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Happy New Year’s!

Nothing like starting the New Year a week late – but I went on vacation with my sweetie (I don’t actually remember the last full week vacation I had, so this was an event) and decided that I would really take the time off. No writing – Not much thinking about writing – and lots of reading.

Didn’t get much reading in, what I did was learn how to skate ski.

Well – I didn’t actually learn it, or rather I’m very far from mastery, but I gave it a try and only said Fuck! a few times. I’ve never been on skis before – and learning something new at my age (okay I’m not that old but I am wiser and more careful at 40 something than I was at 20 something) is difficult. Not because old folks can’t learn but because my brain wouldn’t let me just do – it wanted to comment all the time. I taught dance for 15 years I know better, yet my brain was having a very good time commenting on my actions and giving me lots of good advice. But in order to learn I needed it to shut up.

Apparently skate skiing is much harder to learn for a novice than classic. Classic being what we all think of when we imagine cross-country skiing. Be that as it may, it was fun, challenging, and I only wanted to cry with frustration once. Then I walked back to the meadow and started working on my technique again.

I forgot how stubborn I could be.

My poor sweetie had to put up with my rejection of his good intentions – when I’m learning something for the first time I like lessons and I like working things out on my own. As usual, he was a brick. He is one of the most amazing people I know. But that is for another posting. Or maybe not… waxing poetic about my romance would get awful boring awful fast and I struggle with that. Which may be one of the reasons I haven’t written in so long.

But now it is the New Year and it is time to dig in and get my ass in gear. It is also resolution time. Usually I look at my life in November and December and try and figure out what I’ve succeeded at and what I want for the future. The last few years I’ve been spinning. “To Write for a Living” is great goal – but it is a 100,000 foot goal not a day-to-day, week-to-week, project to project, goal. I’ve spent the last few months fighting migraines and getting the flu – and now I’m mostly better so it is time to stop cosseting myself and really take a hard look at my habits.

I’ve become something I despise.

But I jump. I picked up my week of mail yesterday when I got home from Sun Valley and saw that I’d gotten my Romance Writers of America magazine. I just thumbed through it but one article caught my attention – “The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective (Has-Been) Authors”!

I didn’t have all of the traits but I was working on one – Laziness.

I’ve struggled to write the last few months and I’ve avoided the “just do it” mentality that used to be part of my character for an “I’ll do it when I feel better”. Or worse, “I’ll do it when I feel It”, “It” being some sort of drive or inspiration. I’ve always despised folks who waited for inspiration because that is hobby not craft. Craft is sitting at your desk day after day and slogging through the bad days and flying through the good, making progress no matter what. I forgot…

So this year is about Laziness.

Last night I was at a release party for Delilah Marvelle who’s been writing for 11 years – published one book then lost her publisher and agent, and then struggled to find a home for a trilogy that is just being released now, one book each month for three months. She’s amazing: the work, the perseverance, and the depth of her research. Delilah reminded me how hard you have to work to make it in this horrid/gorgeous business.

Cheers to Delilah and her Scandal books – Prelude to a Scandal, Once Upon a Scandal, and The Perfect Scandal coming out Jan, Feb, and Mar respectively.

And here’s to raising a glass of coffee to 2011 being a year of productivity for us all!!!

~ Tess

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Rituals Part II

On the last day of the year, I did a lot of thinking.

On the first day of this year, I did a lot of planning.

It is funny to me how the scope of my New Year’s life plan has changed. Three years ago I divided my goals into Non-negotiables, Need and Wants.

The Non-Negs included finishing a degree that I’d left hanging for nearly five years. I had a whopping single class with lab left. It was a kick. Science had changed so much that my professor was using techniques regularly that were cutting edge the last time I was in school.

Other Non-Negs included getting the house organized, keeping it really clean and getting healthy. In the end I hired a personal trainer to teach me how to exercise since I didn’t have either the desire or the ability to go back to ballet and I knew there had to be more to it than just showing up at the gym. I also ended up having someone come in to clean my house. That happened just last year when my doctor prescribed it for me in order to take some of the load off of my allergies and migraines.

My Needs were simple – I wanted to NOT work 8 to 5 and I wanted to write.

I got my wish.

My Wants included learning more about Scotch, learning Latin, and getting my PMP (Project Management Professional accreditation). I only succeeded in learning more about Scotch. But I found that the PMP and Latin were, like many things before that, just ways for me to put barriers between myself and what I wanted to be.

Anyone else do that?

