First Steps

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Loa Tzu

One of my favorite quotes. That single, first step is what sets you up for success. Now, I believe you can take a lot of steps and then retrace them and do them over again. Just because you’ve started on a journey and forgotten a few steps you want to add in later, doesn’t negate what you’ve done so far. There are a few things I did in the beginning that I redid or revisited. These are some of the things I did in the beginning or beginning-ish of this journey that set me up for success.

I made a decision on my writing organization. This has been an evolving process in and of itself for awhile. I’ve always been a paper and pen person– I have a small bookshelf in my writing space that houses all of my journals, some back from my high school days. That was awhile ago 😳 Somewhere in college I switched from doing all of my writing in journals, to typing my stories on the computer. My fingers flew across the keyboard much faster than I was getting my ideas on paper and sometimes even that was not fast enough to keep up with my train of thought. As I started writing longer pieces and doing research for my novels, I found I had written notes in several different notebooks, collections of outlines and character profiles in three ring binders, some of my writing in Microsoft Word and some in Google Docs. That was not working. I started talking about this to a friend one day and he suggested I look up Scrivener. Oh my stars. That piece of software, for me, was the answer to my digital organization. In it, you can have separate projects for every novel with different pages for each chapter, keep research notes in a different area, write footnotes and leave comments, etc. I’m still getting to know how to use it as effectively as I can, but even in my novice state, it is amazing. There is also a mobile version of Scrivener which allows me to work on my stories from anywhere. I also use a notebook for when I’m stuck and need to hand write until an idea begins to form. I like to write notes as I work, or questions I have of a character or a timeline note I need to revisit later. For my hand written notes, I committed myself to keeping one notebook as my Writers Journal. I’ve used bullet journals for this in the past, but have recently moved into an Erin Condren lined notebook that is working out great. This is the notebook I use- Erin Condren Coiled Notebook. There are a vast amount of choices for organization for writers- my biggest suggestion is to try out a bunch of different options until you find what works for you. All digital, all paper, a combination of both. There is no wrong answer- find what works for you.

I joined a writing organization called the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators a little over a year ago and it has been awesome. Being part of a group of people who are passionate about the same thing you are is invigorating, inspiring, and exciting. Check out the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  Joining an organization exposes you to what people are doing to pursue their writing, to what’s happening in the field, and gives you a feel for that world. There are a HUGE amount of writing organizations based on what genre you write, what age you write for, etc. There are also ways to get that exposure without having to pay for a membership too, if that’s not an option for you. Start googling- there are options out there for every type of writer.

I joined a peer critique group.  A peer critique group is a group of writers who come together to share and respond to each others writing. My fellow introverts, don’t run away! It’s been an invaluable resource and a lot of fun. This is being said by the woman who was looking for excuses not to attend the first meeting- that I was experiencing car trouble, one of my kids was sick, a meteor shower was destined to ravage the town. True story. But I can tell you now I am so relieved that introvert me didn’t take over and force me to hide in my house.  It can take monumental effort to attend a meeting and even more to share your work.  There’s a vulnerability to sharing yourself with a group of people.  It takes so much to share your writing, which for some of us is akin to opening our chests, pulling out the pith of our beings, and spreading it across those stark white pages.  Even in writing fiction, that is true.  But I digress.  Do some research to find out if there is a peer critique group local to you if it’s something you’re interested in. This is a hugely personal decision that every writer needs to make for themselves.

I challenged myself to complete something related to my writing.  My biggest stumbling block is myself.  I don’t have a boss to answer to in my writing or a publishing deadline, editor, agent (yet) so it’s incredibly easy to de-prioritize my writing.  I have to make myself ignore the dishes in the sink, the craft stuff all over the dining room table, the mess in my daughter’s closet that REALLY needs organizing, and commit the time and attention my writing deserves.  I challenged myself to complete the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last year and I succeeded! NaNoWriMo happens in November where you challenge yourself to complete a 50,000 word draft of a novel in 30 days.  I had thought about doing NaNoWriMo in 2016 but I didn’t commit to it.  In 2017 I told myself, my family, and everyone else that I was going to do it.  I committed to writing about 1700 words a day and made it happen, even with a trip to Florida the week of Thanksgiving, Black Friday shopping, and all the other craziness of November. I made it work.  I’ll talk about NaNoWriMo a whole lot on the blog, especially in October as I get ready and all through November as I go through the challenge again.  This is the site for it if you’d like some information- NaNoWriMo Commit yourself to completing something related to your writing- a poem, a short story, a character profile, or an outline for a novel.   Your writing is worth it.

The last thing I did, and the thing I continue to circle back to, update, redo, repeat is make goals.  I set yearly goals, break them down to quarters, to months, and then into weeks.  I don’t always hit my goals- sometimes I don’t even get to work on a goal before I’ve surpassed the date I’ve set for it, but, I make them.  My next blog post will be a comprehensive look into how I plan out my goals, break them down into timelines, reflect and review as I go along and then regroup and do it all over again.

What have you done for your first steps?  What do you plan to do or redo?

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