May 2019: Monthly Writing (and PERSONAL!) Goals

I have an idea for switching things up this month, but I have no idea how effective it will be.

I’ve really liked my monthly writing goals posts, even though they haven’t always resulted in me accomplishing my goals. (Cue sad face emoji, please.) Even when the goals aren’t entirely accomplished, I feel like I get closer to my target when I set my intentions clearly at the beginning of the month.

There’s a blog I sometimes read written by Kelsey Wharton of The Girl Next Door podcast, and on it she writes a monthly post with a list of her goals. I want to try this out, to see if it helps me at all with any of my non-writing goals.

Here are my goals for May 2019:

  1. Maintain my blogging schedule, every Tuesday and every Saturday. (Eventually, this will stop being a goal and just be a habit, but I slipped a little during April so want to keep it on this list for now!)
  2. Exercise every day – yoga, running, or walking – no matter what. It can be five minutes long but it cannot be skipped!
  3. NO BEDTIME CANDY. I often will snack on something chocolate right before bed or while I’m feeding Jonas during the night. I really want to stop this habit; I’d like to feel healthy and fit as the summer approaches, and right now I feel unhealthy and unfit.

I can’t think of any other goals right now; really, exercise and healthy eating is my main goal at the moment. But I’d like to use this as a place for,more mundane goals as well, like applying for passports for the family or starting our hunt for a new house. I’m guessing my monthly goals posts will continue to evolve.

Notice I haven’t included any fiction writing goals for May – but in June, I will be BACK IN BUSINESS and ready to write. I’m so excited for summertime – my first completely free summer in years. Yes, I’ll have two young kids to chase around – but that’s my choice, and my summer, and it’s going to be delightful.

macro photography of black sunglasses on sand
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goals · writing

April 2019: Monthly Writing Goals

It’s spring! The weather is beautiful. and it’s almost summertime. And the summer is when I’m going to get A LOT OF WRITING DONE NO MATTER WHAT.

My goals for this month are pretty basic. I’ve abandoned the hope of getting substantial novel writing done at this time. J.J. is sleeping way better, but until he’s sleeping through the night, early morning or late evening writing is nearly impossible because I’m exhausted. I do still have my afternoon nap writing time on the weekend days, but that’s not always a given (need to have both boys asleep at the same time!) and I often use those chunks of time for blogging. So for now, I’m just aiming to get myself in gear so that when summer arrives (or when the sleep situation improves), I am READY to get some good writing done.

Here are my goals for April 2019:

  1. Maintain my blogging, posting every Tuesday and Saturday.
  2. Continue reading Story Genius. (I’m giving up on finishing it! This is a “write as you go” kind of book.)
  3. Get all of your novel writing transferred into Novlr. (More on that at some point!)
  4. Continue a modified digital minimalist diet.
  5. THINK about the novel as much as you can! Use your commute, and use voice memos. Plan things out and try to write at least 2,000 words this month.

So far, my monthly writing goals have been a great new ritual. Here’s hoping April brings more of the same!

alphabets ancient box business
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goals · writing

March 2019: Monthly Writing Goals

This month, we’re taking a little detour. There will be writing goals, yes – but one of my writing goals seems like it’s not related to writing. BUT IT IS.

Let me explain.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I spend my down time. I’ve always been a person accustomed to ‘background noise’ – I half-watched a TV show while I was doing my homework in high school, I listened to music while I was writing papers in college, and I tune into a podcast or an audiobook while I’m doing the dishes now. I don’t like this about myself; I never have. Sometimes, I make an effort and I curb this habit; but I inevitably slip back into it when I’m tired or stressed or overwhelmed.

I checked a book out of the library recently. It’s called Deep Work and it’s by Cal Newport. The book focuses on what Newport calls ‘deep work’ – focused, distraction-free, high-quality, valuable working time. I didn’t read the book; nonfiction isn’t my favorite. But I was interested enough in the topic to check it out of the library, and then the best thing EVER happened: Tamara got interested in the book, and she read it cover to cover and told me all the tips she read about. WINNER! (I’m on the wait list at the library for Newport’s newest book, Digital Minimalism. I’m REALLY hoping that Tamara will read that one and summarize it for me, too!)

Here are the two main things Tamara shared with me:

  1. We all need “solitude” – and I put this in quotes because Newport has a new-to-me definition for the word. Newport calls “solitude” time when we’re not getting any input from the outside world. It’s not about whether you have people around you; if you’re alone and listening to a podcast, you’re receiving input that you need to process. When you have solitude, you’re receiving no new input – you’re just processing input you’ve received at other times. Newport advocates that we need solitude, or down cycle time, so that we can process all the input we receive at other times.
  2. One of the 4 main tips Newport suggests for how to incorporate deep work into your life is quitting social media. My understanding is that Newport recommends quitting everything for 30 days, and then adding things back in gradually if you feel they add some joy or meaning to your life. I LOVE THIS IDEA. As soon as Tamara told me about it, I decided I would start on March 1. So, for 30 days, no social media, and most of the apps on my phone will be deleted.

