Half term thrills!

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With all the hassle and political complaining about teaching, it’s an oft-repeated comment that teachers have too many holidays. Any teacher who tells you the holidays aren’t a great incentive is probably not telling the truth, but equally no teacher will ever tell you that they drop their work at 3.15 Friday and don’t pick up till Monday morning at 8am! The half term holidays are a good chance to catch up on everything. They’re a great opportunity to get any remnants of marking done, and after the difficult half term we’ve just had, it’s taken me several days to clear that hurdle! It’s also a good opportunity to get some of that other list done, the ‘someday’ list that doesn’t get touched during the hectic term time when we’re busy responding to whatever is going on around us. And more importantly, perhaps, it’s an opportunity to catch up on the outside work stuff. Visiting family and friends we put off in the term because we have planning to do, to do those grown up life admin tasks that have to wait until everyone’s holidays.

This isn’t a poor me post. Quite the opposite, I think. I’m able to spend a significant portion of my holiday with family which is brilliant, and spending some time just reading, thinking. Not quite writing yet, but certainly clearing the work to do list which I feel has prevented  me for some months now.

I can’t remember which productivity guru it was, but i have definitely read about the conflict between the urgent and the important, and the dangers of allowing one to crowd out the other. There is a fundamental problem in that if I turn up without a lesson planned, I have nearly thirty teenagers who are going to have a wasted hour. There will always be a day job/evening non conflict, and sadly the one that pays for my home will win out, but my goal for the next few months is still to keep at it, finishing bits of projects that have been put to one side. I’ve been reading through some making notes on what to improve, where to edit, and think I’m in a pretty good place to start doing that so watch this space!

There and back again….

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Not an original title, I grant you. But fairly true nonetheless. I have been here before. I have returned.

January’s always a funny time of year. It’s a time when people at work are saying no to cakes (highly unusual, doesn’t last) and when there are more runners on the streets as I drive home. It’s when all the adverts are about weight loss, debt reduction, and end-of-season furniture sales. A time to make resolutions and have, in the next breath, someone tell you that they don’t make them because nobody ever keeps to them – as though the possible failure is reason enough not to try. For me, January’s always a bit strange because it’s still very dark, cold and rainy – not the weather anyone would want to start running in if you ask me! Work-wise, it’s busy with exams and so on, and personally just winding back up again from the Christmas holiday.

November/December kind of vanished into a blur on the blog for several reasons. Work went a bit haywire – it always does in the autumn, with extra marking, working classes a bit harder, everyone gets more fraught towards Christmas and needs a bit more of a push.

Personally, it’s been incredibly exciting – I got engaged at the beginning of November, and the next six weeks disappeared in a glowy haze when any time I didn’t spend working was spent musing on pinterest and looking Rock My Wedding, Boho Bride and the awesome Offbeat Bride. I am very happily affianced (and use that word whenever possible to describe myself!) and am really enjoying looking around at ideas, thinking, pre-planning and hoping to rediscover some love of crafting that I haven’t really done for a while now. It also turns out that I’m a little more into the whole wedding planning process than I thought I would be – I think it’s my immense love of organising! We’re also still looking for a house, and obviously Christmas/New Year is nearly three weeks of full-on stuff.

But – all that has really hammered my writing over the past couple of months, and I’ve not really got as much done as I would have liked to, and now everything’s settling into a little more normality, work’s easing off slightly, it seems a good time to reflect and review where I was last year and where I want to be this year.

Don't Give Up

Jim Rohn, I think, suggests doing this much more often than annually. I think he suggests spending a weekend a month reviewing your goals and resetting them because everything drifts by degrees. The analogy he uses is going to the moon – it’s such a far-off target that if your aim is off by just a few degrees, you miss it by miles. So, every once in a while, you check your course. Check why you went off track and fix it. Make the adjustments that you need to. Reinvigorate your ideals. Over the next couple of posts, I’m going to do just that – think about what happened, where I went wrong – and right – and what I need to do to keep that progress going.

