Planning for the next creative year
In the previous blog post I was looking backwards, reviewing 2017, and I shared a coaching tool called the wheel of life which can help identify areas you are doing well, and not so well, in. Which helps you to plan for improvements in the areas where you score lowest.
2018 is just around the corner, so now that we have looked backwards, we can use the information to look ahead.
Let’s Make 2018 Your Best Creative Year, Ever!
Many of us start a new year with this idea of a ‘new year, new you’, a fresh start when all the wrongs of previous behaviours can be resolved. We make lists of resolutions – to lose weight, get fit, stop drinking (alcohol), drink more water, stop smoking etc etc etc. You know, if everyone stuck to these lists whole industries would go out of business and the entire human race would be happier, healthier and possibly a whole lot more boring 🙂
But, most of us don’t stick at them beyond a few weeks, or even days. Statistics suggest that only about 8% of new year resolutions ‘stick’. The reasons for this are many, but the main ones are –
1. We give ourselves too much to do,
2. We try to do it all at once
3. We don’t restart when we do stop.
So what can you do to make this coming year different and actually stick to your plans for creativity having a place in your life?
Instead of trying to sort all the areas at once, pick just 1 or 2. So, since this is a creative and wellbeing blog, let’s start with something to boost your creativity, which will in turn boost your wellbeing.
Say you want to write more, finish a book, enter a competition or something like that. You could have the goal to write a short story for a specific competition. Now, if you just say ‘I’m going to enter the competition‘, that won’t work because you need to plan for it. How many words is it? How fast do you type? So how many days will you need for writing, rewrites, edits?
Make a Realistic Plan.
If you currently write sporadically and never finish, your resolution might be to write every day and enter the comp, but is every day realistic? You need to look at your normal current routine. Much of the ‘write more’ advice out there will say to get up earlier, but what if you have kids, partner etc and your mornings already start early and are chaotic. What if you already tried to get up even earlier but then the kids got up too, or what if you are just too tired and the morning is not for you? Can you change anything else in your day, lunchtime routine, evenings?
In my book and course I get people to really grind down their current routine and habits to find out where their time really goes, and where they might be able to find more. But the reality is that not everyone will be able to write every day. So if you set that to be your resolution, it won’t stick because it’s not realistic. But maybe 2-3 days a week is. So you’d need to think how much you need to write if you can definitely fit it 2-3 sessions a week and write so many words in those sessions.
Deal With the Gremlin
Perhaps for you it’s not so much time that is the issue, perhaps it is the inner belief, and that annoying little voice that says ‘YOU can’t do that’. How to get past that voice is another whole chapter in my book/course, but one thing you can try is to have a regular routine, and start small. The routine comes back to the time, so set aside at least one session a week, where you do your creative thing. The gremlin likes routine, it’s your attempts to step away from your normal day that sets him off. Then, the other thing is to start small, maybe just a few minutes a day, you’d be surprised what you can do in just 5 minutes – go on try it, I’ll wait…..what can you write or draw or plan in 5 minutes?
Doing that every day, just when you get a chance, keeping it nice and small, not saying ‘I’m going to write a novel/paint a huge picture’, leaves the gremlin snoozing so to speak, again he only starts jumping up and down when you step towards big scary things. A few doodles on a piece of paper as you wait for the bus? That’s fine with the gremlin. That way you can build up more time and effort, without over exciting your inner doubter.
So, this new year, keep your plans small and do-able, and if you slip, re-set and start again. Don’t let one or two missed days ruin it for you. The people who finish are the ones who just keep on starting, and restarting. Surprise yourself with getting your creative resolution past the 1st of February!
Was 2017 your creative year?
As 2017 draws to a close, you may have started to think about your year, and what you have or haven’t achieved. It’s a popular time for looking back, especially for businesses, but why not do it for your creativity and wellbeing?
What was your hope for the year?
To finish your book ?
To sell your work somewhere?
To get fitter, to lose weight, to be….better?
And did you do those things?
Seeing how far you have come can help you keep motivated going forward. Or, if you haven’t achieved what you hoped, even looking at what you HAVE done, can help. Because it is too easy to feel we haven’t done ANYTHING, when in reality we have moved forward, maybe we just haven’t finished. Maybe that element of finishing is the area you need to look at, not the actual doing of the creativity. Or perhaps for you it is the regular practise?
Reviewing can help us see our weak areas, and our stronger areas.
There are various ways to approach this, you may have kept a diary or have a word tracker for writing, so you can see your periods of busyness and the times it fell to one side. Perhaps you can look at what else was going on in those times, and what was going on when you were doing well? What else were you doing? Or not doing?
Even just your social media or if you are in an online forum, you can see your input, review your moods, your photos and posts.
There is also a tool that is used by psychologists and counsellors, but we can adapt it for creative coaching. This is the Wheel of Life approach. Basically we can use a wheel with the various areas of our lives to rate them, and see where we want to improve the score, and also where we are doing okay. I have an example for you below.
