Yes, yes – I know.
Wishing my readers a happy new year over two weeks into the year is a little belated. Never mind.
In reality, I have been a little distracted lately. And not just with the Christmas and New Year celebrations. Over the last three weeks we have had a constant stream of visitors. These include our daughter home for a few weeks after teaching all year in Clare in the mid-north of South Australia. Then we have also had our son and his family over from Sydney, including our two grand children, ages 7 and 4. They are lively children and a challenge to keep occupied. Our swimming pool has had a good workout and in that context it is good that the weather has been very warm.
Included in our busy schedule in recent weeks have been two family gatherings. The first was on the farm where I grew up which is now operated by my nephew and his three sons. It was a time of reminiscing and catching up; those present included my niece over from Perth in Western Australia and my son and family from Sydney. More recently we had a few days staying with my sister-in-law and family in Peterborough in the mid-north of the state. Once again, it was planned as a family gathering. Despite the oppressive heat – around 44C (111F) – we had a great time with plenty of great food.
Now it is time for life to get back to a little bit of normality – I hope.
2015 in review
At this time of year it is normal to review the year just gone, and to look at the year ahead. So what were the highlights for me of the year 2015?
- Reading: I managed to read a significant number of books, including some quite long works. These included Richard Flanagan’s brilliant The narrow road to the deep north, Malala Yousafzai’s inspiring I am Malala (read my review here), and the confronting Rosanne Hawke novel The truth about peacock blue.
- More reading: with the acquisition of my first eReader I ventured into a whole new reading experience. Books read on my Kobo device was a pleasant experience, and included The kite runner (a wonderful book) and The girl with the dragon tattoo (a gruesome and quite disappointing book – read my review here).
- Writing: the last year has not been a great one for me regarding getting my writing published. I had just a handful of articles published and no success in competitions.
- Blogging: With over 430 blog posts over five sites I consider the year to be reasonably successful. (You can access these posts here on this site, as well as Trevor’s Birding, Trevor’s Travels and our church site here.)
- Health: Multiple health issues over the course of the year have been a major limiting factor. Thankfully, I am seeing some light at the end of the gloom in this area.
- Biggest disappointment for 2015: not getting any of my books published, including some as eBooks.
Plans for 2016:
I haven’t actually had the time so far to list some goals for this year, but they are sure to include the following:
- Reading: continue on my programme of reading significant works of literature. currently I am reading The people of the book by Geraldine Brooks. I recently read two other books written by her: The secret chord and Caleb’s crossing.
- Blogging: at least 500 blog posts over the various sites for which I write.
- Poems and stories: I plan to submit many poems and stories to competitions journals, and magazines.
- Novels: I am still debating about whether to send my novels to print publishers, or to self-publish them as eBooks. I am leaning towards the latter.
- Non-fiction: I have many ideas for non-fiction books to be published as eBooks. Stay tuned.
- Health: I am working on improving my general health, fitness and well-being this year – with some help from my doctor and physiotherapist. I’ve already started losing weight.
Over the years I have been writing this blog I have written just over 1,000 articles. Some of these include poems or stories I have written (see the sidebar for links), and many others have been about blogging and writing. Of those about writing, many have been on the topic of goal setting.
I have always been someone who likes to set goals, not just for my writing but also my daily to-do lists. Such lists help me to keep on track as well as keep me accountable to myself. After all, I do not have a boss leaning over my shoulder keeping me on task, though sometimes it feels like my wife might like to have that role.
I have just read a very thorough and useful article called Setting Goals: why you need them and how to write them. This article is a thoughtful discussion on the reasons behind having goals for your blogging, and practical ideas on how to write and implement them. While the article is primarily aimed at blogging, most of the ideas are also applicable to writing in general.
It’s worth a read.
- Goal setting – articles from the archives of this site
- Setting goals: why you need them and how to write them on ProBlogger.
I know from several decades of taking my writing seriously that I experience seasons of high productivity, followed by leaner times. It is during those times when writing is a struggle that we prove to ourselves what it takes, and the price needed to be paid. I am currently coming out of a very lean period, a dark, season of little output and plenty of discouragement.
In the early 1990s I read the Stephen Covey book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I devoured the contents of this book, and those he subsequently wrote, and successfully applied many of the principles to my own life. It changed many things about the way I lived, including my writing. At the time I was teaching full time and the books also influenced how I approached my teaching career. (Note to self: time to reread those books – and any subsequent books he wrote.)
I recently came across a short article called The Habits of Highly Effective Writers. While this article didn’t go into great depth on the subject, the author has some valuable principles from which all writers could benefit.
Productive writers don’t reach for excuses when the going gets hard. They treat writing like the job it is. They show up, punch the clock, and punch out. Nothing romantic about it. They give themselves a quota; sometimes it’s butt-in-chair time, sometimes a word count. Simple math allows you to figure out how quickly 1,000 words a day adds up to a book-length work. These writers know how to use deadlines, whether external or self-imposed, to stay on track.
I guess that I have, in part, been using the excuse of illness in recent months for not making as much progress with my writing as I would have liked. To be fair to myself, there were many times when I was nearly doubled up in pain due to a stomach ailment, or being unable to even sit at my computer for any length of time due to back pain, or even falling asleep in mid-word at the keyboard due to the effects of sleep apnoea. Despite all these hindrances, I pushed on as best as I could, but achieving far less than I had hoped. It was a frustrating time.
Apart from still some back pain, these issues are in the past – I hope – and now the reality to those dark days fading into the distance is being realised. I have reset my goals and look to the coming year with great anticipation. I dream that this will be my best year of writing ever, eclipsing the year I achieved my Masters degree. All I have to do is put in the hard yards – and quite a few miles as well – and those dreams may turn into reality.
Do you make “To Do” lists?
I do. I generally find them not only useful but sometimes quite essential to help me to remember to do important tasks. It also helps me to remember those unimportant but essential things like putting out the rubbish (garbage) bins on the right night ready for collection the next morning. These lists are important in helping me to also prioritise tasks needing my attention.
I keep all kinds of lists relating to my writing, lists such as
- tasks achieved each day – to keep me focussed
- hours and words written each day – to keep me accountable to myself
- writing goals – to know where I am heading and to keep on track
- publication successes – to encourage me when I feel depressed
- income from my writing – to show me that I am not entirely wasting my time
- lists of blog post titles coming up – as a part of my forward planning
This is just a sample of some of the lists I keep. None take more than a few seconds to fill and all those statistics show me where I’ve been, how I am currently going and – most importantly, where I am heading with my writing.
I strongly encourage all writers to make, keep and regularly update whatever lists they deem necessary.
WHAT NOT TO DO
My To Do List
- Make a list
- Cross off item #1 on this list
- Realise that I’ve already achieved 2 – no – 3 things on my list.
- Reward yourself with a nap (in progress).