Aspiring Author Blog

Aspiring Author Blog

The best laid plans

 

Plans a, b, cTwo weeks after my last post — seven months ago — I was diagnosed with a chronic, no current cure, cancer. To say I fell into a deep dark abyss is an understatement, and it is only the last couple of weeks that I feel I have got back to my pre-diagnosis state. As I am a nurse, I had pretty much self-diagnosed myself after an abnormal blood test, but had to wait over the Christmas and New Year period for the docs to get back to work and tell me my fate. Of course, reading up about something you may or may not have, is as scary as hell, and somehow your eyes and brain only see and compute the bad news and not the good. Yes, this is a life-limiting disease, but all going well I will be around for another 20 years if I have any say in the matter.

Honestly, I have had some very dark days which I spent curled up in bed thinking about all the things I might not get to do if I don’t exceed ‘average,’ regarding longevity. While I am normally a very private person and few people get to ‘know’ me, I had a compelling desire to tell people, especially my students, so I didn’t have to ‘fake it till I made it.’ I could be honest in my ability — or inability — to cope with my frequent trips to the hospital and starting chemo. Yes, quite a selfish position drove this disclosure, but the stories it allowed students to share with me, as a result, were truly inspirational and helped my recovery and helped draw me out of my cave.

Of course, one of the major thoughts that went around and around in my head was the fact that I might die and leave no lasting legacy to prove I was ever here. I know this sounds dramatic, but for a few weeks, it became all-consuming. What if I didn’t get to write my books and people — read family — forgot me. I talked myself into believing that if they could see my books on the bookshelf or received royalty cheques, they would be reminded of me. As I ventured out of my cave for longer periods, getting over the shock of the diagnosis, a sense of sanity returned, and I began to appreciate that I was one of the ‘lucky ones.’ Many people don’t get (hopefully) 20 years notice of their mortality. Of course, any one of us could die tomorrow in an accident. Yes, sanity was returning, and in the meantime, my book was sitting here on the computer destined never to be written unless I snapped out of this funk, got my feet planted under the desk, and started writing.

I know I should be able to remember how, but I don’t, but about six weeks ago I came across Jessica Lourey’s non-fiction book, Rewrite your life, and the accompanying workbook, Better than gin. Rewrite your life, changed something in me and was a powerful influencer in getting my bedraggled self out of the cave and Better than gin helped me reconnect with my creative self. In this frame of mind, I allowed other voices around me — namely my husband and a couple of close friends — to penetrate the fog in my brain and remind me that life needed to be cherished and experienced to the full.

If your best-laid plans go awry, have faith that somewhere along the track you will find the strength, time, motivation, or something that will get those clogs turning once again, and you will get back to being the person you are meant to be.

Cheers to staying out of the cave.

Susanne.xx

Aspiring Author Blog

Getting things done

Well, it’s that time of year. The time when we glance over our shoulder and wonder where on earth the year went! Glancing back it is hard to think about all of the good things that have happened, or that we have done. If you’re anything like me, it is so much easier to see all the things I didn’t achieve, all the dreams that didn’t come true, and all the personal and professional issues along the way. It takes more than a glance to really appreciate the good things. Yes, I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to, but I must be careful not to beat myself up too much or I risk not deconstructing the positive and negative, and risk not learning. I need to learn what went right, and what went wrong, so that I learn what works and what doesn’t in getting things done.

What went wrong? Well, I suppose the thing that looks me in the eye every day, is that I didn’t lose weight. Sound familiar? I could beat myself up about this ad nauseam, but unless I consider why I didn’t lose weight like I had promised myself, I will no doubt make the same mistakes this coming year and be sitting here in twelve months’ time, lamenting that I didn’t lose weight. What I did achieve is finally (and I do mean finally!), going to a podiatrist to see if there is anything that can be done for sore feet. It turns out there is, and three weeks later pain levels are declining and getting back to walking is on the horizon for the New Year. That will help me a lot, and next year adding in exercise to my plan, will make losing weight more achievable. Of course, there are many things I have to do in order to be truly successful, but rather than just unthinkingly trying again next year without exploring this year’s performance, I have some new knowledge to help me be successful.

The same goes for my writing. I could just as easily try to write more next year. Sounds like a great plan. However, as Albert Einstein reminds us below, we have to change the way we do things, if we are expecting a different outcome.

