Coffee Share: In Which I Discuss Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work For Me

We’re ending the second week of January and I’m just now writing one of these posts. Procrastination 101, guys!

Though, giving myself time to think about what I want to do and if I can do it was helpful. If we were having coffee, I’d complain about the silliness of making resolutions and why they don’t work for me.

I set goals that are too big!

The timeline for a resolution is in the name. A YEAR. Huge right? …not! But my idiot self will set goals so big that it takes a ton of time to complete them. When anything is too daunting for me to do, I procrastinate and it’ll be too late by the time I get to them.

Life gets in the way.

This is how I interpret my reality: there’re the things I want to do and then there’s life. Life doesn’t care about my ambitions; in fact, it doesn’t care I exist. It does what it wants!

So when life happens, my resolutions slip out of focus (what’s more important: building an author platform or figuring out how to pay that bill you don’t have money for? Exactly. The platform bill).

To be fair, this is true for any goal. Finding a balance in our lives is a part of being human.

Resolutions? More like a wish list.

This is the main issue. My resolutions don’t acknowledge my reality. I give no thought on how I will complete my goals only that I want to (Write 50 books in a year? Hell yeah! Wait…).

I also forget that things don’t happen cause I want them to. Like, just because I want to get published in every magazine doesn’t mean that editors are going to collective think: Oh, this writer is ambitions and wants to be published in my magazine. I can see she has a ton of talent and is a goddess on the page. Let’s publish her! 

Nope. 😦

So what’s a girl supposed to do?

I stopped making resolutions. It became disheartening to finish a year without accomplishing anything I set out to do.

But…I’m trying again this year with a twist. I’ve made doable quarter goals (January – April) with realistic expectations. My goals are:

  1. Read 2 Books (1 every two months)
  2. Freewrite for 15 minutes a day (total 1635 minutes or 27 hours)
  3. Post daily except on Sundays (total 91 posts)
  4. Out of bed by 8am 50% of the time
  5. Outline and Draft “Drowning in Your Sins” (a web serial 🙂 )
  6. Obtain a driver’s license
  7. Create a newsletter

I did something like this in 2016 and all I had to do was complete half of them. So that’s 3-4 goals for this quarter.

In case you’re curious, my 2018 “resolution” was to be fearless. Here’s what I accomplished:

  • I learned to play the piano
  • I earned two degrees
  • I’ve let others read my work (poetry and flash)
  • I bought the “Inky Tavern” domain name
  • I made some awesome friends
  • I held onto a job
  • I redesigned my blog so that it accurately represents me as a writer

Wish me luck and see you in the next coffee share!

How I View Writing Contests and Magazine Submissions

When I first started submitting my stories to contests and magazines, a question bothered me: would the judges praise me for my goddess-like storytelling skills or want to cleanse their eyes after reading my garbage?

My naive mind couldn’t handle being rejected from my first submission. I felt like giving up on writing and didn’t pen anything for months. I eventually realized that my expectations were unrealistic and developed a new mindset. It goes a little like this…

It’s not impossible to win or get accepted, but it’s also not a guarantee.

Why do some writers feel disappointed when they receive a rejection or lose in a writing competition? I think it’s hubris (What do you think?).

The reality is that it’s unlikely your fiction will come out on top if you consider the slew of other writers who submitted along with you. Think about it: if you submit your fiction into an international contest or magazine, your piece will be competing against BILLIONS of other pieces.

This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to win, but it’s most definitely NOT a guarantee!

Don’t be snooty!

Non-paying avenues can be just as beneficial to your writing career as paying ones.

If a free-to-enter, non-paying magazine with a large audience base features your work, guess what? You’re getting exposure on a well-established platform with readers looking for awesome writers. It’s a chance to grow your platform and advance your writing career.

Rejection means not for them. Not “not for the entire world!”

Whether your piece wins a contest or is accepted at a magazine depends on the judges and editors reading it. They’re humans—like you—with unique tastes and they may not like your work. That’s fair. Get over it. Art is subjective and fiction is art. You can’t please everyone.

Rejection doesn’t devalue your writing. It just means you have to keep submitting until you do find those who will like your work (side note: some contest judges and magazine editors will give you a free critique—use it to improve your writing…or not!). You can even use your stories to build your readership on your blog or sell them as a collection.

 

Ever since I adopted this philosophy, I stress less when I submit my stories. It’s not a full-proof plan, but’s it’s something!

Do you have any submission philosophies? Is submitting to contests and magazines beneficial? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Create like a Child and Plot Without Structure

NaNoWriMo forces us to remember what writing is about: having fun, unleashing our creativity, and coloring outside the lines. It’s the perfect opportunity to break away from plot structure and rekindle our passion for pure imaginative storytelling.

