Tag Archives: goal setting

The Power of Being (I’m not procrastinating…I’m preparing)

Hello Scribes friends,

PJ Sharon here. Some of you may not know this about me, but I can be a bit lazy. I know—you’re thinking, “No way, PJ. Not you! You’re so motivated and productive!” Um…not really. Looking at the big picture, I do seem to manage to keep a pretty steady schedule, meet my goals on a regular basis, and take care of my daily responsibilities while maintaining a fairly decent attitude, so I guess I’m not a total slacker. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that anything I do accomplish is because I know myself well enough to make my goals achievable and realistic, I accept my limitations as an imperfect human being, and I plan accordingly. Being a natural multi-tasker and somewhat disciplined helps too, but these days, I’m less rigid and a much nicer boss to work for.

With my writing, I try to push new limits, set appropriate deadlines,  and stay challenged–since I know these are what motivate me to stay on task–but it would be foolish and self-defeating to expect more from myself than I want to give. You have to want success…and you have to want it bad! And you need to ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up to achieve it?”

Admittedly, I’ve given up a lot to get where I am. But certain things–like time with my granddaughter and at least one day off a week, are now higher on my priorities list. What I also won’t compromise on is exercise. I commit myself to doing 30 minutes a day, five days a week because I know the payoff is totally worth it! When I’m strong, fit, and happy, I feel like I can handle anything that comes my way. If my schedule gets crazy, I let myself off the hook for a day or two, but then I’m back at it. The same applies to diet and nutrition. I’m not as rigid as I once was, but I try to eat high quality, nutrient dense foods that properly fuel my body. I like chocolate and pie as much as the next girl, but I believe in the 80/20 approach to everything. If I’m doing the right thing 80% of the time, I can slack off 20% of the time and I’ll probably be okay. Yay…pie!

For me, first and foremost, my mental and physical well-being are my priorities, and stressing out about what I’m NOT accomplishing only serves to make me feel overwhelmed and down on myself. It has become clear to me that my to-do list will never be done and that if I want to keep my sanity, I have to focus on just a few daily tasks that keep me moving toward my overall goals. It might take me longer to get there, but it’s not a race for me anymore. I’m in it for the long haul, so pacing myself is key to staying the course.

If goal setting isn’t your strong suit, here’s a great article to help you get on track and stay there.

Could I accomplish way more if I didn’t watch twenty hours of television per week or spend time gazing out the window at the lilac buds sprouting? scent of spring Maybe I could shave ten or fifteen minutes off my overly-lengthy shower time, or possibly I could sleep less. It seems changing even a few of these “recreational” behaviors would lead to a tremendous increase in my productivity. Then, maybe I could write five books in a year or spend another twenty hours a week promoting my butt off. After all, I do understand that the success of my business depends on me and how hard I’m willing to work. But how hard I’m willing to work today may be different from what it was two years ago, and will likely be different again a month from now. We each have to decide what’s important to us.

It comes down to perspective and priorities. In my opinion, none of those “recreational” activities are a total waste of my time. One could even argue that I am more productive because I’m living a balanced lifestyle. A full night’s sleep–when I can get it–is an essential tool for weight management, stress reduction, and overall health. I need at least 6-8 hours a night to remain productive and happy. Staying up late to write that blog that’s due in the morning, or waking at the crack of dawn to sneak in some “quality” writing time may help me check off a few to-do’s, but it’s going to leave me cranky and tired, and increase my susceptibility to illness. That’s not worth the trade for me at this point in life. Maybe some of you can live on five hours of sleep, but I’m betting it catches up with you eventually.

As for the apparent television addiction, I do try to limit my viewing to “must see” shows that give me the most enjoyment. I’m not a total hedonist! I TiVo my favorites and dole them out throughout the week as reward for accomplishing my tasks for the day. Getting lost in my favorite shows not only helps me decompress after a full day of massage work or long hours at the computer, it activates my creative brain. I’m constantly analyzing and deconstructing what I watch. I’m looking at story structure, dialogue, characterization, metaphor, etc. My mind is being entertained, but I’m also in my writer’s brain and learning.

