I’ve talked about tracking progress before, and today I saw Victoria Schwab’s tweet on keeping a calendar. She awards herself with stars for the number of pages she writes and the number of pages she reads, as well as the amount of exercise she gets each day. The magenta stars are for days she’s travelling or attending events.
As you probably know, I keep a calendar of my writing and submitting schedule. I set goals for the week, then record my progress as I go. But I know I’m not getting enough exercise. Victoria’s calendar has inspired me to keep track of my own physical activity. I truly believe in the importance of balance. We need to be aware of how we spend our time. So much of my life goes to household chores and tasks that have to be done every day. Having a calendar to prove that will force me to take action and reclaim some time for myself!
How do you keep track of where your time goes? How do you make time for yourself?
Note: Victoria Schwab’s “A Darker Shade of Magic” is a current goodreads Choice Awards Best Book of 2015 nominee. If you’ve read and loved it, vote for it here: https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2015.
My story, “Forensics & You,” just went live at HOBART today! If you have a few minutes today, please give it a read. I hope you enjoy!
image: Carabella Sands
Today is November 1st–day one of NaNoWriMo. The goal: write an entire novel in 30 days. This is the first year I will be participating in the madness. If you want to join the fun, you can just do it or go to the National Novel Writing Month website and sign up. At this site, you can track your progress, get support, and meet other writers. Either way, come back here and let me know how it’s going. We can encourage each other along the way!
Let the games begin! And may the odds be ever in your favor!
If this is your first attempt at writing a novel, here are a few resources to help you get started:
10 Simple Habits to Help You Write Your First Book (Life Hacks): Simple tasks to put your writing potential in action.
How to Write Your First Book (BuzzFeed): 21 successful writers share their stories about overcoming writer’s block, completing, and selling their first books.
How to Start Writing a Book, 1st Chapter (Writer’s Digest): A sampling of advice, tips, and guidelines to inspire your “first steps from blank page to finished piece.”
Thanks to the Writer’s Digest Platform Challenge, I’ve kept track of this month’s activities on a calendar. I start out with the week’s goals in red and as I complete each task, I change it to black and move it to the day the task is completed. This way, I can look back on everything I’ve accomplished, and still keep my upcoming deadlines in mind. So, when I have one of those days where coffee just isn’t helping me focus, I have something to provide a clear path for what I should be doing.
It’s simple. In Microsoft Word, I create a table with 7 columns–one for each day. Here’s an Example Calendar to show, rather than tell you what I mean.
It’s also important to celebrate your successes!
This year, my poem “Mourning List” appeared in the same issue of Calyx as the memorial to Margarita Donnelly, founding editor of the beautiful publication. Margarita Donnelly died Christmas Eve 2014, the very same day as a good friend of mine, Sarah Edwards McFarland, who I’d known since 4th grade. The title and subject matter of my poem was appropriate, though when I wrote it, I had no idea Sarah or Margarita were going to pass on. I wish I would have known. I wish I could say goodbye to Sarah, or thank Margarita for building such a wonderful home for women to place their works of art.
Sadly, we cannot time travel. (Yet.) So, forget the rejections. Draw from them whatever constructive criticism they offer, then press that lovely delete button. Life’s too short to dwell on your failures. And, if you haven’t had any publications yet, tomorrow is a new day.
In fact, tomorrow is November 1st and… NaNoWriMo BEGINS! So, let’s get to work. And WHEN–not if–you have a publication or acceptance from an agent, come here and let me know. I’ll feature your good news in a pretty post dedicated to your successes and we’ll all celebrate together!
You just finished months of writing, editing, and perfecting this miraculous creation. Then comes time for submitting–a daunting task. You find lit mag listings on Poets & Writers, Duotrope, or NewPages. You write a beautifully crafted letter and attach it with your poem/story/essay. Then, you wait–checking every five minutes for a reply, logging in to various submission managers, hoping to decode Submittable’s mysterious status of “In Progress.” You hope for the best, but know those rejections are going to come in like dirty, shameful children, one right after the next.
But, alas! Some wonderful journal wants your piece! Someone really read your work, and they actually enjoyed it! Now they even want to PUBLISH it!
Hold on, honey! Before you accept, read this article from The Review Review. It’ll give you warning signs to steer you from a bad publication.
Toxic Journals: What to Watch Out For When You Submit Your Writing (Robert Boucheron)
**Feel free to comment on your experiences with ‘toxic journals’ in the comments. We’ll all benefit from each others misery.**
Even the Greats receive countless rejections before they’re recognized as “great.” Stephen King, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut and Gertrude Stein all used their rejections to drive them to keep working, and work harder. They didn’t let these stop them, and the world is better for it!
10 Painful Rejection Letters to Famous People Proving You Should NEVER Give Up Your Dreams (Distractify)
Last week’s Prairie Schooner e-newsletter featured an interview with Adam Zagajewski titled, “The Border Between Sadness & Joy,” where Zagajewski discusses success:
I think success is the enemy of the poet. Poetry arises out of inner life; out of some contemplation, sometimes out of lament, and success creates an artificial reality. It’s not you− if you happen to be acclaimed. I haven’t reached this degree of success, luckily, but I can imagine there is a degree of success that cuts you away from real life, from real people.
Last time, I mentioned contacting fellow writers. In her response, Lisa Fay Coutley said, “It’s exciting, those earlier days of meandering and working your ass off. If that’s where you are, in a lot of ways, I think that’s the best part. It’s like new love. Enjoy it!”
For me, this adventure is like being a new mother. No one can possibly articulate how difficult it will be. On the same hand, no one can possibly describe how rewarding it can be.
As K.M. Weiland describes, “The magic ingredient in fiction is that special something that socks readers right in the gut and leaves them breathless with joy or sorrow (or maybe wabi-sabi, the Japanese term for that impossibly beautiful combination of the two).” (Outlining Your Novel, 66)
This July I will deliver my fifth baby. Because they arrive without specific care instructions each child is a beautiful mystery. Like Adam Zagajewski, I haven’t reached the degree of success that removes a writer from reality. I only know the magic of discovery involved with each new creation of poetry or fiction, and the overwhelming feeling of wabi-sabi that inevitably comes each time. And I will take Lisa Fay Coutley’s advice and enjoy it while it lasts.