Make a MAP!

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Happy New Year everyone!

And what a start it’s been. I’m working on a new online magazine, writing stories, editing a book and preparing a new short story serial for publication, my head is spinning.

But in truth I’m never happier than when I’m busy. And as I have the attention span of an infant it bodes well to have a number of projects on the go at any one time.

Last year I worked and the results were mediocre at best. I had periods where it seemed I did nothing but work – completing a script with a co-writer being one of the highlights for me – but there were also times where I didn’t seem to be working at all. Instead I became some kind of sofa monster, guarding chocolate like a griffin guards treasure.

So instead of engaging in the tradition of making resolutions that I have very little hope of keeping, I decided to make a MAP. Not the drawing X’s and staining paper with tea kind – although that would have been fun, but a Massive Action Plan.

A Massive Action Plan is where you come up with your desired outcome and then list a load of ways you can achieve it.

So first I came up with my outcome;

‘Create a portfolio of work that I can be truly proud of and enjoy the process.’

Then I brainstormed as many ways I could think of that would help me achieve this outcome. Now it’s unlikely I will do them all. But if I can complete, say even a third of my list, will I have achieved my outcome?

Absolutely!

So now I have a list of roughly 35 viable things I can do this year to not only increase my output but also improve my chances of publication. This includes, sending a short story out once a month, sending out poetry that has been languishing on my hard drive since the dark ages and working on my fiirst short film.

Now what I need is a plan so I can measure my progress. A list is all well and good. But at the moment it still remains almost a wish list of what I’d like to give a go.

So I go through my list and pick out six things that I’m committed to working on for the next three months. I write them down and come up with small steps I can take towards their attainment.

For example; Make a short film.

  1. Write character Bio’s
  2. Brainstorm with co-writer and outline script.
  3. Begin working on first Scenes.

…and so on.

The more specific your steps, the better your chances of reaching your outcome.

Now I assign each step a date to be completed by. This way I can begin to measure what I’m achieving and by when. If, after two months in, I find myself behind or (in the very unlikely event), ahead. I can adapt my plan accordingly.

It doesn’t matter if my plan changes. Most of the time it does. All that matters is I have a way of measuring my success. This also reduces the chance of me getting to the end of the year and finding myself not even having started, staring at my wish list with a feeling of desperation and craving for cake.

Now I find myself two weeks into January and I’m already two thirds through my list for this month. Not only has my output exploded, but I’m building momentum.

I don’t know if this will work for anyone else, but its certainly given me the boost I needed. I would love to hear from anyone who gives this a go. Did it work? Did you follow your steps? Hopefully we can all creat our MAPS and eventully achieve the ultimate goal…

…taking over the world, (followed by best evil plan laugh!)

Good luck everybody, I hope the new year brings you adventures, opportunities and chocolate…lots and lots of chocolate!

In defense of “Write What You Know”

Great post by lucybluecastle, informative and entertaining!

Lucy Blue Writes

librarianIn a recent writers roundtable over at comic and fiction writer Sean H. Taylor’s blog (Bad Girls, Good Guys and Two-Fisted Action, and if you’re not reading it, you’re missing out), we talked about the best and worst advice we’ve ever received as writers. More than half of us piled on the hate for that cursed pearl so loved by high school creative writing teachers everywhere: Write What You Know. What a load of crap, we agreed. How boring would fiction be if writers only ever wrote what they knew? There’d be no science fiction, no fantasy, no horror that didn’t make you cry and throw up, and very little romance of the slightest interest to anybody but the parties involved. I was part of the lynch mob, I freely admit. I think this idea of writing what you know has produced more soggy, self-indulgent crap calling itself…

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Into the Groove

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It’s that time of year again.

The kids have gone back to school and the house returns to something less like an explosion at Legoland.

I rush to my desk, eager to start work. Reaching for my laptop, I switch it on, the screen opens and…

…Nothing!

I stare at it again, waiting for words to magically spring to mind. Spots start to dance across my vision and a pain creeps across my forehead. An hour later I’ve made a shopping list, looked at Jamie Oliver recipes and bought a pair of jeans.

Another morning well spent then!

The entire school holidays consisted of me making notes on scraps of paper, endless planning grabbing every minute I could. Then when I finally get more than twenty minutes to myself I spend it studying the mating habits of the South American Sloth.

Feeling very sloth-like myself at the minute, I wonder what the hell is wrong with me. Do I have some kind of mental deficiency? (On second thoughts probably best not to pull on that thread). Did I bang my head too many times when I was a child and my focus simply fell out?

Whatever the reason, I can’t get rid of the feeling of total hopelessness and an intense need for cake.