The long hot showers, which some may argue are a luxury and a waste of not only water and resources, but are a self-indulgence. I assure you, they are a necessity for me. There are many challenges in daily life, and few “inexpensive” luxuries for most of us. If spending a half hour in the shower (where I do a stretching routine to treat my arthritic neck and back) relaxes me and reduces my pain, then so be it. I’ll take every little bit of relief I can get. Besides, my shower time is the most creative and productive time of my day as far as I’m concerned. It’s like a cup of tea, a soothing massage, and an opportunity to let my thoughts flow freely without my internal editor alarms ringing, all rolled into one.  My best ideas and snappiest lines of dialogue come to me while standing under a piping hot shower. I’ve also been known to belt out a few tunes while I’m there. Singing elevates my mood, clears my lungs, and centers me. It helps me shift from my right sided “business” brain to my left sided “creative” brain so I can get those 1,000 words on the page. The long hot shower is staying!

So, what about the inordinate amount of time I spend staring out the window, walking around my yard to see what’s coming into bloom, or simply sitting on my front porch with a hot cup of tea, paying attention to my breathing for a few minutes and taking time to be grateful for the multitude of gifts I have in my life? Am I procrastinating?

Maybe, but these moments too, are priceless. When I’m not actually writing, I’m usually preparing to write. I’m processing my next scene or coming up with some brilliant twist to my plot. As a writer, my brain is always processing some bit of information that will ultimately lead me to where I need to be on the page.

What it comes down to for me is that I’m a human being first, and a writer second. I NEED to stay connected to my higher self–the part of me that knows how to live in the moment and appreciates the power of just being.teens prayers5 (2013_02_16 17_00_55 UTC) That’s the part of me that inspired me to write in the first place and continues to be the well from which I draw my best work. Whether it’s called prayer or meditation…or just plain daydreaming, we all need it on some level.

I know that nothing can substitute for diligence, consistency in getting those daily word counts on the page, or putting in the overtime, but these quiet moments of stillness and reflection are essential to my sanity and well-being. I know this to be true about myself. Perhaps it’s just an excuse to be lazy or to procrastinate, but I prefer to think of it as “preparing” the soil. The fertile ground of productivity is only as good as what you feed into it. So next time you start to feel guilty for daydreaming instead of writing, or taking a day off to hit the beach, don’t look at it as “slacking”. Consider it part of the process. Tomorrow is another day and there is always more work to be done. Today, take a moment to reconnect to what nurtures and feeds your soul. You may be slightly less productive on paper, but you’ll be happier and more balanced in the long run.

Namaste!

PJ

What are your best “self-care” indulgences? What fuels your muse? What have you done for you lately?

Tough Love

Hello, Scribes Readers, PJ Sharon here, and today I’m talking about tough love. This is the time of year that many of us are setting goals, working on business plans, re-evaluating our marketing strategies and generally attempting to lasso and tame this wild thing we call the “writer’s life”. Even with the best of intentions, most of the resolutions we make fall by the wayside and our ambitious goal setting can make us feel overwhelmed rather than hopeful for the new year.

Don’t get me wrong. I love goal setting, and my plate is as full of to-do’s as it ever has been, but instead of sharing my lofty aspirations with you all, I’d rather discuss how we go about sticking to our plan and meeting those goals. You’ve probably read a ton of blogs on goal setting, with such advice as making them manageable, measurable, and achievable. Great advice, for sure. But for today, I’d like to offer some coaching advice from an expert–no, not me.

Jillian Michaels (2013_06_02 01_59_31 UTC)My girl, Jillian Michaels, is one of the best motivators I’ve ever come across. I don’t often watch The Biggest Loser, but I know from personal experience that her training methods are effective. Through her 90 Day Body Revolution DVD set–which I bought last year around this time in hopes of shedding the weight I’d gained living the writer’s life–I was able to drop twenty-five pounds in about five months. Yes, I had to eat healthier and the workouts are brutal, but they’re only thirty minutes a day, five days a week…a small price to pay for a strong, healthy body, in my opinion. I figured I could do anything for thirty minutes a day and I knew the pay-off would be worth it. I reminded myself that I was worth it!