Now – how does all of this connect with my writing goals?

My theory is that when I cut away all this other stuff, I will have more mental energy and creative space for my writing. When I have little pockets of time – like my twenty minute commute, for example – I tend to fill the time with input, like a podcast. But I’m wondering – if I allow those little pockets of time to be about solitude, will it start benefiting me creatively? Will I be able spend that time thinking about characters, plot points, language?

I don’t know! But I’m going to find out.

Here are my goals for March 2019:

  1. Maintain my blogging, posting every Tuesday and Saturday.
  2. Finish reading Story Genius.
  3. Follow a digital minimalist diet. Use the extra time for rest, solitude, and productively creative daydreaming.
  4. Open up the document for the novel you’ve decided to write, and write at least 3 paragraphs, even if you know they’ll never be published.

I think this is an important thing for me to try, this digital minimalist diet – but I’m nervous! I use my phone a LOT – for background noise, to ease my anxiety, to keep track of my adulting responsibilities. AND I use it at bedtime; I usually fall asleep listening to a TV show or a podcast.  (That might be the part that is hardest to give up!) I know I can do this, and I’m excited about the creative space that may open up in my life if I do this. But it’ll take work.

Let’s do this. (Gulp!)

artistic blossom bright clouds
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balance · goals

Now Versus Someday – Who Will Win?

One of Edgar’s books is titled Shark Versus Train: Who Will Win? He loves it. It’s a series of contests between a shark and a train, and it asks who will win in a variety of different scenarios – a diving contest (shark), a burping contest (train), playing basketball (train), or a hot air balloon ride (shark). At the end of the book, it turns out that the shark and the train are actually toys, being pitted against each other by two little boys. I’ll be honest – it’s not always clear to me WHY one would win over the other, and I guess that makes sense, since it’s two little kids applying the logic. But it’s a cute story anyway.

This book keeps coming to my mind when I consider a debate that keeps popping up for me: now versus someday. When it comes to the things that need to get done in my life, will they happen now or someday? Which will win?

My word of the year is NOW. My 2019 goal is to stop putting things off for “when the boys are older” or “when I feel better.” I want to be able to achieve my goals even with limited time, energy, and resources, especially my creative goals.

However. However. HOWEVER.

If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, or have seen the dark circles under my eyes, or have had a disjointed conversation with me recently – then you know that I am exhausted and short on sleep and energy. Tamara and I have gotten into a better routine with the boys and sleep, but better doesn’t really mean awesome. 

So it’s hard to do anything NOW. NOW is a blissfully happy time that is not conducive to productivity.

I keep telling myself, Write now! If you can write now, you can write anytime! But the reality is, even if I do keep myself writing throughout this crazy time, I’ll still have to wait for Someday to devote the REAL kind of time I want to devote to my craft.

It’s an interesting thing to think about – now versus someday. It reminds me of another interesting debate – acceptance versus striving. Do I accept myself and my life as they are, or do I strive to reach what I want to have, to do, and to be? In the rooms of recovery, we are all about acceptance, and I do believe that happiness begins with acceptance. So much of my unhappiness in life has stemmed from desperately wanting things to be different when just accepting things as they were could have brought me peace.

But – we don’t want to stop striving, do we? It’s good to have ambition, to have a vision or a goal and to work toward it. I can accept the fact that I’m 36 and haven’t published my novel yet, but I can also strive toward the goal of publishing it eventually.

So maybe the answer to the acceptance versus striving debate is that it’s all about balance. A little acceptance, balanced with a little striving, makes a happy and fulfilling life. And perhaps it’s the exact same answer for the related debate, now versus someday. If I balance doing as many things NOW as I can, while also knowing that some big things (like hard core writing time) may have to wait until the summer, then I can feel good about what I get done each day while also knowing that more is possible.

So neither will win – now and someday will tie. And they’ll agree to be friends and co-exist (somewhat) happily in the toy box until the next time they’re taken out to play by a couple of imaginative pre-schoolers, just like in Edgar’s book. And we’ll all live happily ever after, accepting the now gratefully and striving for the someday with grace.




Kindness Always (February 2019)

I started off 2019 doing something a little different with playful + peaceful. I chose a theme to focus on in January. This was a very loose theme – I didn’t feel tied to it, but I did try to think of a few posts that related to this theme, and it helped me to brainstorm and to focus my writing all month long.

The theme for January was rhythm and routine. Even though I’m not quite done with all of my rhythm and routine posts, I’ve decided to announce my theme for February: kindness. 

Image result for kindness month

I thought of this during December 2018. I kept seeing Advent kindness calendars on Facebook, with a kind action for every day of December leading up to Christmas. I love this idea, and I think I’m going to try it out next year. I especially love the idea of involving Edgar and J.J. in this Kindness Advent as they get older.

