January 2006 New Beginnings

It’s the end of another year, which means, among other things, that I have to start learning to write 2006 on my checks. Considering I’m still working on the 2005 ones, I have a feeling I’m going to need some White-Out.

It’s also, for many people, the symbolic end of one time and the beginning of another. It’s a time when many of us look back at last year and often express frustration that we didn’t write more, accomplish more, sell more…whatever the case may be. You feel disappointed in yourself, in your achievements, and resolve to make 2006 a better year.

But you know what? When you get to the end of 2006, do you think you’re going to look back with a proud, satisfied eye, and see where you made things better? Or do you think you’ll be lambasting yourself for not writing more, accomplishing more, selling more?

Ah-hah. A vicious circle. A lot like making the dog chase his tail (works well if you tie a treat to his tail, my youngest has discovered), except with even less pay-off.

What to do? I don’t think tying a treat to your rear quarters is a good idea, particularly if you have pets in the house, so let’s take a different approach to ending the year with good results. The only way, as Dr. Phil says, to change the outcome is to change the behavior.

Now I’m not going to get all talk show on you, but I do happen to agree with that particular statement of his. Sit back and look at what you have done this year with your writing. How’s it working for you? Is it working at all? Or are there areas where you can tweak and change?

If you’re like me, there are definitely areas to tweak and change. In fact, I made a new plan for my mornings just today, altering slightly the way I approach those early hours, because I wasn’t as productive as I’d like to be and I was ending up with way too many late nights…which create slow mornings, which becomes another Milk Bone on my tail.

I want you to sit down and find ONE area to improve that will help your writing. Yes, just one. Don’t go making this huge list of all the places you have gone wrong and all the things you need to improve. Just pick the one that will make the most impact. Start there.

Then sit down and make a nice LONG list of all the things you have done right this past year. Did you break into a new market? Or if you didn’t, did you at least make an attempt toward it by sending out a query letter? Did you read more than you had last year? Make more progress on that novel? Go on, look deep. Even if you have had a not-so-great writing year, I’m sure you have done some things that have moved you forward a little. Celebrate those instead of blasting their insufficiency. You have done something and that is GREAT.

Now, let’s say you truly didn’t do one writing-related thing last year. You were busy with your life, your day job…whatever it might be. Don’t sit there and criticize yourself for that; all that does is create more frustration (i.e., another Milk Bone).

Instead, look FORWARD. To the new beginning that starts RIGHT NOW. You don’t have to wait for a turn of the calendar page to begin again. Every minute, as Penelope Cruz says in “Vanilla Sky,” is a chance to begin again.

Begin now, today, without looking back and criticizing wherever you may—or may not have—gone wrong before. It’s a new day, a new minute, and all you have to worry about is getting your fingers on the keyboard.

May all your words be good ones,

Shirley

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