As a personal trainer myself, I quickly learned to appreciate Jillian’s tough love approach. Even when I want to swear at the TV, her passion and positive messages of encouragement continue to push me through every workout. Statements like, “Do your best,” “Just try one,” “Don’t you quit on me–don’t you quit on yourself,” “I know you can do this,” “Dig deep and find the strength you never knew you had,” and my favorite, “Focus on the why–why are you doing this?” She lists the common reasons why people want to be more fit, such as better health, longevity, skinny jeans, and sex with the light on, but the bottom line is that we all have a “why” when it comes to being driven toward a goal. If you focus on the “why”, you will tolerate any amount of torturous “how”.

Last week’s guest, Amy Denim, author of THE COFFEE BREAK BUSINESS PLAN for WRITERS, talked about creating a muse statement, a positive affirmation that sums up who you are and what you want for your writing career. (Here’s the link to the post if you missed it). I highly recommend that you start your new year by doing just that, and when you’re writing that statement, think about your “why”. Why do you write? What do you want to accomplish in your writing career? Why do you want it? How important is it to you? And what are you willing to do to get it?

Today’s Unlocked Secret: When you start to feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand or are questioning if the time and work you’re investing in your writing life is worth it, read your muse statement and remember your “why”. Then, dig deep and find the strength you never knew you had, and tackle that next goal.

What motivates you to keep going when the going gets tough?

It’s my second Indie birthday!

Hey Scribblers!

PJ Sharon here. Today I’m celebrating two years since I first published my debut novel HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES. In honor of the occasion, I’m giving away an audio book copy to one random commenter. Chance to enter ends Monday, September 30th at midnight.

So what’s it like being an Indie toddler?

Believe me, there are days when I want to have fits like a two-year-old. But there are also days when I can’t imagine a more exciting pursuit. It seems like just yesterday I was posting my first novel onto AMAZON, B&N, and Smashwords, taking the giant leap of faith that I had done enough to ensure it was as close to perfect as possible. Five books and a zillion lessons later, I’m still working to improve and streamline my process. Everything from formatting, cover art, editing, and marketing, to managing the business end of being an author, is constantly changing, making me feel like a perpetual newbie.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned in my first two years:

1) Relax and Breathe-I really stressed out my first year and a half as an author. The past six months has been about letting go for me. I can’t control it all, I can only do so much in a day, and the to-do list will still be there tomorrow. Making time to write is non-negotiable. It’s what keeps me moving forward and brings me joy. I manage what I absolutely have to do each day, and try to remember that I’m the boss.

2) Hire as much help as you can afford-I’m a big fan of bartering services, but there are some things you just can’t do that with. Figuring out a budget and investing in creating a superior product is worth the effort and money. Hire a good cover artist and excellent editors, and pay for the RIGHT advertisement, and you will make your money back. Caution: BE SELECTIVE. Get references and do your research.

3) It’s good to have friends in the playpen- I would know nothing if I didn’t belong to such Yahoo Groups as IndieRomanceInk, Authors Network, and Marketing for Romance Writers. My local RWA chapter has been invaluable, and the contacts I’ve made through YARWA and the WG2E street team are like family. I am constantly amazed by the generosity of the writing community.

4) Patience grasshopper-  I’m only two, for Pete’s sake! We have to walk before we can run, right? Everything requires a process. In people years, a toddler is only just beginning their journey. I can’t expect myself to know everything, do everything right, or earn a solid income in only two years time. Every business model I’ve ever seen considers a profit after five years, a success. Most businesses will fail in those first five years. I take comfort in knowing that the only way I can fail is if I stop writing books. I’m more and more convinced that money comes with time and persistence. I’ll let you know how that theory works out in another three years when I graduate to kindergarten.

