Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reflecting and Looking Foward

I'll come right out of the closet and admit I'm a bit of a solstice worshipper.

This isn't meant to take away from Christmas in any way. I simply find the shorter days of winter depressing and derive great comfort in knowing the sun is returning and the days are beginning to lengthen. By the same token, I get a bit blue at summer solstice, when the longest day happens and the sun retreats. Maybe I should identify as a sun worshiper.

In any case, whether you are like me or if you just like the clean slate of a fresh calendar for a new year, you probably do a bit of reflecting and projecting this time of year. I certainly do.

I like to take stock in December, writing down some of my accomplishments for the year and recording things that I am grateful for. It's easy to forget to take time to evaluate yourself and your life, so the solstice is a nice reminder for me. The astrologers look at New Moons as a great time to cast intentions so I think the solstice must be a good time for new beginnings, too, don't you think?

Years ago, I took a fabulous online course from the incredibly fabulous Lucy Monroe. The aim of her course was career planning, but the goal setting piece was life changing for me. Basically, she had you list out broad goals, then break them down into do-able pieces. It's Project Management 101, but at the time I'd never encountered anything like it. She changed my entire approach to goal setting.

At the same time, one of my Life Goals has always been to find and maintain balance. I love writing. It's hard for me to step away from it, especially now when I'm seeing some success and want to keep feeding my fan base with new books. Sometimes, I bite off more than I can chew.

Exhibit A: Books published Oct 2012-November 2014

Other times, real life happens and I wind up chasing a deadline. It's super easy for me to lock myself in my attic office and not speak to my family for ten to twelve hours. That's bad, right? I'm just checking, because I'm pretty sure it is, but I still get away with it more often than I should.

Therefore, some years ago, I began working on a holistic approach to my year end goal setting. I have writing goals, absolutely, but I look at my life in general and try to set goals like: Walk Every Day or Go To The Gym Twice A Week. Non-writing stuff that certainly impacts my writing (positively) but helps me become a more well-rounded person. (Less rounded in the case of the gym!)

So, to that end, I have a list that I came across years ago. It was part of an article on writing that I didn't have the sense to keep. I only hand wrote the list, but it comes from a martial arts class. If I recall correctly, the aim is to practice one of these eight disciplines each week.

  1. Flexibility: In my case, this means not only being willing to try different lengths or genres in my writing portfolio, but also being willing to close my computer to drive my son into town or have coffee with a friend. Time was always so precious when I was writing around a day job, I often pushed important things like social contact to the perimeter of my life. I can do better!
  2. Strength: Hey. I lift. I really do. Not much, but I do. It was weird at first, but now I love it. But strength also means supporting a friend emotionally, bouncing back from rejections and other career lows, and not only identifying where you are weak (dialogue, confidence, cooking skills, time management) but being willing to work harder to build strength in those areas.
  3. Stamina: This is a big one for me. I had nine titles come out this year. On the one hand, very exciting, on the other, completely exhausting. I was courting burn out so, while I advocate pushing yourself in small ways, don't be dumb. On the non-writing front, um, cardio. I have some serious work to do there, but I'm also looking at my house and thinking about how long I can stand certain things that have outlasted their purpose (carpets.) 
  4. Skill: Let's talk about parenting for a sec. Do you ever feel like you've finally mastered how to work with your child then they go and change on you, hitting puberty or getting a girlfriend or what-have-you? Parenting is one of those things you practice, throwing more skills in the tool box as you go. On the writing side, I'll be honest. I am always willing to learn more about the promotion piece, but I freak out if someone starts messing with my process. I took a long time to figure out how to write books. I shy from workshops on dialogue and romantic conflict, afraid they'll mess with my mojo. Skill can be anything - golf even. I took lessons for a while and loved it, but I let it go when time got tight. I'll work on time management and consider golf again when I master my calendar.
  5. Proper rest: Okay, this is a no-brainer for me. Once I had the forced sleep deprivation that is an infant, I recognized that I am a much better human being if I have slept well and I am a fire-breathing dragon if I have not. I think better on eight hours of sleep and I sleep better when I exercise. It's a vicious cycle.
  6. Proper Attitude: I've done a lot of work on positive thinking and how we phrase things when asking favours from the Universe. I'm careful with my 'I' statements. While I'm often self-deprecating, I try to avoid negatives remarks about myself or others. We can always improve on ourselves so I'm going to try to be nicer than I already am. ;o)
  7. Proper Nutrition: 'nuff said, right? 
  8. Proper Attendance: This means practice. Show up. Be willing to do the work. For me, I also look at it as staying mindful of who I'm with and what I'm doing, whether that's driving, talking to my husband, or cooking. (Do you smell smoke?) 
I'm big on lists and guidelines that help me feel like I'm doing things well. If my goal is to find a better balance in my life, this seems to cover a lot of bases, don't you think? Of course, if I sleep eight hours of each day, that only leaves sixteen hours for the other seven disciplines, but come on. Sleep. I'm still catching up from those newborn years.

Now, I have a friend who actually lights a candle and does a little ritual in preparation for this ceremony. I just spend a few days hand writing my goals into a notebook. I break them down into quarterly, monthly, and weekly, checking back often and bringing forward whatever I haven't done. It's not a science, but it does set me up for success when I can cross something easy off the list like Have Coffee With Ange.

Do you feel the new year is a time of new beginnings? How do you feel about the short days of winter? Do you find your life is out of balance? What steps are you taking to bring it back to something healthier?

I'd love to send a PDF copy of my Christmas book, Blame The Mistletoe, to one lucky commenter. You can also enter my Goodreads giveaways for print anthologies that include Blame The Mistletoe and Hometown Hero. Both giveaways are open until midnight tonight.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Christmas In Montana by Melissa McClone

Christmas In Montana

by Dani Collins

Giveaway ends December 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Montana Homecoming by Eve Gaddy

Montana Homecoming

by Dani Collins

Giveaway ends December 17, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win


Award winning author, Dani Collins writes Harlequin Presents, romantic comedy, medieval fantasy, erotic romance, and now small-town rancher novellas for Tule's Montana Born imprint. Whatever the genre, Dani always delivers sexy alpha heroes, witty, spirited heroines, complex emotions and loads of passion.

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