9 Ways to Waltz Write in to a Better 2016

The King and I

The King and I

When I was 13, my mom took me to see Yul Brynner in The King and I at the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago. She’d been flinging us around the kitchen, belting “Shall We Dance, da da DAH,” for as long as I could remember. Seeing him twirl his co-star around the stage, along with every ballroom scene from every Disney Movie ever made, ignited a lifelong dream of mine to ballroom dance.

So what does this have to do with writing? Turns out, just about everything.

Most creative pursuits happen in the face of fear; all are driven by action. Whether you want to dance, play an instrument, learn to draw, or write, here are a few things you can try to jump start your 2016:

Action 1: Identify Resistance and welcome it as a guide. According to Stephen Pressfield in The War of Art:

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Resistance manifests as procrastination, doubt, and sometimes physical anxiety. Treat yourself to Pressfield’s book and learn to recognize resistance as a sign you’re on the right track.

Action 2: Make a Vision Board. Sure, might be corny, but research proves we’re more likely to achieve things we’ve envisioned and documented.

Neurons in our brains, those electrically excitable cells that transmit information, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action.

There are many ways to practice visualization. Doing something concrete matters. Here’s a picture of my vision board for 2016. For some other great visualization techniques, check out this article in Real Simple Magazine.

Vision Board

Three days after making my board, I received an email announcing a humor essay contest. If you zoom in, you’ll see the following on my board: laugh, contest, we have a winner!

Action 3: Choose a word of the year. I first saw this on Author Jennifer Davis Hesse’s blog and I thought it was genius. She cites Christine Kane as the inspiration behind this movement. Did you know that by January 17, most of us have abandoned any resolutions we’ve made?

Go with Kane’s plan and pick a word or theme instead. Easier to remember. My word for 2016 is “Do.” It appears prominently on my vision board.

Action 4: Leap. In Tara Mohr’s Playing Big, she encourages readers to take an action for which they believe they’re not quite ready. Hang gliding might not be the best example of this.

Instead, send a story to that lit mag you’re not quite ready for, make one call to volunteer to teach a class, or sign up to read a poem in public. My January leap was to lead at least one friend in a visioning exercise. It was a blast!

File Folders

Action 5: Take up space. Claim a spot for your writing. Stock it with colorful files, inspiring quotes, and your favorite books. I love TJ Maxx for great deals on journals, note cards, and unusual office supplies.

Action 6: Schedule Your Year. Hang a calendar and load it with writing events. Block out time for morning pages or your work in progress. Schedule at least one weekly writing-related activity such as a class, a live reading, a retreat, or if you’re on a budget, a podcast or video lesson. Again, better to have too many things to choose from than too few.

Action 7: Develop a Growth Mindset. Read Mindset by Carol Dweck. Seriously, or get the Audio CD. We all have the ability to substantially improve in any area, provided we foster a growth mindset.

Change your mindset, change your life. It helped me to earn my degree, complete my first 5k, and get off the junk food. Writing my first novel was just a bonus. It’s not magic, it’s hard work. But it’s possible.

Action 8: Pick a number, write it down. Send in that many submissions this year. Better to shoot high and fall short than to aim too low. Shoot for the moon and all that but really think about it. If you write down 10, and you do 9, not bad, right? But what if you write down 25, and send in 11? That’s more than 9. See, I’m good at math!

Action 9: Find Your People. Contact one new acquaintance each week this month who shares your passion. Call them, email, or connect via social media. Invite someone for coffee. Exchange links to helpful articles. This is a trial and error undertaking but we all have to start somewhere.

Boldness required. Don’t worry about how others respond. Just do the action. Check libraries, the local paper, bookstores, online groups, or form your own on Meetup.com

Broadcast your desire for a network and you’ll manifest one. Tinker, revise, and keep building. Groups have a shelf-life. There’s one out there for you.

Dream, but don’t stop there.

You don’t have to try all 9 actions. Even doing one or two will propel you into motion. Don’t forget to celebrate each attempt.