Last year’s goals I wrote about in Rituals Part I so I won’t repeat them, enough to say that they were very holistic and very general. This year’s are very tactical. I like my life and I intend to find a way to keep it. It is a combination business plan and life plan.  

  • To continue the blogs – move them to their own websites – leverage them for other writing gigs.
  • To get healthier and learn how to do it on less money.
  • Use Yoga, Mediation, and biofeedback on my migraines – I’ve tried everything else.
  • Reduce my spending (I need to give myself as much time as possible) so no more scotch or wine (except as a reward for submitting stories) and I’ll need to cook more.
  • Write!!!

The last one is the big one. So big in fact that I’ve decided I need to break it down on a monthly basis. So – for this month Musings will post a minimum of 4 times a week. My writing goals for January are to finish a novella by its end of month deadline, write two short stories, and read my 3-Day Novel and see what I think about it four months later.

That’s it. That is the ritual I go through every year. I look at what I want, what drives me, what my Non-Negs, Needs and Wants are and I move forward. 

  • Non-Negs – I never want to go back to corporate life.
  • Needs – Make a living writing.
  • Wants – To enjoy myself!

So what are yours? Macro or micro?

~ Tess Anderson

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Rituals Part I

Rituals are an important part of our life.

They help us mark time, celebrate successes, and mourn our losses. They tie us to our past and help us move toward the future.

New Year is one of those rituals – not one of my favorites – but a major event that turns the page on one year and opens the way ahead.

So, what are your New Year’s rituals? A party, a midnight kiss, waking up with a trashed house and a hangover? Or my favorite – the maudlin, horribly unsuccessful party that goes on too long and is so painful you swear never to have one again – but then you do and it is even worse than the year before. Sigh!

Or is New Year’s all about the lists? The best, worse, memorable, and things we would rather forget.

I’ve been reading a lot of lists – not only are we ending a year we are ending a decade – and everyone has their lists. The thing about lists is it is a lot like performance reviews – unless someone has done a lot of research or kept great notes – things closer in time carry more weight. So much of what we do fades. Memory isn’t perfect (thank goodness) and we can’t remember pain (thank goodness again) and happy memories tend to fade (maybe this in only me).

The happy memories are the ones I miss.

I’ve been a lot of places in the last ten years. In 2000 I was still at Portland State University working on my second degree – working at Oregon Health and Sciences University in the Forte Lab. I had just left my husband in November of 1999 and was on my way to a completely new life.

Life is not a journey that I can take in a straight line.  

The only constant over the last decade is that I’m alone.

What I’m finding, that surprises me, is that I don’t mind. It may be that I am simply tired of finding and losing partners I care about. It may just be time to shed the last ten years – the success and failures – and admit that it was an interesting experiment but in the end just an experiment.

So for the next year and the next decade I’m thinking of a different plan. My wall is covered with post-its with the things that I wanted to do, experience, have in 2009. It was a long list – and here is how did.

Spend more time with the girls – good in the second and third quarter, bad in first and fourth.

Write every day – this has been a bit of a struggle however since September I’ve been much closer and since October 26th – I’ve posted 40 essays on Musings and 16 on my other blog. I’ve written a 3-Day Novel, multiple short stories, and even been paid for some of it. So not a bad showing.

Follow politics again – Yes! I do know some of what is going on in the country and the world. I listen to the news and read stuff on line – so we’ll put the plus column.

Find that still center – This is a reference to my favorite love story. I did it. I did find that still center inside me that grounds me and keeps me moving forward. It is nothing more, nothing less than knowing yourself.

Fall in love – I did this too, it didn’t last, but it was never a story that was going to have a happy ending. But I loved and was loved in return – even if it was only for a moment.

Reach one piece per month published – okay, this was a spectacular failure – I only succeeded in getting one piece published this year (although there are still a few things out there so…)

Get Healthy/Stay Healthy – This I did better and although I’m not where I want to be I am on a better path than I was this time last year when I was fighting chronic migraines.

Not at IHS! – this one I did, but not under my own steam. I was laid off from my lovely job.

Find a community – this one is a work in progress. Partly because I’ve found it more difficult than I expected – finding other writers to meet with, talk with, and share resources – is rather like pulling teeth. Although I’ve become more social as I’ve spent more time on my own – go figure.

Chart new writing course – this is also in process. If anyone had told me six months ago that I would be writing a blog and loving it I would have said they were insane. But here I am.

Be Happy! – I have always believed that happiness is something you create yourself. There were moments this year that were the happiest I’ve ever been – not because of something or someone – but because I’m living my life on my terms.

So how did your plans for 2009 go? Any great successes or spectacular failure?

~ Tess Anderson

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