 

 

Goal setting – how to help yourself get writing

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I mentioned in my earlier post that one of the ways to help yourself get motivated and write more is in goal setting, and it seems like a good moment to write about that. I’m stuck at the moment. I finished my last major project, Balancing Act, in the middle of the summer, and I wrote a short story for the Mslexia quarterly submission, but in the week or so since that’s been finished, I’ve floundered. This frustrates me, aggravates me, because I spend several hours a week in front of my laptop not knowing what to do next. Like I said in the last post, I don’t really believe in writer’s block, I think it’s an excuse. I don’t know what to do next because I haven’t planned it and I sit at my keyboard expecting some fully-fledged story to flow like magic from my fingertips which is ludicrous because it has never happened before.

GoalSettingSo – I need to set myself some new goals to get myself through the rest of the year, because three months is a good space of time for goal setting. It gives you enough time to accomplish something meaningful but isn’t so long that you drift off track.

Know where you want to get to.

I like Jim Rohn’s technique for this – make a list of fifty goals you want to accomplish. He encompasses everything: work, family, wealth, personal development and characteristics, hobbies, education. Do the same – it’s also a nice way of working out what’s important to you elsewhere. Then, note whether you want to achieve this in three months, six months, a year, three, five or ten. On my list is that I want to be making a regular living as an author. As a starting goal, that’s fine, but it’s too vague for a short term goal.

Be specific.

Smart goals (specific, measurable, achievable, rewarding, timed – although there are variations) have had a bit of a bad reputation as being ‘management speak’ simply because it’s an acronym, I think. In fact, they’re essential. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for (specific) how will you know you got there (Measurable)? If you can’t achieve something, then you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment –likewise if you’re trying to do it in too short a time space for you to be able to do it. And why wouldn’t you make your goals rewarding? They make sense to me.

So my writing goal for the next three months is to write two complete short stories, a poem and have started the next CPA novella. It’s a challenging one in terms of time, especially as this time at work is usually the most hectic, but I think it is achievable if I plan my time properly.  The poem in particular would be rewarding, as I want to get better at writing poetry because I think more than anything it makes you truly consider language.

Plan daily habits and routines

I already try to write from 6.30-7.30pm to make sure that I give some time every day to writing. I’m going to add to this to keep planning, but move that planning to the end of the previous writing session. This should mean that when I sit at my desk at 6.30, I know exactly what I’m doing so there’s no messing about, thinking, wondering, planning. It’s done for me already.

Set interim deadlines

Goals are in ink; deadlines are in pencil

This is generally a good idea – sometimes things take longer than you thought for one reason or another (and you should always try to work out what that was so that you can avoid it next time) and it makes sense to simply extend the deadline a little rather than give up and beat yourself up about a failure.

There are some writing deadlines that are set in ink in terms of competition or submission deadlines but even then, if you miss it – finish it anyway and send it somewhere else.

My deadlines:

 Break it down:

Split your goals into smaller chunks, each with their own deadline, so that you can look at one at a time rather than be intimidated by the entire project. If this was a novel I’d be planning drafts, chapters and scenes. It also means that once you’ve added them to a to-do list, you have a great opportunity to cross them off as they’re done and build your self-esteem with how much you’ve accomplished!

23rd September – have drafted a poem for the ILF in outline
26th September – redrafted poem
28th September – be putting finishing touches to poem
3rd October – plot outline for Mslexia sub
15th October – 1st draft Mslexa sub
20th October – ‘Spring’ plot outline
28th October – 2nd draft Mslexia sub
6th November – 1st draft ‘Spring’
19th November – Mslexia completed
25th November – 2nd draft ‘Spring’
27th November – post Mslexia entry
5th December – Spring completed
10th December – post Spring

Sounds ambitious, and yet manageable, because it’s in small stages that each have their own deadlines! I feel more confident and positive about it already, because I can clearly see how these things will work and how much time they each have.

I’ll keep updating the blog with how I get on, and we’ll see how closely I manage to hit these deadlines!