I chose kindness for February because I like to think of Valentine’s Day as a holiday all about expressing love for the world around you. (I’m not so into it as a romantic holiday; I’ll eat the chocolates if Tamara gets me some, but they’re not required or missed if they don’t show up.)

Lately, it almost feels like life is too full and to busy to even think about all the things I want to do! My life is work, child care, and sleep. It’s hard enough having the energy to be patient and kind with the three humans I live with; do I have the ability, the time, to do kind things for acquaintances, for strangers?

Of course I do.  Even if I can’t get it done, I’m at least going to give it a try. I think that sometimes just TRYING to be kind makes the world a little bit better.

I’m not sticking with any one kindness calendar; I’ve reviewed a few different ones, so that I’ll have lots of ideas to choose from.

Happy Heart Day; be kind.

Image result for action for happiness kindness calendar

goals · writing

February 2019: Monthly Writing Goals

Of all the intentions I set for 2019, the one that has served me best so far is my monthly writing goals.

I decided that I needed something extra to keep me on track with my writing. Last summer, I wrote a lot and I had big plans for my writing routine as the school year began, and then – BAM! A beautiful baby boy – my too-cute-to-describe J.J. – came home to our family. My writing routine came second to the bliss and stress of babyhood, and I have no regrets about that.

But as the beginning of 2019 approached, I had an idea – I would write a blog post every month and I would set some writing goals for myself to accomplish over the course of the month. This ritual would be a way to check in with myself. I’d keep my writing goals at the forefront, because I’d be reminded of them every time I did any work on the blog. Additionally, having a few clear goals makes it easier to recognize when you’re not achieving your writing goals at all.

I really got to see how this ritual was helping me during the last week of January. I was looking ahead to see what blog posts were scheduled to be published, and I saw a draft of this post. I reviewed my goals from last month and realized immediately that one of them – reading through the two novels I’ve drafted – was not done yet. There were only a few days left in the month, so I abandoned the book I was reading (The Patron Saint Of Liars by Ann Patchett) and spent every spare minute reading through the novel drafts.

This was such a great example for me of why we set goals. If we never set clear and specific goals for ourselves, then we don’t recognize when we’re not spending the time we need to achieve those goals. I was super proud of being able to accomplish my January goals. Yes, I had to adjust them partway through the month – you can read about that here – but I feel like I accomplished way more than I would have if I hadn’t put those goals down on paper the way I did.

These are my goals for February 2019:

  1. Maintain my blogging, posting every Tuesday and Saturday.
  2. Finish reading Story Genius.
  3. Open up the document for the novel you’ve decided to write at least three times, and write a few words.

The third goal isn’t very ambitious, but I struggled to decide what steps I should take next with the novel. I’ve really been enjoying reading Story Genius, and I have a feeling that the more I read, the more mini writing tasks I’ll complete. Maybe, after I’ve read more of the book, I’ll do another round of Let’s Reevaluate – we’ll see!



balance · goals

All The Things (January 2019)

This month has been a blur. I’ve been exhausted, foggy-eyed, and short on time and energy. Life hasn’t has that much variety – it’s been predominantly work, child care, and sheep. But – there have been some things.

Things I’m Reading: I finished Louise Penny’s latest (Kingdom Of The Blind) early this month. It was good, and I always love an Inspector Gamache story.

I started a new John Boyne book, Crippen, but then took a break one snowy day to read From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a children’s book my sister loves and I’d never read before.


I’ve been working my way through Story Genius by Lisa Cron, which is FANTASTIC and going to be a read-while-you-write slow burn kinda read.

I am currently taking a break from Crippen to read Ann Patchett’s The Patron Saint Of Liars. I discovered a copy in the Little Free Library at Oregon Ridge, and since it’s been on my TBR list forever, it seemed like an omen.

Things I’m Watching: I’ve had Amazon Prime forever, but I only recently discovered that I can watch movies and T.V. shows via the Amazon Prime app. It’s been great timing, since I often watch TV on my phone during J.J.’s night feedings. I started the month re-watching all six seasons of Sex and the City (major nostalgia for my college years) and now have been working my way through re-watching The Newsroom.

Things I’m Getting Better At: I’m trying to transition to using photos I take on the blog instead of photos I find online. I’ve done pretty well this month! Trying my best to snap photos throughout the day. It really takes effort, especially when my days are as plain-and-simple as they are lately.

Monthly Writing Goals: How Are Things?: My biggest writing accomplishment this month has been my blog posts. I have FINALLY gotten back to posting two posts a week, every Tuesday and Saturday, and I even had a few bonus posts, adding up to 10 posts total for the month.  WOO HOO! I was also proud of myself for re-evaluating my goals halfway through the month, checking in with myself and realizing that some goals were too far out of my reach and needed to be adjusted.

Happy January!  Well into Quarter 1, and I’m feeling okay. I’m tired and sluggish, but I’m moving forward. Keep it coming, 2019!