5) Perspective is everything- I originally set the goaI that I would sell 10,000 copies of my collective books in a year. I guess I didn’t necessarily mean the first year…or the second. Well, maybe I was just being optimistic. I could have been disappointed when I didn’t meet my mark in 2012, but it didn’t really phase me. Mainly because I knew that if I had sold 5,000 the first year, the second five would come eventually. I still haven’t quite reached the 10K mark yet (there will be cake when I do!). But I consider every sale, every contest win, positive review, or reader comment a measure of success. Most importantly, my level of enjoyment with the process is my biggest measure of success these days. I keep a copy of each of my books close at hand to remind me of what I’ve accomplished in just two short years.

There is so much more that I’ve learned, but I’d have to write a book to contain it all and my publishing schedule is booked for the foreseeable future. So instead of me blabbering on about my toddler years, why don’t you guys tell me about your journey.

How long have you been writing?  What has it taught you? Have you made the leap into the publishing world? How’s that going for you? Let’s chat!

What is your “WHY”?

4-95EA3CD1-952312-800PJ here, sharing some motivational thoughts that might inspire you to embrace the challenges in your life today—whether they be writing challenges or fitness challenges. I’ve had several big milestones this week that have motivated me to forge on in spite of the occasional bouts of “to-do-list-itis” that require me to wear more hats than Jackie-O. Let’s face it; the writing life is not for sissies. So when I have a good week, it’s worth celebrating and taking a moment to reflect on what made it so great.

In the past week, I finished the first draft of my current WIP, WESTERN DESERT. That alone is enough to make any writer smile and breathe a sigh of relief. I also celebrated a birthday—not the BIG one, but getting close. Chomping at the heels of a half century of life experience is definitely a wake-up call. It was time to take stock and ask the hard questions. Have I been doing all that I can to ensure a balanced and healthy quality of life? Um…not really. I’ve been sitting too much, eating the wrong foods, not getting enough sleep, and generally overworking for the past couple of years. Sound familiar? Like most people, I have plenty of reasons WHY my life is so hectic. After all, I run two businesses full time and have a house to maintain. But when I look at what’s holding me back from my highest good, I realize that all of the reasons “WHY,” no matter how valid, added up to a bunch of excuses. Since attempting to turn over a new leaf, the past few months have been much better, but still not enough change to suit me or meet my weight-loss and life balance goals. I needed to go beyond “trying” and find that thing that would motivate me to succeed. I needed a better “WHY”.

For me, the only “WHY” I need to focus on is “WHY do I want to be my best, healthiest, most balanced self?” The answer is simple, really. I want the second half of my life to be full, happy, and healthy. I want to have the energy to do all that I need or want to do. I want to be here for my family and friends for a very long time, and I want quality living for as many days as I have in the rest of this lifetime. Is there any better motivation for making your health a priority?

In response to my “uh-oh” moment several weeks ago when I stepped on a scale for the first time in a few months and saw a number I’d only seen once before (when I was pregnant with my first son), I started a new exercise regimen. I found the Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution ninety-day program on an info-mercial and was immediately drawn to the concept of a thirty minute a day commitment. I figured I could do anything for thirty minutes a day. It seemed like just what I needed to beef up my exercise routine and challenge myself to get fit—a challenge I readily accepted, being that I was getting nowhere doing it on my own. Even though I’m a personal trainer, I too have difficulty working myself out to my fullest potential. We all need a push now and then. As Jillian says, “We all need to have a WHY that makes any amount of hard work worth it.” A couple of weeks into the program and I’m six pounds lighter and feeling better already.

I encourage you to take a look at your life and ask yourself what’s holding you back from your highest good.

UNLOCKED SECRET: Discover your “WHY” and make a new commitment to doing everything within your power to take control of your health. NO EXCUSES!
What is the “WHY” in your life? That reason/goal/motivation that would make any amount of work worth the effort it took to be your best you.

One Year Indie Published

Tuesday’s Child, PJ Sharon here. Thanks to all of you, I had a fun and successful launch day for Waning Moon last Friday. I can’t believe that it took publishing four books in a year for me to finally FEEL like an author. I think I needed to finally take the time to celebrate my accomplishments before I could really recognize them. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ve worked hard this past year, but being a goal oriented person, I tend to look at all that’s ahead of me and forget to be in the moment, appreciating all the blessings along the way. As a yoga practitioner, you’d think I would be a pro at remaining present, but it’s no secret that the writer’s life is far from balanced and that none of us can be totally zen about daunting deadlines and promo pressures. So now that I’ve had my celebratory pause, and before I look forward, I thought I’d look back at the past year and see how I did on my goals.

