Intentions for the New Year

janav Creativity, Productivity, Try This, Writing Leave a Comment

After the hectic pace of the holiday season, the week before New Year’s Day - the last week of the year - can be a time of reflection and intention-setting for the upcoming year. Notice I said intention-setting, and not goal-setting. Our productivity may have faltered over the past few weeks. I know my writing time has been impacted by baking, shopping, wrapping presents, attending parties, etc. All this is good and fun! A break in the routine can be healthy, in fact (regardless of how actually healthy we’ve been…).

However, sometimes it can be hard to get back into the routine. Setting specific intentions and making a commitment ahead of time can help us get back on track faster, and start out the New Year strong.

Here are a few suggestions to help:

  • First, reflect on the past year. What were your goals and intentions? Did you meet them? What can you appreciate about your efforts? What do you wish you had done more of? You may want to write about this in your journal.

  • It’s fine to set overall goals (“I will finish my novel by the end of the year.”) but if you want to meet them, specific intentions are much better than vague resolutions. For example, “I will write 500 words a day, five days per week.”

  • In that vein, think about what’s doable for you. Set your initial intention as low as you need to for it to actually happen. “I will spend 15 minutes per day on my writing” will get you started. You can add time, or number of words, later, when you have re-established a routine.

  • Write it down. Don’t just say it in your head. Write it in your journal, or on a big piece of paper you see every day. Tell a friend. Maybe commit to regular check-ins with that friend, to help keep you going when things get tough.

Do these things, and when the New Year starts, you’ll be ready to go. If you’d like, share your intentions with us in the comments! Or, share your accomplishments from this past year. My intention: to write 800 words per day. Gotta push through and finish the next draft of my novel!

Gift Ideas for Writers and Creatives

janav Creativity, Friday Favorites, Resources, Writing Leave a Comment

After the hectic pace of the holiday season, the week before New Year’s Day - the last week of the year - can be a time of reflection and intention-setting for the upcoming year. Notice I said intention-setting, and not goal-setting. Our productivity may have faltered over the past few weeks. I know my writing time has been impacted by baking, shopping, wrapping presents, attending parties, etc. All this is good and fun! A break in the routine can be healthy, in fact (regardless of how actually healthy we’ve been…).

However, sometimes it can be hard to get back into the routine. Setting specific intentions and making a commitment ahead of time can help us get back on track faster, and start out the New Year strong.

Here are a few suggestions to help:

  • First, reflect on the past year. What were your goals and intentions? Did you meet them? What can you appreciate about your efforts? What do you wish you had done more of? You may want to write about this in your journal.

  • It’s fine to set overall goals (“I will finish my novel by the end of the year.”) but if you want to meet them, specific intentions are much better than vague resolutions. For example, “I will write 500 words a day, five days per week.”

  • In that vein, think about what’s doable for you. Set your initial intention as low as you need to for it to actually happen. “I will spend 15 minutes per day on my writing” will get you started. You can add time, or number of words, later, when you have re-established a routine.

  • Write it down. Don’t just say it in your head. Write it in your journal, or on a big piece of paper you see every day. Tell a friend. Maybe commit to regular check-ins with that friend, to help keep you going when things get tough.

Do these things, and when the New Year starts, you’ll be ready to go. If you’d like, share your intentions with us in the comments! Or, share your accomplishments from this past year. My intention: to write 800 words per day. Gotta push through and finish the next draft of my novel!

Creativity, Gratitude, and Abundance

janav Creativity, Writing Leave a Comment

After the hectic pace of the holiday season, the week before New Year’s Day - the last week of the year - can be a time of reflection and intention-setting for the upcoming year. Notice I said intention-setting, and not goal-setting. Our productivity may have faltered over the past few weeks. I know my writing time has been impacted by baking, shopping, wrapping presents, attending parties, etc. All this is good and fun! A break in the routine can be healthy, in fact (regardless of how actually healthy we’ve been…).

However, sometimes it can be hard to get back into the routine. Setting specific intentions and making a commitment ahead of time can help us get back on track faster, and start out the New Year strong.

Here are a few suggestions to help:

  • First, reflect on the past year. What were your goals and intentions? Did you meet them? What can you appreciate about your efforts? What do you wish you had done more of? You may want to write about this in your journal.

  • It’s fine to set overall goals (“I will finish my novel by the end of the year.”) but if you want to meet them, specific intentions are much better than vague resolutions. For example, “I will write 500 words a day, five days per week.”

  • In that vein, think about what’s doable for you. Set your initial intention as low as you need to for it to actually happen. “I will spend 15 minutes per day on my writing” will get you started. You can add time, or number of words, later, when you have re-established a routine.

  • Write it down. Don’t just say it in your head. Write it in your journal, or on a big piece of paper you see every day. Tell a friend. Maybe commit to regular check-ins with that friend, to help keep you going when things get tough.

Do these things, and when the New Year starts, you’ll be ready to go. If you’d like, share your intentions with us in the comments! Or, share your accomplishments from this past year. My intention: to write 800 words per day. Gotta push through and finish the next draft of my novel!

