Goalsetting.

You can be a pantser and set goals. I’m not talking here about plotting or planning a novel. I’m talking about thinking where you want to be in your life in one year, three years, five years, ten. As a pantser, (someone who essentially works on the fly, making it up as they go along, just like me) you can still set goals. In fact I’d say you still need signposts in your life, for these reasons:

Setting goals will encourage you when you’re feeling down, unsure of your ability, insecure, full of doubt, if you’ve had a bad review or zero royalties. You will have somewhere to aim for, like an arrow to a target. You will not feel directionless or lost.

Commitment to your art, in this case writing, can help you to feel good about yourself and your chosen field. You will have taken a stand, mentally if not physically, and you will know you are no longer an ‘aspiring’ writer, or a ‘wannabe’, but you are actually on your writing journey.

Goal setting gives you a way to measure your progress. You can see how much of your goal/goals you have attained–without getting depressed or feeling guilty about what has not been attained–you can celebrate what has been successfully reached, and you will feel spurred on to achieve more than you may have previously thought possible.

Got a big goal? Break it down into smaller, more easily managed steps. This is the key to all project management, take baby steps. Soon a lot of small steps will have become one big one. If you want to increase book sales, start with learning more about marketing. or learn about how readers choose books so you can reach people with the right kind of cover or blurb.

Re-evaluate your goals regularly. We change. All the time. What seems like an amazing goal now might have lost its allure in six months’ time. Or you might realise that actually you need to achieve other things first, so again, take a look at your goals and see if they are still powerful enough to spur you on. Don’t set something too easily attained, but at the same time, don’t give yourself an impossible dream to aim for. It’s a goal, not a wish-list.

Write your goals down. Start with something like, ‘In three years’ time, I want to…’ and make a little list of what you want to have accomplished or where you want to be in whatever future point you feel is suitable for you. You can do this for more than just writing, obviously you might include weight loss, fitness levels, relationships, education, home and environment, holidays…

Keep it somewhere safe, take a look at it every six months or so. Pat yourself on the back, thank your God, divine power, supreme being, cat, husband, wife, or writing pal. Or…pull yourself up by your bootstraps, remind yourself that it’s never too late to try again, and get on with it.

Good luck!

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Take Time Out

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Malcolm showing how it's done!

We often feel we have to accomplish as much as possible within the span of each day. Sometimes it is our self-esteem that demands that we are ‘achievers’. However, life is not just about work, not merely concerned with achievements. Life should be enjoyable, should even be – dare I say it – fun! Don’t rush headlong towards a nervous breakdown, stop and sit for a while. I often have to remind myself it’s okay to do nothing now and again. Partly it’s my upbringing that says every moment of the day should be productive and useful, and partly it’s the fact that I work from home for a relatively low income and feel a need to demonstrate that I am working as hard as I can, and partly it’s my own character – I’m not naturally one of those people who can just chillax whenever and wherever. And I know some of you out there are the same, admit it!

But our busy lifestyles mean we so often find ourselves lurching from one task to the next, checking them off on our mental to-do list, and feeling that we must keep accomplishing tasks or we have failed. Not so.

It’s okay to take time out, to veg, to just be. Quite often, even when we think we are relaxing, we are still trying to make ‘good use’ of our time by working on some task – completing sudoku or crosswords, reading a book, or even playing a game on our computer.  So rarely do we actually do nothing. But in fact, time spent day-dreaming, listening to the sounds of nature from outside – or the sounds of traffic if nature is far away – and just letting our thoughts drift, this is all time well-spent. We need to rest, not just our bodies but also our minds. and if we allow ourselves that period of rest, we often find that our minds are sharper, our thoughts clearer, and little niggling things we have been working on suddenly seem easy or we can now see the action we need to take. Our brains have time to catch up with the mental filing from all the information we have been absorbing as we go about the routine of our lives.

So – give yourself permission to bunk off and do absolutely nothing for ten minutes twice a day, and see your stress levels plummet, your self-esteem and positive energy sky-rocket, and your creativity will be fresh and maybe take you off in a whole new and exciting direction. It could turn out that the twenty minutes a day you spend doing nothing become the twenty most productive minutes of your day.