 

In honor of my one year as an Indie-published author, I wanted to share my sales numbers. The following are close estimations as I haven’t counted venues like ARe (All Romance e-reads), Create Space, and the few hardcopies I’ve sold at signings. These are e-book sales only.

 

Heaven is for Heroes:                           On Thin Ice:                    Savage Cinderella:          

Release date: 9/24/11                            12/15/11                                3/24/12                           

Amazon US:       682                                1250                                       1526
Amazon UK:         22                                  361                                           29
Amazon Eu:         10                                       6                                             5
BN:                      116                                    33                                           28

Smashwords:       52                                    25                                           42

Total:                   872                                1675                                       1630

Free downloads: 77                                    30           37,762 (US); 1,120 (UK); 105 (Eu)

Estimated Total e-books sold: 4,177

Taking into account the difficult to decipher reports from Smashwords (which includes e-books sold through Kobo, Sony, Apple et al), and if you include hardcopy sales through Createspace, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve hit the 5,000 books sold mark. Last January when I set my goals for 2012, I stated that I wanted to sell 10,000 books in a year (looking to break into that 10K cake club my indie buddies talk about). There is a possibility I could actually meet that goal if Waning Moon takes off, but even if I don’t hit 10,000 by January, I know I’ll reach it at some point soon. I’m halfway there, right? I see the slow, steady build of readership and sales, and have faith that with diligence, numbers will continue to grow as I reach new readers. 

I’ve learned a lot in this past year—lessons I will take forward with me as I continue on this journey. In no particular order, these are my top five lessons learned this year as an Indie published author.

1) Hire help with cover art, editing, and promotion/marketing. 

2) The buying patterns of readers are changing with the wind. There will be seasonal slumps and missed opportunities. The only thing you CAN control is the quality of your content. (Three nuggets in one).

3) Basically there aren’t enough hours in a day to do all we SHOULD do, so do what you can and let the rest go. 

4) Watching trends, getting involved in networks, and creating a platform in some form of social media makes for invaluable resources. Appreciate those resources.

5) Keep writing and creating new material.

As for observations, the summer months were extremely slow all around. It’s important to note, here, that I had flipped my promotional efforts to 20% of my budgeted time, and spent 80% writing/revising/producing the book instead of the other way around. Sales dropped by 75% in June, July and August. This tells me that clearly, promotion works. But the best advice I’ve gotten from Indie published authors is to work on growing your cyber bookshelf. Most successful self-pubbers hit their stride with book number six or seven, unless they are very luck and catch the wave the first time out. It’s all about creating quality backlist and gaining a readership through social media and visibility. That takes time and consistent effort. 

With the release of Waning Moon and the next month of blog tour visits (you can follow along and find my upcoming appearances at the calendar page of my website or click on the Goddess Fish icon below), I’ll be back in promotion mode while trying to maintain some of that ever elusive balance we writers struggle with. The coming year will be much less aggressive in terms of production, so I think that will help.

I want to add that I’m sharing these numbers only to encourage other writers (or some might say depress them, depending on their expectations). If I compared my numbers with others, I might be a bit underwhelmed –I still can’t look at my hourly rate without cringing. But I also recognize that there are many Indie authors not selling nearly what I did, so I don’t compare. I’m simply grateful to be where I am…satisfied that I am on the right track.

Unlocked secret: We all measure success differently, take our own path to find our bliss, and set our own goals. To set goals, understand what you want and carve out a path to get you there. Just remember; keep your goals realistic, manageable, flexible, and measurable. They are after all, just a guideline.

How did you all do with your goals this year? Do you set ’em and forget ’em like the rotisserie? Or are you dogmatically holding onto them and not willing to be flexible? Have you found the balance with goal setting that allows you to reassess often and adjust as needed? I’d love to hear from you!