Insanity
This time of year there is a lot of advice about achieving more in 2018. You can search a million pages and find close to that many strategies to help you get more done. You can buy books, diaries, and short courses; all aimed at helping you get more done. I have found many valuable tools to help, but I get waylaid in perfecting the tool, researching how to use the tool more effectively (and making it prettier!) and always end up in the same place… not much further along than the year before.

This time, I am going back to basics. After all, most of the ‘advanced’ tools are built around the basics. Nothing wrong with any of these tools mind you, just that they haven’t worked that well for me. If they work for you – congrats, you have found the system that works for you. Hold on to it, embrace it, and enjoy your achievements.
The following tips are commonly posited to help you achieve more.

1. Wake up earlier – hmm, I already get up at 5am, and getting up at 4 or 430am really does not float my boat. I don’t think this one will work for me.

2. Make a list – I am not really a list person, but on reflection, those times I do make a list, I do achieve crossing things off. This one definitely needs closer attention and is getting added to my toolbox.

3. Limit your time – this will work too. I am fairly good at working to timelines and yes, there is truth (for me at least), that give me all day and I will take all day. Give me two hours to do the same thing, and I will take two hours. I like this one and will definitely explore this further, especially as my life is dictated to by bus timetables.

4. Work a little bit faster – hmm. I suppose this one adds on to number 3. Maybe try not to be too generous with the time I allocate myself for something. That might work!

5. Limit distractions – probably the Holy Grail in getting things done! There are so many Facebook groups and writer blogs that I want to follow. I have started to cull these, as you can spend all day and half the night reading posts. I need to do some more work on this as it does eat into getting things done for myself.

6. Ignore the unnecessary – probably builds on number 5, as well as into the bigger picture. There is something to be said about prioritising your life. Pencilling in time for exercise, coffee with friends, Facebook, etc. around family and work commitments. Of course, then you need to draw the line and remember number 3 and give yourself limits. If it isn’t important for your family, your career or your goals, sorry… time to go.

I could go on as there are many more ideas to help us get things done. For example, delegating, grouping tasks together etc. If you think you need some help getting things done, explore some of the ideas and tools available… but maybe it would be a good idea to firstly work out what areas you need help in before you do, or you will spend a lot of time ‘researching’. Secondly, limit the time you spend doing it. If you want to allocate a day, do so, but if you don’t put a limit on it, you could easily research all year, and be no closer to getting your own things done.

Happy holidays wherever in the world you are and enjoy time with your family and friends.

Cheers to getting things done!

Susanne.x

Aspiring Author Blog

Just get on with it.

I can’t believe it is three weeks since my last post! How time flies. I’ve had a couple of lots of visitors, and the end of the academic year busyness to help meld one day into another. I’ve also had some sad news that I think I have put into the ‘too hard’ basket for now, and will no doubt have to deal with sooner or later.

Well, that’s my excuses. Now it’s time to get tough (and honest) with myself. While I have done some writing, I need to do more in the next few days if I am going to start writing proper on December 1. I’ve got some work writing to do after this, as I am presenting at a conference on Tuesday, but if I get it done tonight and sent off for uploading, I can get up early in the morning and do some of my writing as planned. The sooner I start making this a habit, the better.

I have been doing lots of reading. I am rereading a couple of favourites (Flight of the Old Dog by Dale Brown and Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly, as well as a craft book – Dialogue by Robert McKee). I have always been one to have at least two, and often three, books on the go at once. I read according to mood and my level of tiredness. While I pick up Dialogue in the mornings and early evenings, I cannot wade through the mire (valuable and brilliant mire that it is), once I begin to feel tired. In case you are wondering – no I don’t have any problem keeping up with the storyline, even if I work through all of them on the same night. This might account for my need to read, even at the expense of less sleep… and you know how much I love my sleep!

I don’t know if you have read Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. I am sure that is where I read about life putting lessons in front of you until you learn them… repeatedly. I have always believed in this. If you need to learn patience, life keeps requiring you to be patient until you can indeed be patient with relative ease. Well, at the moment I need to just get on with it. Everywhere I turn I see and hear people talking about it – podcasts, tv shows, people at work and on the bus… everywhere!

Every day I delay my writing journey, is another day further away from my goal of being an author. If I fail to achieve what I want to this coming week, I won’t be able to start writing on December 1, and I will need more time prepping before I can begin and be that bit further away from my goal.