You put the areas of interest and rate them 0-10. You can just do the ratings if you don’t want to use the circle, but the point of the circle is to see the relative ups and downs of the different areas. So, rate the areas, where 0 is you’ve done nothing, and 10 is you are super happy with where you are in that area.
Click Here to Download a Printable copy
Now, this might show you some disappointing news maybe you haven’t written as much or as regularly as you planned, maybe you still haven’t finished the book. But this review period is not to criticise yourself, there is no point beating yourself up, that never does any good. You can’t change what you didn’t do last month, but you CAN change what you do tomorrow and next week and next year.
Focus on the positive steps you can take rather than the things you didn’t do.
First of all what did you do? Did you attend courses or workshops, did you meet new people that share your creative passion. What made you feel happy? What made you feel empowered and positive?
How many words did you write?
What did you do for self care – did you attend a yoga class, or take up a fitness class, running, meditation…a new diet or regular massage treatment. All these things are positive, and, as I keep saying, creativity goes hand in hand with well-being, they feed each other. If we are happier we become more creative. Being fitter, eating good food, getting enough sleep…these things help us feel more positive, and increase our energy, and…. we create more.
Then, yes we need to look at the less good stuff, what we didn’t do. But rather than just saying how useless you are for not writing every day. Let’s think about the WHY? What stops you? Your own inner self? Or external influences? Can you change anything? In my book and course I talk about the 3D vision you need to develop – which is basically seeing what you can Dump, Delegate or get with Dollars (pay for).
So, consider what you can get help with, pay for or just get rid of?
Maybe you don’t sleep well, so you feel so groggy in the morning that you can’t get up and that is the time you say you will write? Can you get help with that? A better pre-bed routine, new pillow, see a sleep coach?
Can others in the household be more involved with chores to free up some of your time? Are the rest of your family sitting watching tv while you tidy up and do the laundry of an evening? If you shared the jobs how much time could you have back for yourself?
Or have you avoided employing a cleaner, or getting your ironing/gardening/laundry done by a local company because you feel that ‘people like you’ don’t do that sort of thing? Maybe that idea feels selfish or a waste of money…or some other reason why you don’t do it. Can we re-frame it, see it as employing someone, a small business, putting money into the local economy. A positive thing that comes from freeing up a few hours a week for your creativity?
Next time I’m going to look at planning for the next year, so we can hit those goals better going forward. But in order to change the future we do need to assess what has worked or not in the past, but then move on, make the changes. Commit to challenging your self and your blocks, commit to surprising yourself as to what you can achieve! Download the PDF if you want and have a go at the wheel. Or if you prefer to draw your own, or just make a list of areas and score them, do that. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but the exercise itself can be quite enlightening and help you plan how things might change for the better for you and your creativity in the next year.
Well Done You Made It
Getting to the end of Nano is an achievement in itself. Even if you didn’t hit the 50k and ‘win’, just writing more than you have done in the past is a massive step forward for any one who wants to be a writer. Doing it for one month shows your inner doubter that you CAN write most days. They can’t argue against it because you’ve done it and you can do it again.
So what now for your nano novel?
Well, some people like to put theirs away, forget about it for a month or two. Or longer.
Others want to keep at it and finish the thing. Keep that momentum going
My approach was to stop, put it away and come back to it in January, with a clear head and fresh eyes. I felt like I’d written a pile of rubbish, and yes, some of it was pretty bad. But in with the bad and downright ‘what was I thinking’ rubbish, there were glimmers of where my story might go, what my character might actually be like. There were also some new ideas that I liked and others that i immediately binned. But that is why I did NaNo – to clear out the crap and get some fresh ideas.
Returning in January meant that I could see past the words and into the story. I could start to build on it, removing the crap and adding to the better stuff. My original NaNo novel is now on its second version and it’s totally different to what i started back then. My hope is that in the future I can get the initial stages better and faster, and not have to take so long over it.
I didn’t do NaNo last year, and I didn’t join it this year either. The three years I did it were enough to show me that I CAN write when i want to and I CAN get past the mind moneys and gremlins. I know that I can write daily, that I DO have more ideas and most importantly, stories do CHANGE and shift as you go.
I have learned that even though it has taken me a few years, by sticking with it, (and even by going off to work on other ideas such as other novels and publishing short stories, before coming back to the first novel), I have formed a better story. I have grown as a writer, I have published non fiction and short stories. Will that first idea ever get published? Well, I intend to publish it, whether ‘traditionally’ or independently, it doesn’t matter.
I started the book 3 years ago, without that first Nano i wouldn’t have got past the first attempt because I needed to push past the barriers, both within the story and in my own head about whether I could finish a novel or not. And that is what Nano does, it shows you that you can write. And if you already know you can write, then it shows you can write more, or better, or different. It is a great way to try a new idea, chuck it all out and see if you actually like it.
I haven’t done NaNo this year or last year, but that’s not saying I’d never do it again, or a version of it at least. Because…why not!
Just imagine, sometime in the future, someone is reading YOUR book. The one you started for NaNoWriMo 2017.