It’s not writers block, it’s not even ‘writers can’t be arsed’ (as Jane Wenham Jones so aptly named it.) It seems to be a complete inability to function on a writing level at all. I’m not even sure I should be trusted with a pen of my own.

We have just welcomed a new addition to our family, and while I’m sure that this has something to do with my lack of focus, I’m running out of excuses.

I rang a writing friend for a bit of moping and it turns out she was experiencing the same thing. So it got me thinking about ways we could kick start our writing. I come up with three ways to try. By the end of the week I had one completed short story, with ideas for two others, I created a writing schedule for a screenplay and I was feeling a lot less like sticking my head in the oven.

So for anyone struggling to get back into their groove, here are three ideas to get working. Good Luck!

  1. Write something new.

The pressure of writing on working projects, a couple of which are very near completion, gives me palpitations. So I opened a new page and just started writing. I poured anything that was in my head onto paper. Eventually a story began to emerge.

  1. Write a list of WHAT I want to work on and WHY?

There’s nothing like purpose to get you excited about a project. But having goals aren’t enough. You also need to know WHY you want them. This way when you start to flag in the motivation department you can go back to your reasons and feel the flood of purpose all over again.

I listed down all the projects I want completed by the end of the year and why I want them. By the end of it I couldn’t wait to get working.

  1. Schedule and plan.

Creating a writing routine is great and gets momentum going, but you also need a plan to work to. Otherwise you are back to staring at the screen, resisting the urge to pour tea over the keyboard.

I created a writing schedule around my family, and then wrote out a very basic plan of what I would work on and when. Now there is no need to sit in front of the screen wondering what to write because I already know.

‘It’s oh so quiet…’

…now my youngest has gone to nursery.

The time has come where I find myself with two whole hours of unadulterated silence.

The time that I’ve been pleading, moaning and outright begging for since my youngest was born.

I have the freedom to write – to let my thoughts flow in whatever direction they choose. To create at will and get lost in the world of fantasy. To swim in the realms of the unconscious without having to stop for things like snacks, toilet breaks and the occasional extraction of toddler from washing machine.

So what have I done with this rare and coveted time to myself, you ask?

I’ve successfully cleaned the kitchen, eaten all the biscuits and watched re-runs of House on Sky.  What an achievement, hurrah!

For the last six months, I have harped on to family, friends and poor unsuspecting people at the bus stop, (I don’t drive, cars terrify me), how my amazing book, plus publishing contract, would be complete – if only I had the time.

So you’d think that I’d be on it. Er…no.

Apparently, there are a hundred things I can think of doing instead, such as, cleaning the house, de-cluttering the children’s rooms and staring at the creepy neighbours across the road.

This brings me to my favourite writers quote ever, (only because it makes me feel better about having the attention span of a grapefruit).

I have no idea who said it, but the quote goes something like this…

“I have yet to find a writer who wouldn’t rather peel a banana, than write.”

I admit, I did try to find the author of this quote on Google, but got sidetracked with the obscure but incredibly entertaining answers I got, (give it a go…it’s worth it if you’re bored). Then, I realised that I’d been caught in that familiar trap of reading instead of writing, telling myself it’s all in the aid of work, so I had to come away.

So why do I find it so hard to just sit down and write? Especially, that when I do, I enjoy it immensely and come away feeling happier and all kinds of accomplished, even if no one else ever sees it.

Am I so lacking in confidence that I can’t bear to put ideas on paper? If that’s the case I really should have re-thought that short story I sent to Dark Tales last year. 

Or is it that I am lacking in motivation and just terribly lazy? I’d be inclined to say yes, except for the fact that I’ll do anything else in its place.

So I was left with the hard truth that I’d attached such fear to just getting the work done – not in case other people don’t like it, as you can’t please everyone – but in case I didn’t like it.

I’d set such incredibly high standards for myself that if it didn’t come off as something profound or life-changing, I thought it was utter rubbish and I’d delete it.

Now, I’m not so delusional to think that anything I write is of this standard, therefore as you can imagine, I delete a lot of stuff.

This year I’ve decided to stop deleting and just go for it. At the very least I may grab your attention while waiting at the dentist and looking for something more interesting to read than Gums Monthly. 

So if you enjoyed this even a tiny bit, please feel free to follow, comment and come back again. I will endeavour to write something mildly informative or entertaining as often as I can.

And if you didn’t like this, please feel free not to comment as my self esteem is very limited and I’m prone to bouts of despair.

Many thanks for reading and hopefully we’ll meet again.

p.s. I apologise to any grapefruit loving people out there, I didn’t mean to cause offence to grapefruits, their fans or anything they stand for.

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