Do you ever delay, and then weeks, months, and even years, later wish you had started then you would be finished now? We hear messages everywhere such as – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail; break larger goals down into easily achievable small ones, that will gradually add up to the larger one; one small step at a time; just do it; no time like the present; and many, many more. All great advice, yet here we are, weeks, months, or years later, still waiting to start.

Time to get real people! Don’t worry; I am writing this more for myself here. I have all of this head knowledge; now I need to put it into practice and get real with myself. I have the accountability buddies, I have the goal, and the skills to do this. Now time to just get on with it and do it!!

Snoopy

Let’s see what happens over the next week (and months, and years).

I am looking forward to checking in with you next time.

Take care.

Susanne.x

 

Aspiring Author Blog

Who are you accountable to?

I like to think I am pretty driven and motivated to do the best work I can, as soon as I can, and as much as I can.

The truth is, I am lying to myself, and probably many others!

I love my bed, and I love to sleep. I never used to be so attached and would bounce out as soon as my eyes even thought about opening in the morning. Now, I reach for the blankets, snuggle down deep and try for more sleep. If that doesn’t work, and it often doesn’t, I reach for my phone. I check my work and personal emails and then hop onto Facebook and Slack (more about this another time).

Emails are fine! I then convince myself and try to convince you, that Facebook is a good way to spend more time. I don’t do a lot of personal social Facebook, but I am a member of several, busy writing and author groups. Lots of learning to be had at all hours of the day and night!!

Guilt to get going is what often gets me out of bed. Mind you; this is still between 0530 – 0700, depending on the day, but this can be up to two hours (or more) later than previously. I tell myself it is a form of work. Even now, writing this, I sound convincing to myself, haha.

Now I have committed to writing a novel, time is going to be my biggest challenge. Every minute of every single day has to be spent wisely, or I’ll never finish. But here’s the thing. I am not very wise.

But, there is hope. I have to be accountable to several people now. As much as this scares the bejeezes out of me, it also reassures me, that I will get this book finished. The sooner I finish the first book; I can get onto the second, and then the third. This is the only way I will become successful and earn the money I need to work from home and enjoy my cave with a view.

My husband wants me to be happy. You know, happy wife, happy life! Actually, this is far from his reality. He is one of the good guys. One who really, REALLY, wants me to be happy, because he genuinely does want me to be happy. I’m a lucky girl. My daughter wants me to write… well her actual words were “Mum, stop reading and just write,” so I will need real words on a page to satisfy her!

A few of my writer friends (mostly Sean and Juliet), want me to succeed too. And of course, I am sure many of my family and friends would want me to be happy and successful too. One day, I will get around to telling them all about it. No hurry though. A little bit of imposter syndrome going on in this corner, so we (meaning I!), will wait a little while until I have written something to tell them about!

So, being accountable to myself, my husband, my daughter, Sean and Juliet, family and friends (though less so I suppose, as they aren’t aware they should be holding me accountable), means I am starting to write. Woohoo. My outline is taking shape, and I am about to get serious.

There is a worldwide phenomenon called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) being held currently. However, as I am not quite finished my prep work, I have decided to have my own little WriDec in December, with the aim of having my first novel completed by the end of summer. Although I would love to leave this open, and in March say “I meant the northern summer”, as I live in Oz, I suppose that means our southern summer.

So, roughly 80,000 words between now and the 1st March 2018. I know students who have written up the PhD in less time, so I am confident that my accountability buddies will help keep me on track.

By my next post, I will have declared my intent to my husband, daughter, Sean, and Juliet, and perhaps I should even get it printed onto my pillow too!

No doubt there will be peaks and troughs, but I am glad I have you to act as accountability buddies too.

Fun in the sun,

Susanne.x

I love Robert Irwin’s photos (son of the legendary Steve Irwin)

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Aspiring Author Blog

Moving Forward with a New Vision

There is nothing like talking a problem through with a trusted counsel to help you see the forest for the trees. After a couple of months of angst and ‘can I do this?’, a half-hour discussion has provided the soundboard I needed to make my decision.

My advice to anyone at a similar point in their life is to reach out and make contact with someone you trust.  I reached out to someone, somewhat tentatively, who is an established and successful author who I have enormous respect for. Thankfully, he had been in the same position once and was only too happy to help me clarify my thinking and encourage me in my decision.