Sleeping Beauty

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/292030357059749178/

If you look off to the right on my vision board, you’ll see a picture of dance shoes. Last Friday, I waltzed. Sure, I was wearing jeans instead of 500 yards of satin, but I waltzed.

My husband and I never got around to ballroom dancing lessons before our daughter’s wedding last June. A few months ago, I asked him if he’d be interested in going. He was less than enthusiastic, and it was my dream not his, so I went without him.

Voila, within 40 minutes, a charming instructor named Zach had me twirling around the dance floor, making another of my visions a reality.

I perspired a little, I cried a little (happy, joyful tears). I think I made him nervous, but he hid it well. My audition for Dancing with the Stars is a long way off, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. (Turns out, I’m “advanced.”)

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We’re all energy in the universe, and I believe that Law of Attraction stuff is for real. DO ONE SMALL THING.

And don’t forget to pass it on. Encouraging others and celebrating their successes will bring you closer to your own dreams. You never know who you’ll inspire. Someone is looking up to you.

What will you start today?

7 Thoughts on “9 Ways to Waltz Write in to a Better 2016

  1. Uplifting and thought-provoking as always, dear Suzanne! Or should I call you ‘Twinkle-toes?’ 😉 xx

  2. YES! This all rings true. There’s a lot here to consider and delve into. I need to claim and pretty up my writing space, schedule my year, and network more…among other things.

    Good luck with the humor essay contest (I see you have comedy on your vision board too!), and congrats on following your dream to dance! That’s awesome.

    Thanks for the shout-out too. 🙂

  3. Thanks for remembering, its one of my very favorite memories!!!! Love you….Mom

Resting on a Laurel or What to do After Your Submission is Accepted

Sara's quote
Motivational Quote for Avoiding Writer's Block After Publishing Sara Connell Author

How to Avoid Writer’s Block After Publishing

What do you do when you have a success with your writing? Do you quickly move on to the next action step or do you sit and enjoy it? There’s something to be said for stopping to smell the roses – but not if you fall asleep wallowing in them. You’ll get pricked and bleed. It will be ugly. Trust me.

Last week, I got some exciting news that a story I submitted for a popular anthology was accepted. A PR firm contacted me and soon I had all kinds of attention-getting diversions!

I know my own shortcomings and confessed to a mentor that as I was posting the good news on Facebook, a part of me knew I’d waste endless hours basking in the “likes” and “shares” and “comments” surrounding my success. When would I write?

A certain amount of fear joined the excitement; fear that my biggest publishing success so far would be my last.

We made a plan to stay in action. Here’s a few things you can do if you find yourself with a “win” that threatens to deter you from a bigger goal.

3 Steps to Keep Your Success from Becoming Writer’s Block

1. Set aside a certain amount of time to pat yourself on the back via social media or other means.

2. Decide on a next step before you click “post.”

3. Next steps can include any of the following:

  • Deadline for new submission
  • Revision time on a work-in-progress (WIP)
  • Chapter read in a book on craft.

4. Use affirmations to remind yourself “That is not all the music that is in you.”

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An Invitation: 2015 Writing Goals and 2014 Results

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Why Do You Write or What Will Get You Writing in 2015?

Do you aim to inspire, motivate, entertain or release your creativity? Is there a story you’ve been longing to tell? Last year, I finally got off my ass and committed myself to living a writing life. After 40-plus years of stops and starts, all it took was a powerful concoction of Envy, Jealousy, Fear and Regret.

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 ENVY

It’s a cold March morning in 2014 and I’m due at a stupid new job with unfriendly, pinched-face women I detest. I put off getting up long enough to check Facebook and read my younger sister’s announcement. She has started a blog.

Without talking to me. Without getting my advice. This woman – who has supposedly looked up to me her whole life as the writer in the family – followed instructions in a book, bought a domain name and started a blog. I am turning 49 in less than six months and she has beaten me to it.