For now, wear you t shirt, post your banners on social media, you are a winner!
You are a writer!
You Made it to Week 3!
Week three of Nano, and you are almost at the end. Whoop! This third week, sees you over that mid way hump, and still going, so that is great. It can also be the time, especially if you are behind, that you question why you are doing this.
Or perhaps friends and family are tiring of you constantly talking about it or missing events, going home early, and generally being a bit of a party pooper. Their comments and questions put doubts in your way.
To help you deal with this, I’ve made you a Top 10 Benefits of NanoWriMo. You can get it below.
If you are behind on the word count this is not the time to panic. You can still make the goal 50000 words. It might mean you have to increase the words per day, or perhaps plan a great big last push. Or you can always reduce the goal word count in the name of quality, being realistic and your own sanity.
If you are on schedule or even ahead, well done you, but don’t slack off, not just yet.
It’s natural to have doubts, questions and downright ‘what the hell am I doing’ moments. As I said in the first of these blogs, this is like a marathon or other tough running event or challenge. Other people won’t get it, and your own mind monkeys will show up through out the process. Just ask any marathon runner how they feel around mile 20-22.
So, it is worth you keeping a note of your own reasons, the ones that made you decide to do this in the first place.
Write them out, print them in a pretty picture on an image creator such as Stencil and keep them nearby for those times when your resolution starts to quiver.
To help you I’ve made you a downloadable image of top 10 benefits of doing Nanowrimo. Click on the image to open it and save it to your computer.
The main thing is to remember why you are doing this.
And also this is week 3, don’t give up now, only a week or so to go, and you can say you finished the challenge.
Remember, you’ll have a rough novel to show for it, how great is that?
At this stage it’s not about quality, or even the quantity (although 50000 words is a good chunk to work with), no, it is about you sitting down and writing for a month, whether that turns into an actual novel or whether it cleared one story out your head to make way for a new, better one.
So, don’t give up this close to the end, keep writing, keep reminding yourself of your own why and the benefits of doing it.
Now go write!
This is Nano month so I’ve been looking at the experience of doing this challenge. Last week’s blog looked at how to survive the month. This week I’m looking at the experience in general- the highs and lows.
Join the Club
The first time you do NaNoWriMo it can feel daunting, exciting, scary, and a little bit like you are joining some strange club with this month of writing as a sort of initiation ritual/test. if you make it to the end, and get the winner t shirt, you are in!
The thing with any challenge is that the first time you do it, you simply can’t know what it is going to be like for you. Other people can tell you their experiences and where they faltered or fell, or perhaps, where they flew and amazed themselves. But that doesn’t mean you will do the same, or at least not at the same times as they did. You will have your own highs and lows.
People who have done it before might be cynical, based on their own failure to finish. Or they will be overly enthusiastic because they wrote more than 50000 words. What they don’t tell you is that their writing will never see the light of day because it was 50000 shades of sh*te. This is the ‘bad’ of Nanowrimo, that it can feed people’s self doubt, ‘if I can’t do Nano, am I really a writer?’ (yes you are), or that so much of what is written is just plain bad, and it doesn’t ever become a novel, or even a short story.
You can get to the end with 50000 words or more on your computer, all safely backed up and ready to be played with. This years winner t-shirt proudly worn and you might feel great. Yes! You did it! Or you might look at the document and wonder whether it was all worth it? It doesn’t seem very…..well, good? This is when you swear you’ll never do that again, what a stressful waste of time. But chances are you will because if you didn’t hit the 50000 this time, then you will want to next time, and if you did hit it, then you will want to do it again, or a version of it at least. It is a bit like a drug – just one more, just a little bit.
Then, if you do it again, your past experience will influence your approach. You may prepare better. This time you will have that second back up device. You might even decide to do your own nano, (whisper it but people sometimes set their own word goals), you might go lower or higher. Some people decide to go off and be alone for part of the month, really taking it seriously. Others decide they want to finish what they started the previous year having not looked at it ever since. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.
Coming to it for a second or even a third time will be a different experience to that first, exciting time. If this is your first Nano and you are struggling, don’t worry, you can do this again. In fact you could do it any month of the year. Maybe November isn’t such a good pick for you, maybe January works better? Get together with some writer friends and have your own nano event. Set your own rules, your own rewards.
The good of nano, is that it shows you that you can write more than you thought. It introduces you to new thinking about yourself and your writing. It may have made you some new writer friends. You might even end up with the beginnings of a novel, or finish one you’d already started. Maybe you have come up with a whole new idea, a whole new genre even!
The 1667 Words
Whatever you do in November, you will end up with words. Probably more words than you have ever written in a month before (unless you have done Nano before obviously). So even if you didn’t hit the 50k goal, you have still achieved more words, and also proved to yourself that you can do this. You can write more than you ever thought you could.
One thing is for sure, it will have changed you as a person and as a writer.
You can put on that t shirt, post the winner badge on your blog and know that you ‘won’ NaNoWriMo and you are a writer.
Now go write!