We all need to surround ourselves with people who support and encourage us, and it is even better if some members of your group are doing whatever is you aspire to do. Most people, especially creatives, are only too willing to share their experiences – both the good and the bad – and help you on your journey.

For many of us, family and close friends are a big part of this, but you need to find your supporters wherever you can. Facebook groups that are formed around your interest (writing for me) are a great place to start. You will soon begin to appreciate that others experience the ups and downs, just like you and me (well, I think the ‘good’ groups will/should share both sides).

Local groups might also help. I know! That means leaving the safety of your cave (eek!), but it might be worth it. You only really need a handful of really close supporters on your cheer squad. There may be many more in the general stadium, but knowing who to hone in on in your time of need to really get that sage advice, owl-like wisdom, act as your sounding board, who will listen to every word (even if they don’t understand half of them), or just provide a quick huddle to recharge your confidence – will work wonders and clarify your vision or direction, and allow you to power on through.

So, if like me you are ever sitting there at the fork in the road I discussed last week, reach out to the people who can help you. It’s your time to move forward and do those things that make your day, and ultimately your life, better.

Cheers to a clearer vision,

Susanne.x

Aspiring Author Blog

What do you do when you get to a fork in the road?

Well, it’s been a good week here, and now it is the weekend, and a sunny, spring day (I’m in Australia, remember), the lawnmowers are flat out, and the cut grass smell on the sea breeze is pretty special.

I should be writing a paper for work, but thought it best to do something for me first, and then I won’t feel so bad working inside on such a beautiful day. It is too breezy to work on the balcony with the dozens of papers I will have around me, trying to find the right thing to discuss next.

Another month and I should be done and dusted with the academic year, and have the headspace to get cracking on my book over summer. Uni shuts for ten days between Christmas and New Year, so I will have to be organised to make the most of those precious days.

A couple of weeks ago, I was presented with a fork in my road. This fork was all of my own doing, mind you. I saw a book cover that I fell in love with. It was not in my anticipated genre, and as much as I tried to move on from it, I couldn’t, and I kept returning to it again and again.

The cover suggests a sci-fi/space opera story. Although I like both, I have to admit I have read few, compared to books I devour such as thriller/military themes (Dale Brown and Tom Clancy rock my world) and super-fast action/thriller (Matthew Reilly is a legend). I have also read a lot of romance, or at least lots of books with romantic elements in them. While my Kindle has widened my reading to new authors across multiple genres this past year, they say you should write what you know or read most of.

I have two book series in my head, and the beginnings of, on paper. Covers such as this (examples only) are what I thought I would be doing:


Hmmm. Then I fall in love with this:

Scarlett and Rory (3)

I can’t show you the whole cover, but I think it was the dinosaur that drew my eye and then my heart. You see, I live with dinosaurs every single day. My grandson is dinosaur crazy and has been for about 4 years now, and shows no sign of slowing down. How many times have I watched Jurassic Park (all of them)? I’d like to say 20, but it is probably more like 50 times. We watch Dinotrux, Power Ranger Dino Charge… you get the picture. Dinosaur books, toys, cushions, t-shirts, jumpers – I am surrounded by dinos!

Meanwhile, my granddaughter is a little powerhouse. Does she like princesses? Definitely not (and any suggestion is met with a frown and stamping foot), barbies? (ditto, but both feet join in the stamping). She loves the outdoors, dinos (did she ever have a chance!), is climbing mad, and loves pink, but try buying little girl clothes that don’t have something such as a princess, barbie, or such, on them. Nothing wrong with them at all, but it limits our choices big time!

So, a dinosaur and a female lead on the cover… apparently, I had to have it – at least according to my heart, which was followed quickly by my head.

My fork in the road? One fork and what I probably know better and read most of – adventure with romantic elements, or maybe even steamy romance. The other fork? A dinosaur with a female lead.

As I said last week. The choices we make! Wish me luck, because I am choosing the path that I suspect will be more challenging. Time will tell.

Cheers for now.

Susanne.x

 

 

Aspiring Author Blog, Uncategorized

The Truth! Or as much of it as I can share

Once again it has been a while since my last post. A myriad of reasons why, of course. I would love to say that I have just been too busy. While this might have some truth to it, if I am being honest to myself it is because I have been battling some inner demons. Those demons that tell me that not only can I not do this, but that I can’t do a number of things. I have been feeling overwhelmed in my work life, which has trickled… poured… into my personal life, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball. The demons were winning, but thanks to the support around me, I beat those demons, and in the end, blew them away with my demon seeking rocket launcher.

