It’s That Time of Year When . . .

sense of urgency creative commons

sense of urgency creative commons

December. The last of your 12 tries to get everything right. You think snowmen and hot cocoa, or maybe pina coladas and a week in Boca Raton. Either way, you’re also thinking about recapping your year and maybe looking ahead to 2016.

Evaluating  accomplishments and visioning for the future are worthwhile practices even for artists and us creative writing types. Ideally, this shouldn’t happen in a haphazard fashion. Nor should it happen while in a depressed reverie over a wilted noisemaker with confetti hair and a champagne hangover.

You deserve an hour. Your writing, or quilting project or [insert life goal here] that you wanted to accomplish this year is too important for you to ignore.

Likewise, it’s best to start out 2016 with an idea or two or ten of what you’d like to accomplish.

Here are some things I’ve found useful, inspirational or irreplaceable. Think of them as a place to start as opposed to an exhaustive list.

Treat yourself to a new notebook and pen or a new flavored tea or coffee as a reward for your commitment to yourself. Settle into a coffee shop or under a favorite afghan at home and consider the following:

Reflect on the Past

  • What did you see through to completion in 2015?
  • What was unsuccessful and nags at you?
  • What was successful but ended up not mattering as much as you thought it would?

10 minutes should do the trick. Leave a trail of bread crumbs so you don’t get stuck reliving the year.

Envision the Future

A lovely writing friend with a successful coaching practice helped me with this today. You can do it on your own, but somehow, the energy of a partner/friend seemed to add something. These aren’t dreams or wishes. A vision is the mental map guiding your choices and endeavors for the year.

You can use these questions, or search online under visioning exercises. As an alternative, check out Playing Big by Tara Mohr. She offers a great introduction to the process. Likewise, Author and Coach Sara Connell offers a free visioning workshop (online and in person) and these questions are ones she suggested.

  • What is the highest vision for your 2016 year?
  • What are you called to do?
  • What do you need to release to be able to realize the vision?
  • What support do you require to realize the vision?

Sit still, close your eyes, breathe and listen to what’s most important to you.

Track Your Results

I had a goal to submit at least one thing each week this year. That’s 52 submissions. I won’t hit the target, but unlike most experts that recommend setting attainable goals, I’ve found that setting them really high allows me to achieve more than I thought I could.

  • Pick one or two things that really resonate from your visioning exercise and consider focusing on them first.
  • Apply a tracking method of your choice and record everything.
  • Think of the 40% rule and NEVER beat yourself up for not hitting the mark.

Spreadsheet Suzanne Brazil

Above is an example of the spreadsheet I used to track my submissions this year. If you email me or leave a note in the comments, I’m happy to send the actual Excel file.

Two Magic Words

So, how do you implement change and make it stick? I can only say what’s worked for me. Putting aside my fears and getting off my butt have been the result of a chain reaction. I’ve paid attention and like a research scientist, have duplicated the methods to see if I get the same result. So far, so good.

The first tool I used is the result of a renowned Stanford psychology professor, the second the result of a former heroin addict; both of them authors.

Carolyn Dweck is the pioneering doctor behind the concept of growth vs. fixed mindset. Her book is short, fascinating, readable, filled with entertaining anecdotes, pictures and virtually zero jargon.

The basic concept is we all have the ability to improve.

But you have to do these simple, basic things to get there. In other words, there’s no such thing as “I’m not a math person.” This short video can give you an introduction, but the book is magic.

You may be more familiar with the second author I mentioned, Cheryl Strayed. But the book I’m talking about isn’t her memoir, it’s a collection of advice columns she wrote for Salon under the pseudonym Dear Sugar. In language that will make you swallow your gum, she gives visceral examples of how expecting life to serve you isn’t serving you. Suck it up, Buttercup.

Moving into action and changing your mindset can be scary, hard, and at first, fruitless. Unless, you know these two magic words: Source and Support. I kept attributing my mysterious successes in reaching my goals to “setting things in place.” Author Connell gave me these words today.

Source and support whatever it is you’re trying to achieve; just like you would if your curly-headed six-year-old came to you today and told you she wanted to be a ballerina.

You’d drop everything and pick the right school, the sturdiest shoes, the prettiest leotard and enlist the most compassionate teacher. Next, you’d make sure family and friends turned up for each recital which you would then document on Facebook until everyone unfriended you.

Do the same for yourself. Set up classes, search for a mentor, buy treats when you hit a mark, treat yourself to something even when you miss a goal. Basically, source and support your vision. Celebrate everything.

As Janet Jackson famously sang, you’ve got one life to live, what have you done for YOU lately?

What rituals do you use to mark the ending of one year and the start of the next? What do you want in 2016? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section or via email.

2 Thoughts on “It’s That Time of Year When . . .

  1. Wow, Suzanne, you’ve given me so much to think about and try! What a wealth of inspiration here. I like to reflect and plan around this time of the year too. For the past few years I’ve been using Christine Kane’s Word-of-the-Year tool. (I like it so much I have an affiliate link! LOL http://christinekane.com/woty/Jennifer.)

    Congratulations on all your efforts and successes in 2015! Looks to me like you’re already on track for an awesome 2016.

    • That sounds like something any writer would find useful! Thanks so much for sharing. Congratulations to you as well and 2016 promises to be even more exciting for you and your book launch!! Appreciate the read!! (I used to be self-conscious about the exclamations but now, I just let them flow….feels right)

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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