Delayed ambition

Anybody who reads my blog posts would think I am a procrastinator – I couldn’t disagree!

“Life” or mental blocks sometimes get in the way of goals and ambitions. They sneak up, steal time and take over, and establish themselves as the “norm”.

Now that I’ve recognised what’s been happening I can deal with it – watch this space!

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SMART Goal setting

It’s the time of year when people make New Year Resolutions – as I said in a post a few days ago, I don’t believe in them.

Chatting with a friend this week, I was reminded of something I used to teach students on a personal development course about goal setting – A goal is a dream with a deadline. There are two benefits of setting a deadline – if you do the dream is tangible and achievable and not merely fantasy. The deadline makes it so – I will achieve X by Y. (Motivators would say goals have to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.)

However, not being very good at listening to my own advice, it dawned on me this morning that I did achieve a fantasy goal last year; a long-standing dream linked to a holiday photograph (making it visual set as a gadget background wallpaper I was subconsciously reminded of it every time I play patience/solitaire!!!) And it must have been at least 12 years since I came up with it. Not any of the above SMART points. Not one! Anyway, this morning I realised that last year I achieved it and I’m living it.

I wonder if I’d made the goal SMART would I still have achieved it? But I would have realised sooner that I had… on the annual review date, which I am sure I would have been constantly pushing on. Result! :o)

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The magic of writing a journal

I’ve no doubt that writing a journal is a very cathartic process. I’ve done it for the past few years when I’ve needed to get things flying relentlessly around in my head out of my brain; only to find they were replaced with more thoughts and phrases instead. Committing them to paper sort of works. I was going through a very traumatic time in my life. Eventually I put the journals through a paper shredder. I didn’t want to go back over the thoughts and I certainly didn’t want anyone else to read them.

In fact, if I think about it now, the act of complete destruction initiated a turning-point in my life and I moved on.

The problem I’ve been working on since, is trying to fire up my inspiration to write a manuscript for a second novel; no matter what I do I get stuck in a rut and lapse back into reality – rather like writing the catharsis journal. Yesterday I realised my problem is that I stopped writing a daily journal; I’ve tried all different types of journals since Destruction Day from files on my laptop to, writing apps on my iPad. But nothing regularly, every day. Silly me!

Writing a journal doesn’t just have to be catharsis, or reviewing life, the universe and everything. Just the act of just writing something, anything… whatever is in my head for just three pages can straighten out my brain and create some kind of logic.

So I have started again and this time I haven’t even gone to the expense of buying a special notebook. I’m just using a notebook I was using for keeping notes. If I can keep it up for a month or so, I will find/buy a special journal notebook to separate it from keeping notes. The act of handwriting and using my nice fountain pen and making a point of just three pages instead of the rambling thoughts is motivating and helps my brain to be more logical.

My Three Pages and Stop journal.

I read somewhere, I think it was in Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, that if you stop mid-sentence it helps you continue writing the next day. I must try that.

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Thoughts on ‘New Year’

I’m in a writers’ discussion group and just before Christmas debated ‘New Year’ – why is it January 1st and so close to Christmas? Of course the discussion covered calendars,  traditions, history, political and religious viewpoints, then it started getting interesting.

I came to the conclusion that I’d like New Year to be set at 22nd December, after the Winter Solstice:  We’re heading back towards summer and within a few weeks the days will start getting noticeably longer with more [hopefully] life-giving sun rays. It makes sense because, I’ve read, our pagan ancestors would be awaiting the return of the sun to grow the new season’s crops, so feasting at partying at year end is a tradition anyway in order to make it through the lean winter months when not much food grows and there’s not much else to do during long winter evenings.

With New Year goes the tradition of making a resolution (or two).

I cannot think of a worse date to set out towards a goal. There is far too much pressure; there is always the joke about annual gym memberships starting in January rarely exceeding the third week, or thereabouts. And anyway, when do you actually start? The Christmas season doesn’t officially finish until 12th Night (6th January) and some people still have ‘left-overs’ lurking in the fridge, or the odd box of chocolates  hanging around – so, for example, you can’t start a diet then – it would be wasteful. Another instance; if you want to give up smoking… do you start at midnight when you’re still at your New Year’s eve party?

Daft idea!

I suggest we choose any date and hour we like, or deem suitable, for starting out towards a goal, which is what a New Year resolution is. Perhaps the most sensible time to start is when we first think of the goal … right now.

Good luck!

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The run up to Christmas 2018

I hope you, my followers, are having fun with your Christmas preparations.

I’m happy to say I’ve escaped all the commercialism and just doing things very quietly. My tree is up and the mincemeat and cake made, and the Christmas presents for the family delivered. A little baking and marzipan and icing for the cake one afternoon and they are finished.

I actually quite like doing little tasks like that when I don’t have to concentrate on what I’m doing – just get stuck in. It allows my subconscious to wander and just see what ends up in my brain. Hopefully the breakthrough idea for a second novel and then such tasks (and sleep) allow the storyline to evolve.