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JEALOUSY

And it’s freakin’ hilarious. It evokes emotion and sets a scene and makes me laugh and I want it to be me. Sure, I’ve been dabbling longer but she committed.  She has a website and everything! She will be famous before me and everyone will now say that she’s the writer. Everyone knows there’s only room for one writer per family. I will lose my special identity and this upsets me despite my realization that I’m usually talking or thinking about writing instead of doing it.

FEAR

There is jealousy but also fear. I’m afraid of losing my special writer status. I’m afraid of averageness. I’m afraid of dying without testing myself, realizing my potential, finding my passion. My stated purpose in life was always to create a loving family which I’ve done. But secretly, I know there’s an individual component I’ve neglected. I know I could do more, do better and I’m afraid it might be too late.

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REGRET

Despite the powerful if unattractive emotions of Envy, Jealousy, and Fear, the strongest is Regret.

A story comes to mind about a man who dies and goes to Heaven. In this Heaven, everyone gets the room best suited for them. His is a library lined floor to ceiling with wood shelves brimming with books. He will spend eternity with those things he treasures most. He selects a volume and cracks it open to find its pages empty. He sets it aside and chooses another and then another. All of them filled with blank pages. He asks his angel guide why this is happening to him. The guide explains that these are the books he was supposed to have written.

I am momentarily paralyzed by regret for the time I’ve wasted without writing anything more than the family Christmas letter. I feel dread and urgency to take action, to create motion.

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RESULTS

By 10:30 this March morning, I will quit my job with my husband’s blessing. Within a week I will be writing at least five days a week and will sign up for the first of many workshops. I will start a new job that allows me to squeeze in writing during down time. Within three months, I will start a story via email that I will turn into the first completed draft of my first novel. I will sign up for a writing retreat, treat myself to weekly meetings with a writing coach, and I will seek out an editorial evaluation of my manuscript.

By year’s end, I will commit to rewriting the novel, I will publish numerous book reviews and author interviews and two flash fiction stories. I will submit several pieces and perform one live on stage. I will have business cards and a website and join Twitter.

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 THIS NEW YEAR

And on January 1, 2015, I will be lounging around in my pajamas with my husband trying not to watch Denzel Washington’s latest film (love him, hate all the blood). I will check my email and see that a writer in Canada has mentioned me in a post on her website. She will mention me by name saying that an essay I wrote spurred her to set her writing intentions for this year.

I will pause the movie and try to tell my husband why I’m crying about this. He will chuckle at my tears and somehow understand what I can’t say out loud at that moment. In many ways 2014 has been a challenging year for me and my family but in this one thing, in my pursuit of this thing, I am figuring stuff out. And one person, in a country I’ve never visited, is reacting to something I’ve written. I’m laughing and crying…it’s like a magic trick.

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INTENTION

In 2015, I will write in comradery with my sister and with the support of a network of biased relatives and friends. I invite you to join me.

I will write with boundless gratitude for lessons I’m learning and the professional writers sharing their experience. I invite you to join me.

I will write with pride in my own efforts to improve and an urgency tinged with joy and excitement instead of fear and regret. Yep, you’re invited to join me in this too.

My writing intention for this year is really a warning: Watch out 2015 – I’m coming for you and I’m going to kick your ass!

 

 

 

2 Thoughts on “An Invitation: 2015 Writing Goals and 2014 Results

  1. Betsy Gibson on May 21, 2015 at 9:56 pm said:

    Fabulous!!!!!! Good for you. Now I have to do the same thing….you have inspired me! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Retreat? Who me?

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 Retreat: 1. An act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable 2. A place of privacy or safety 3. a period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director

 

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So who has time for any of that nonsense? Maybe a better question is who can afford NOT to retreat from time to time.

We all could use a time and place where we feel safe to examine our circumstances, plan for the future or learn a new skill.

With that next windfall, instead of upgrading your smartphone or flatscreen, consider funding an experience that could enhance your life.

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I’ve just returned from a week’s retreat in Montana. It was not in our budget, it was a long flight and it was way, way outside my comfort zone.

It was also educational, energizing, relaxing, grounding, motivating, creative and a heck of a good time. I’d say that was money well spent.

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