Last December I entered a short short competition. I wrote Mission: Submission about my feelings about taking the plunge and finally letting people who aren’t related to me or close friends read something I’ve written. 

Reading back that blog entry I can still remember how nervous I felt when I clicked on the ‘submit’ button on the website. And part of me was all glad it was done. I felt like I was ticking a box. Once it was done, it wouldn’t be hanging over me. Once it was done, I could do it again because it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be.

If I didn’t win or get shortlisted in this competition it didn’t matter, even though I was proud of what I wrote. The most important thing was being brave enough to try and see what happened. The more I write, the more I realise a creative life is about bravery: being brave enough to try; being brave enough to share something you’ve invested time and effort into; being brave enough to open yourself up to be judged.

The organisers of the competition sent me a link to a webinar to hear the results announced live. Obviously, I chose not to join because I didn’t think I would be in with a shout. I received an email shortly after the webinar to congratulate me because my story had be shortlisted. Gobsmacked is an understatement. I was so excited I didn’t even sleep that night!

Having my first fiction piece published is an incredible feeling. The anthology won’t be published until later in the year but, as I’ve waited for this long to get something published, I can wait another few months.

Getting this news has spurred me on to write more. I don’t like to use the word validation but it does feel like a validation of what I’m working on and a reminder about the progress I’m making.

The strange thing about re-reading my submission was knowing I can write better than this. In the time between Decemember, when I submitted it, and receiving my good news, I feel like my writing has improved a huge amount and I hope to keep improving.

I have since submitted to another short story to a competition and short piece to a website. The waiting-to-hear-how-I-got-on is one of the worst things about writing. It takes an age to hear anything back. Luckily I have other projects on the go to keep me occupied in the meantime!

The Gift of Done

In April I read Jon Acuff’s book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. I bought it long before ‘furloughed’, ‘lockdown’ and ‘social distancing’ became part of our daily vernacular. But I hadn’t got round to reading it.

I’m slightly sceptical about self-help books claiming they will transform your life, as is Acuff himself. The volume of advice in these books is too overwhelming to implement in daily life. I had a very specific goal in mind when I decided to buy this book. I was hoping it would help me nudge closer to the finish line with my goal of writing a novel.

I’ve wanted to write a novel for as long as I can remember. Technically I have already written and published several books. As a child, I used to write stories in folded up pieces of A4 paper, illustrate them (badly), laminate the covers (also badly) and make my family read them. I even made barcodes for the back with random numbers used to make ISBN numbers. A pioneer of the self-publishing industry, if I do say so myself. However, as an adult, I stopped writing for a long time because of a huge debilitating sense of self-doubt. The blank page was too scary to overcome!

Now I’m gaining confidence in my ability to write and I believe my goal can become reality. In the past I’ve starting writing novels full of enthusiam, only to slowly feel my motivation slipping away.

Acuff says when we start a goal we have a perfect vision of how we will accomplish this and on the day our efforts to reach our goal are less than perfect we run into difficulties. If you decide to run two kilometers each day, you will be motivated to do that until the day when, for whatever reason, you fail to run your daily kilometers. Then you feel like a failure and you end up giving up your goal, you never end up finishing. It’s a vicious cycle stopping you from finish what you start out to do.

The most important things to stop this perfectionism creeping in and sabotaging your goal is making the goal easier and recognising progress will never be perfect. This was a hard sell for me. I’ve even said in job interviews that my greatest weakness is my perfectionism (cringe!). But Acuff’s advice makes complete sense.

I realise my expectations of myself have been too high. There is no way I would be able to write 2’000 words a day for the next 2 months when I also have to go to work and have other commitments. I was setting myself up to fail. Every. Single. Time.

With that advice in mind, I decided to set myself a realistic target. I am going to get this book written. I’m being realistic that the first draft will be completed by the end of May.  I have some time off work and I’ve set myself a manageable daily word target: if I miss the target for one or even two days, it’s not the end of the world. I can and will get back on track.

Acuff says the moment you begin a new project, you get distracted by other ideas in your head. Perfectionism floods your creative brain with idea when your project is not going so well. I cannot stress how true this is.

