Why I’ve Decided To Not Learn Anything New This Month

My inbox is full each day. It’s true for almost all of us. It’s also true that this is my fault, I signed up for most of these newsletters and let’s be clear I enjoy the content, for the most part.

I spend a lot of time tending my email garden. I also spent a lot of time reading books on creativity, how to become a better author, and the latest tips and tricks of blogging/email marketing.

But these actions are coiling the spring. I am learning. And there comes a point where the learning needs to end and action needs to start.

Graduates

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the benefits of being a life long learner and consider myself one. However, if you are cold, there is a huge difference between learning how to build a fire, and actually making one.

My life, much like yours, is crowded. There is only so much time in a week. And it’s time I started using what I have learned.

So I am putting the books away.

I am clicking on the delete or archive button and not opening that email.

Because July is dedicated to action.

To forward movement.

To getting out there and getting my hands dirtier than they’ve been this year.

After all, this is the intension of learning is it not?

To act.

To go.

To grow.

How To Finish Your Writing Projects

Last week I listened to a podcast about creativity. In it writer Jeff Goins and Dr. Keith Sawyer discuss how creative people function and the contents of Dr. Sawyer’s book Zig Zag. One idea they mentioned was that writing or creativity does not have to be perfect. But there should be movement from one project to another.

Besides fear, this is one of the main issues I have with writing. Battling the urge to make a billion tweaks until it reaches perfection versus sending out projects before they are finished is a weekly struggle.

I forget that having a process means that some of my writing will work and some will fail and whatever form of failure I feel is not a reflection of me. Finishing anything – a book, a blog post, a book proposal – is an opportunity to learn how to write better.

Finish - Track

The trouble is that I thought any writing process needed to be straightforward and I have difficulty with linear thinking.

From what I can understand, my mind works sorta like a game of soccer, but played by four and five year olds. It’s scrambly, often working in the wrong direction in a tangle of limbs, sometimes picking flowers, and other moments forgetting the rules entirely.

I decided it was high time to focus. To understand how to get this mind of mine to move through a project from start to finish.

I tried the one project method and ended up bored. I wanted to jump to the next thing as soon as I was stuck. I realized if my methodology incorporated bouncing from project to project then I’d better develop a plan.

Here it is – Finishing is the most important thing.

I devised a Finishing Plan and began using it on my blog and a non-fiction e-book I finished last month. It’s been working great. Here is what it is.

1. Finish a draft. Could take a day, weeks, months, or even years. But finish it. Don’t edit. Write the chapters out of order then fill in the cracks, jump to another idea, then circle back, whatever. Just get it out. Did I mention don’t edit?

2. Edit. I print off what I’ve written (or make a separate edit file electronically) and challenge everything. Make notes, scribble in the margins, destroy darlings, and rewrite. Then get it to a friend or editor for more edits. Then I make the necessary changes.

3. Polish. Add the fonts you love, the appropriate artwork, and anything else you may need to dress up the piece.

4. Send it. Post it, query it, submit it to a journal. Just get it out there, and then move to the next project.

5. Circle back and consider what worked or what didn’t and do more of what did.

This system may seem bare and basic but life is complicated. I also tend to hold onto projects too long and need to get them out there and this process allows me to do that.

Reader, what system do you use? How do you keep moving to the next stage or next project? I’d love to hear from you.

Goal Setting For the Time-Starved Writer

Early on in my marriage, my wife would laugh at me when I listed my goals for the evening.

Read 40 pages of a book, watch a movie, go for a run, do all of our laundry, wash the dishes, and maybe rearrange a bedroom or two. Then have some friends over for dinner once we are done.

Seriously. I could get a out of hand.

Courtesy Unsplash

 

Nearly eleven years later I am better at adjusting my expectations, but still have difficulty setting daily goals. I now have four kids and an ever-growing mound of responsibilities.

What I struggled with, and what I am guess you do from time to time, is wanting immediate results. And when they don’t happen on my schedule, having a good attitude and trying again tomorrow.

If you are a writer, or a creative of any sort, this desire for immediate results can mean frustration and angst and a mercurial mood that can ruin or severly strain your relationships.

I’ve found one of the best ways to avoid feeling like a failure and actually accomplishing my daily goals is to make them realistic and remind myself that I am working for the long haul, neither of which is easy.

So my encouragement to you is to do what you can today. Don’t worry if you cannot finish all of your goals. Stay in the game, even if the movement is subtle.

Above all remember you are writing not for today, but for a year from now, when you will finish your book.

 

Let Your Actions Back Up Your Talk

Occasionally, I find myself in this embarrassing situation. I tell someone my plan for renovating my house, my latest book, or another random dream. Cool, they say, do you need help with that?

I stare at them realizing I haven’t touched that book in weeks, researched costs for the renovation, or fleshed out that dream. I’m talking about what I want to do and forgetting the most integral part of any dream – Action.

hear me out

My goal for this post, and I hope many before it, is to lead you to action, something I find I lose every now and then. I read books, blogs, and websites, but forget the most integral part of all of the learning and research. The follow through.

This is what Part-Time Novel is all about – becoming a writer in the margins of life. But in order to become anything you must actually work on that thing.

You can’t just talk about wanting a better marriage. You must spend quality time with your spouse. If I said I love you to my wife but never spent time cultivating our relationship, they’re just words.

Whenever I become unsatisfied with something, it is usually because of my lack of follow through. I have not taken the time to sit down and work on it.

This past weekend I thought long and hard about what I wanted in the next six months. Books, proposals, new website launches, etc., and I developed an action plan, not just a list of to dos, and have been working on them every day.

How about you? Do you ever find yourself talking and not acting?

What do you need to act on today?

Time is the currency we all have. Use it well.

What Do You Think Of When You Hear The Word Commitment?

Commitment is a tricky word. If you Google the definition you’ll get some fairly sad synonyms. Responsibility, obligation, duty, tie, and liability.

The word can read more like shackles to throw off than a noun that could inspire you to move to the next level in your book or entrepreneurial ventures.

But commitment gets a bad reputation with those doldrum definitions.

Wedding ring

You’ve heard the classic line after someone gets married. They now have a ball and chain. They are taken, cooped up, unable to enjoy the freedoms that individuality can bring. Thankfully, commitment has other meanings as well.

Dedication

Devotion

Allegiance

Loyalty

Faithfulness

If you are writing a book, in a relationship, or employed these words can mean the difference between being successful and an unfinished or tragic end.

Often for me, time passes too quickly and I can become dissatisfied with my writing output. But I have to remind myself that I am not in it for the quick fix or euphoria of a day. I am writing for the long haul. I am committed to my craft. This requires time. It also requires an epic amount of commitment.

What do you think when you hear the word commitment?

Do you need to commit or recommit to something or someone today?