How? By keeping it simple.

Centuries ago, Aristotle noted in his book Poetics that while a story does have a beginning, a middle and an ending, the beginning is not simply the first event in a series of three, but rather the emotionally engaging originating event. The middle is the natural and causally related consequence, and the end is the inevitable conclusive event.

In other words, stories have an origination, an escalation of conflict, and a resolution.

Steven James

I’m no genius; however, I think Aristotle may have been referring to this guy:

fiction

Keep it in mind as you sketch your story these next few weeks. Try to loosen up and plot without following rigid structures. Harness the spirit of NaNoWriMo and create like a child.

Besides, you can always edit it later…

Three Ways Students Can Balance Their Writing and Academic Lives

Pursuing an educational goal and keeping up with your creative writing isn’t the most easiest task in the world. School can become so overbearing that it forces us to prioritize it over our creativity. Although this choice may seem responsible at the time, it’s really an avenue towards a more stressful dilemma: unproductively.

In order to keep myself from feeling unproductive, I do the following three things:

 

1. KNOW THY SCHEDULE

In fiction, thieves usually spend a bit of time scoping out a territory before infiltrating it. They discover all the possible entrances, emergency escape routes, and the precise moment the guard jabs his finger into his nose.

Ok, you wont be doing any of that; however, it’s still a good idea to analyze your day-to-day schedule.

You may also want to spend some time (I recommend a week) learning your instructor’s routine:

  • Do they arrive early, late, or on time to class?
  • Do they open the doors early?
  • Do they give breaks midway into their lecture?

Analyze your routine, too:

  • How long does it take you to study? (If you have to, time yourself)
  • What are some of your other responsibilities?
  • When do you have breaks?

 

2. BATTLE PLAN

Now that you have a general idea of your academic week, see if you can squeeze some writing in. Can you…

  • Write during class breaks?
  • Get up really early to write?
  • Take a ten minute homework break to jot down some ideas?

Come up with a monthly wordcount goal and break it down into chunks. Also, see if you can schedule small writing sessions during the day.

 

3. EXECUTE

By following the above steps, your current dilemma may shift from “I don’t have time to write” to “I’m too darn tired to write!” The solution to this problem is simple: suck it up and write.

 

SOME EXTRA TIPS

  • Don’t prioritize your creative projects below your school work. Make them equal.
  • Carry a notepad with you (or some word processing device) to jot down ideas that you may have throughout the day.
  • Find time to read for fun.
  • If your schedule is ruined by some unforeseen circumstance, don’t freak out. Reschedule and keep writing.

 

What do you think? If you could add something to this method, what would it be? If you tried this method, how did it work for you?

Basing Your Reading Habits off of Reviews is so…Grade School!

reviewsThe following conversation actually took place. Names have been changed to protect the Innocent:

Elf: My gawd, you’re just now reading that!

Alien: …yeah…

Elf: Even after the movie came out? Didn’t it spoil everything for you?

Alien: I didn’t read the book when it first came out.

Elf: Why?

Alien: Because the reviews were so bad.

Elf: …You base your reading habits off the opinions of others?

Alien: …Well…yeah.

Elf: Dude…that’s so grade school.


 

I’ve noticed a trend in the digital book market. It goes something like this:

  • 5 out of 5 (overall stars) – gets a book a lot of attention.
  • 4 out of 5 – almost the same as 5/5
  • 3 out of 5 – Makes people uncomfortable. They have to check the reviews!
  • 2 out of 5 – automatic skip
  • 1 out of 5 – You’re basically invisible
  • 0 out of 5 – You’d be lucky if someone accidentally clicked on the cover

Am I wrong? You’re free to disagree.

One day I was browsing through Amazon looking for a decent book to read. I found one, sampled it, liked it, and bought it.

Then I noticed it had a poor overall star rating.

One reader wrote a long review on how the author’s writing style was amateurish, that their characters were cardboard, and the manuscript was in need of a professional editor. The icing on the cake was this last part, “don’t waste your money on this rubbish.”

This reader’s review was declared the “most helpful” and one user thanked the reviewer for saving them money and time. I doubt they even looked at the sample…

Ok, the reviewer is entitled to their opinion. But the commenter…

Reviews are opinions of another reader. I’m not suggesting that we should do away with the starring/review system like some totalitarian regime. However–we (as mature readers, budding authors, and authors) should be adult enough to form our own opinions / decisions based on our own judgments.

At least give the author the courtesy of reading their synopsis and a sample of their work. It’s free! Still want to read the reviews? Go for it! But don’t base your reading / buying decisions off of them.

…it’s so grade school!

 

That’s my opinion, what’s yours?