Three days into writing my novel draft, my brain was awash with so many ideas. Ideas for short stories, flash fiction and even a book series! The most notable idea was publishing a book called “Lockdown Limericks: Poems written under Lockdown”. I’ve written two limericks during lockdown. All of a sudden, I’m envisioning being on The Times Bestseller list! I wrote two poems! Two! And the second one wasn’t even that good!

All these ideas are now safely written down in a notebook and I’ve promised myself I will only look at them when this first draft is written.

I’ve very aware of my thoughts and feelings as I set out towards my goal. I recognise the ‘hiding places’ and ‘secret rules’ that Acuff mentions and explains in detail.

I will write my book. I will finish this time. And Finish: Give Yourself The Gift of Done will be on my writing desk to remind me of what traps I might fall into and to guide me to the finish line.


2020 Writing Goals – Number 4

This is the final post in my series of 2020 writing goals and this final goal is by far the most important one. My fourth goal is to enjoy writing this year.

Although I have always dabbled in writing, it wasn’t until the end of last year that I fell in love with writing again. Even though it was something I enjoyed doing, I found it extremely difficult to finish any writing projects that I started.

When I moved to Switzerland I started blogging to get me into a routine of writing again. Make a post every few weeks was achievable and not as daunting as beginning (and trying to finish) a creative piece of writing.

I then found a writing club where I could discuss with like-minded people ideas for stories but I still found it almost impossible to get anything finished. I was constantly checking my word count and feeling disappointed I hadn’t managed to write more.

It is only since the end of 2019 that I have really begun to enjoy writing. I don’t set myself a word target within each writing session because I realised I was just writing rubbish to hit a target, rather than focussing on the quality of the writing. Focussing on quality not quality has made me enjoy the art of writing again.

Writing is something I do as a hobby and the main thing about a hobby is being able to enjoy it. I have binned lots of hobbies in the past that I didn’t enjoy and now I feel like I have found a way to enjoy my hobby again. I would love to write full-time as a profession but that seems like a long way off and if I am never able to give up my day job to sit and write all day then I would still keep tapping away at the keyboard because I enjoy it and it’s fun.

So there are my writing goals for the year. I am really hoping I can achieve all of them but if I at least enjoy every time I sit down with my laptop to start a new project or continue one, I will be very happy. writing-923882__340

2020 Writing Goals – Number 3

My third writing goal this year is to write a draft of a novel. I have been meaning to do this for the last five years but now I am committed to doing it.

I still haven’t planned what my novel is going to be about. I can’t seem to make up my mind about what genre I want to write, even though I have a lot of ideas I think can be made into a full-length story.

This time last year I tried to write a novel but my confidence got in the way of getting the story finished. I have been flipping back and forth over whether I should carry on with this draft, change how the book is written somehow or scrap the book completely. It’s hard decision to make, especially when I have invested time into it already. I think it would be best to leave this idea completely and try to write something new and fresh but if I did do so I would feel that I would be admitting defeat.

Whatever I decide to do with the book that I started, I am determined that by the end of December 2020 I will have a draft of my book ready to be edited. This does mean I need to sit down soon and start planning the book and how to approach the writing.

I will be updating you on my progress and hopefully will have some exciting news to tell you later in the year when it is finished.


2020 Writing Goals – Number 2

In my last blog post, I shared the first of my 2020 Writing Goals. Now it is time to share my second goal – to update my website.

I set up my website mainly to make sure I had possession of the domain name. I’ve added some pages and a bit of text but some features aren’t working like I want them to and there’s a lot of things I could add to make the site better.

I even sighed up to an online course called something like “How To Build A Great Website In Four Hours”. I still haven’t managed to look at it and learn how to do. I would like to do this over the next month.

I am under no illusions that a great website probably won’t be built in four hours but I guess a good one could be. The hardest thing is seeing down to do the course. I know I will have guilty feelings about learning how to set up a website when, in the back of my mind, I’ll be feeling like I should be writing in an attempt to hit my first writing goal of the year.

But once it is done and it’s how I want it to be, I will be much happier. And it will be one less thing off my to-do list which is always a good thing.

I’ve set myself another 3 writing goals for this year. (This may be slightly too ambitious but only time will tell). Check back soon to find out what my third goal of 2020 is.