At least that’s what I noticed with my first manuscript; I used the principle of NaNoWriMo – i.e. write everyday for a month, even if it’s drivel. What I actually created was a basic manuscript – a chapter a day, so 4-5k words – to hone and edit.

I used to think writers were a bit airy fairy when interviewed I heard them say it wrote itself. Well, actually, I noticed that because the story and writing it every day absorbed most of my thinking, and right at the front of my brain, that it did write itself. Or I’d dream the next chapter and all I’d have to do is get up and write it.

I plan to get stuck into more tasks where I don’t have to think much and see what transpires!

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Why would anyone publish with Amazon?

I just received a newsletter from a business advisor I follow; she has written her first book and is in the process of publishing it. In her newsletter she asked this question – Why would anyone publish with Amazon?

It’s a question I’ve had at the back of my mind for a while. In her case she has a problem with the ISBN number she’s been issued with, the same number having been issued to someone in America. I’m still not down the ISBN road yet (but getting closer!)

I’ve thought about the Amazon question though.

Amazon hasn’t quite put the independent retailer out of business yet. In my hometown, they survive because they offer personal service and you can browse the shelves before you buy. WHSmith is in the town (it’s too small for Waterstones) but compared to the independent bookshop they have limited stock available; basically the celebrity writers and the ‘best selling’ titles (also available in at least two of town’s supermarkets.) The independent survives despite this because their stock is more varied; they have local writers do Book Signings, etc. They have footfall.

Whereas Amazon is available from every electronic gizmo I have available and if I know what I want, even in the past titles not available in the UK and I’ve had books sent from America, they will deliver it to my door and increasingly an e-book to my device very quickly. They have a global market too – that’s an awful lot of people who may see your title.

I say ‘may’ because it’s very easy to publish with Amazon; I’ve researched it.  Follow their guidelines particularly with formatting correctly and wait a few days and it’s done. The trouble with this is you’re up against hundreds if not thousands, of titles and how can you make yours stand out?

I’ve downloaded free titles from Amazon. Some authors use ‘Free’ to either suck people into buying a title by putting up the first few chapters – if you want to know what happens you have to buy  it. Others put up the first title in a series, or a first title, just to capture an audience. If they enjoy the first one perhaps they will seek you out to see what else you’ve written. And some people maybe just publish for free from the point of view they ‘just have to write’ and they have the ego boost of being published and in the public domain. I am a writer! These ideas are credible.

However, some of the titles are really not very good (even if they have been formatted correctly.) I’ve seen inconsistencies in storylines, inaccuracies, very poor English and grammar (I’m not an expert, but it does put me off if it’s not right) and this makes me wonder how, even if a title was exceptionally good and Best Seller material it can compete and be noticed.

I came to the conclusion that whilst publishing with Amazon is easy and cost-effective that at least initially I would prefer to go the traditional route – given I can find an agent and publisher. I want to feel the book in my hand – although I have nothing against e-books, I read them – I just want something tangible, that is quality and has been acknowledged by people who work in the industry and who wouldn’t bother with my title unless they thought it has a potential market.

I suppose it’s down to personal preferences and all options are available to choose from and authors will select whichever route they feel is right for them.

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Everything changes

This morning I decided that I would take heed of the (probably wrongly) attributed quote from Einstein – Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I’ve spent over three and a half years catharsis writing because “stuff” just goes round and round in my head until I write it out, only to find it’s replaced by more “stuff”. If I try to verbalise the thoughts they don’t come out properly either, so writing it had to be.

The trouble is, catharsis writing is blocking creative writing. So today I move on.

I’ve republished my Facebook page which needs further updating but at least it’s there. I took it down because I seemed to be attracting some strange ‘followers’ who didn’t seem interested in my writing nor appeared to have purchased and read my stories. I received some strange messages and felt uncomfortable. Anyway it’s back and I’ve changed the privacy settings. Lesson learned!

I’ve also checked my website http://www.carolinescottcollins.co.uk, which needs updating too (soon) and I looked up my author page on AlfieDog.com, the short story website http://alfiedog.com/fiction/stories/caroline-scott-collins/ – go on, take a look. The stories are downloadable for about the cost of a postage stamp. (I’m not begging, but would appreciate some honest feedback.) I’m grateful to Rosemary at Alfiedog.com for having faith in new writers, like me, and giving me a chance. Twice my stories have been chosen to be included in anthologies and Rosemary is kind, encouraging and supportive.

Not ready to Tweet yet.

In addition I’ve deleted a load of digital files off my computer – feeble attempts at writing that never amounted to more than a few hundred word before fizzling out. And the ‘catharsis’ files have gone too – just like the paper notebooks that I recently put through the shredder.

My life has moved on and so there is no excuse not to write … something constructive. Out with the old and in with the new. Tomorrow I continue this new positive approach – fingers crossed!

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