20170810_202105

It is not easy having high expectations of yourself. It is not easy moving from an executive level position to an entry level position, despite all the self-talk that it would be a piece of cake. It turns out I have an ego! I sometimes suspected I did, but I was never really sure about it. I have much to learn, not least about myself. It is hard to get beyond middle-age and find this out about yourself.

To add to my professional-related demons, I decide I need to become a writer. While the woman is down, let’s remind her of a goal she has always aspired to but that time is running out for. Guess what? She needs to start at the beginning with that too. Maybe the universe is throwing life lessons at me… better late than never. Right!

The choices we make! I could go on, but I won’t. I know how lucky I really am.

So! The solution is to get on and do it, whatever ‘it’ might be. It turns out that a couple of minor accomplishments at work was enough to allow me to see the bigger picture and bring the passion to the fore again.

A major opportunity to collaborate with a respected and sought-after author was just around the corner. The moon and stars aligned and with hubby’s support I am going for it. Nothing like putting yourself under pressure to really test your inner strength. I will share more of this in coming months as it all unfolds.

So how do you stare your inner demons down and come out the other side smiling? You listen to those who love and care for you. You cut yourself some slack and give yourself permission to fall off the radar for a little while. Meanwhile you get all those little ducks in a row, although they don’t even have to be in a row… but being in the same paddock or pond, would probably be helpful. You acknowledge that what you are feeling is your inner negative talk and things are not as helpless as they seem. Of course, it is not really as easy as this sometimes, but you do what you can do.

Fight those inner demons. I can assure you that the person you most admire is also fighting their own inner demons. So this is as much of the truth that I can share, but hey, it is some truth, and that is a really big step in the right direction.

Time to get writing – whether it is for professional or personal goals, it is writing, and therefore another step forward in my writing career.

Cheers for now.

Susanne.x

Aspiring Author Blog

Not as easy as it sounds

Writing a book is not as easy as it sounds. I know –  it probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that out. However, when I say it isn’t easy, it’s not quite that straight forward.

I did manage to sit down and start writing about a month ago, but I kept getting side tracked with my new Facebook friends – author groups, writers I am following, etc. I have bought some books and listened to many, many podcasts while commuting to and from work. I have read a lot, and when I say a lot, I do mean a lot! This was somewhat fortuitous, as I came across a new virtual mentor, Jeff Goins. Now, in one of our first discussions (well, I was talking to him while listening to his podcast, so from my perspective, it was a discussion) and he asked me how did my story end.

I moved my lips, but nothing came out. I tried moving them again, and still nothing.

Oh, my goodness. I had NO idea how my story ended. Even with a few hours of thinking, I still had no idea. Jeff told me I couldn’t start writing (too late :-P) until I had my ending clear, so I was clear on my story arc. The brakes came on and I have spent a few weeks of going back to basics to sort out an important aspect that I hadn’t given much thought.

Being clear on the story’s ending is much like having clear goals in life. Without a clear goal, and as it turns out a clear ending, the chances of reaching that goal, or ending, in good time, is slim. Good decisions and plans are likely to come unstuck. The chances of meandering off track, losing sight of the end point and mindlessly fluffing around with minimal forward progress, were high.

Thanks to Jeff, I was still in the first chapter, so I was able to stop, and start further reading and researching more about story structure, plot points, climaxes and denouements. Other authors such as J.A Huss and K.M Weiland and John Truby have become my new mentors. Each is a master of story structure and in crafting the perfect story.

My main characters, Myndi and Drew, are patiently waiting for me to return and tell their story, but for now, I am immersed in structure, arcs and plot points, and I will not return to their story until the ending and plot points are crystal clear. As I have always envisioned a series for Myndi and Drew, I still have some work to do on having at least, some idea of the next book or books, to make the arcs within arcs and the structures within structures, flow.

So, when I say that writing is not easy, the writing bit could be quite easy, it is just that not having the other elements in place would ensure that it would make hard reading for you. I want it to be easy for you to read, so it has to be a lot harder for me to write in order to achieve that. I found this quote that sums it all up perfectly.

Writing-easy-hard

Cheers for now,

Susanne.x