ll try paring down my expectations and give myself a break. I did make some pretty huge goals this year, so I’ll look back on those and forgive myself for the others that I skipped or didn’t find time for. This year, though, they won’t go on my list again. It’s obvious I’m not motivated to do them, so I won’t waste energy telling myself I should get them done.

I’m also going to go easier on myself when I make goals. I’ve already done that with my yearly list, but I’m going to do it with my daily to-do lists too.

to do list

One of my goals for last year was to have 8 books published. Not sure why that number came to me at the beginning of 2012, but that’s what I wrote. I suppose if I count all 5 vols. of the Native American Encyclopedia, the story in A Community of Writers, and my art/bio in Students Making Sense of the World, I almost made my goal. And actually, a book packager bought my YA historical, so that does make 8 books. I also wanted to have more than 2000 articles in print. I made that goal by writing 180 articles this year for an educational publisher. And I wanted to increase my picture book illustration skills, which I did with post-grad work this summer. And I’ve been setting aside time each day to practice my art.

But for 2013 I want to have more relaxing goals. Topping the list is a trip to Antarctica. I almost made it this year, but I had to cancel because of some family obligations.  I’m already picturing myself sailing past icebergs next January. I think I’ll limit myself to 3 goals instead of the usual 1-2 page list this year. If I finish those, I can always set more. And maybe without all that guilt to hold me back, I’ll accomplish more than ever.3-list

What Have You Been Putting Off? 30 Days to a New You

24 08 2012

What have you always promised yourself you’d do…SOMEDAY. Sure you’ll learn a new skill, get more exercise, write a book, play an instrument, lose those extra pounds…SOMEDAY. And the more you put it off to SOMEDAY, the less likely it is to happen. How many years have passed since you decided you’d like to do something SOMEDAY, when you have more time, when your life’s less hectic?

Chances are SOMEDAY will never come. So why not take 3 minutes and listen to this inspiring message from Matt Cutts (Ted Talks) on making those dreams come true NOW?

Remember, it only takes 30 days to develop a new habit–one that can stay with you for life. What are you going to go for in the next 30 days?

Making Time for Writing

18 05 2011

I stumbled on a new blog today that has some great tips for writers. Called Literary Crush, it’s by a fellow Vermont College (can’t help plugging my alma mater) grad, Bethany Dellinger.

I particularly enjoyed her Guiding Principles. If you’re struggling to find time to write each day, you’ll want to check these out.