Friday Favorites: Interviews That Inspire

janav Creativity, Friday Favorites, Writing Leave a Comment

After the hectic pace of the holiday season, the week before New Year’s Day - the last week of the year - can be a time of reflection and intention-setting for the upcoming year. Notice I said intention-setting, and not goal-setting. Our productivity may have faltered over the past few weeks. I know my writing time has been impacted by baking, shopping, wrapping presents, attending parties, etc. All this is good and fun! A break in the routine can be healthy, in fact (regardless of how actually healthy we’ve been…).

However, sometimes it can be hard to get back into the routine. Setting specific intentions and making a commitment ahead of time can help us get back on track faster, and start out the New Year strong.

Here are a few suggestions to help:

  • First, reflect on the past year. What were your goals and intentions? Did you meet them? What can you appreciate about your efforts? What do you wish you had done more of? You may want to write about this in your journal.

  • It’s fine to set overall goals (“I will finish my novel by the end of the year.”) but if you want to meet them, specific intentions are much better than vague resolutions. For example, “I will write 500 words a day, five days per week.”

  • In that vein, think about what’s doable for you. Set your initial intention as low as you need to for it to actually happen. “I will spend 15 minutes per day on my writing” will get you started. You can add time, or number of words, later, when you have re-established a routine.

  • Write it down. Don’t just say it in your head. Write it in your journal, or on a big piece of paper you see every day. Tell a friend. Maybe commit to regular check-ins with that friend, to help keep you going when things get tough.

Do these things, and when the New Year starts, you’ll be ready to go. If you’d like, share your intentions with us in the comments! Or, share your accomplishments from this past year. My intention: to write 800 words per day. Gotta push through and finish the next draft of my novel!

The Long Game of Overnight Success

janav Creativity, Productivity, Writing Leave a Comment

After the hectic pace of the holiday season, the week before New Year’s Day - the last week of the year - can be a time of reflection and intention-setting for the upcoming year. Notice I said intention-setting, and not goal-setting. Our productivity may have faltered over the past few weeks. I know my writing time has been impacted by baking, shopping, wrapping presents, attending parties, etc. All this is good and fun! A break in the routine can be healthy, in fact (regardless of how actually healthy we’ve been…).

However, sometimes it can be hard to get back into the routine. Setting specific intentions and making a commitment ahead of time can help us get back on track faster, and start out the New Year strong.

Here are a few suggestions to help:

  • First, reflect on the past year. What were your goals and intentions? Did you meet them? What can you appreciate about your efforts? What do you wish you had done more of? You may want to write about this in your journal.

  • It’s fine to set overall goals (“I will finish my novel by the end of the year.”) but if you want to meet them, specific intentions are much better than vague resolutions. For example, “I will write 500 words a day, five days per week.”

  • In that vein, think about what’s doable for you. Set your initial intention as low as you need to for it to actually happen. “I will spend 15 minutes per day on my writing” will get you started. You can add time, or number of words, later, when you have re-established a routine.

  • Write it down. Don’t just say it in your head. Write it in your journal, or on a big piece of paper you see every day. Tell a friend. Maybe commit to regular check-ins with that friend, to help keep you going when things get tough.

Do these things, and when the New Year starts, you’ll be ready to go. If you’d like, share your intentions with us in the comments! Or, share your accomplishments from this past year. My intention: to write 800 words per day. Gotta push through and finish the next draft of my novel!

Mental Mastery: The Art of Dealing With No

janav Creativity, Productivity, Writing Leave a Comment

After the hectic pace of the holiday season, the week before New Year’s Day - the last week of the year - can be a time of reflection and intention-setting for the upcoming year. Notice I said intention-setting, and not goal-setting. Our productivity may have faltered over the past few weeks. I know my writing time has been impacted by baking, shopping, wrapping presents, attending parties, etc. All this is good and fun! A break in the routine can be healthy, in fact (regardless of how actually healthy we’ve been…).

However, sometimes it can be hard to get back into the routine. Setting specific intentions and making a commitment ahead of time can help us get back on track faster, and start out the New Year strong.

Here are a few suggestions to help:

  • First, reflect on the past year. What were your goals and intentions? Did you meet them? What can you appreciate about your efforts? What do you wish you had done more of? You may want to write about this in your journal.

  • It’s fine to set overall goals (“I will finish my novel by the end of the year.”) but if you want to meet them, specific intentions are much better than vague resolutions. For example, “I will write 500 words a day, five days per week.”

  • In that vein, think about what’s doable for you. Set your initial intention as low as you need to for it to actually happen. “I will spend 15 minutes per day on my writing” will get you started. You can add time, or number of words, later, when you have re-established a routine.

  • Write it down. Don’t just say it in your head. Write it in your journal, or on a big piece of paper you see every day. Tell a friend. Maybe commit to regular check-ins with that friend, to help keep you going when things get tough.

Do these things, and when the New Year starts, you’ll be ready to go. If you’d like, share your intentions with us in the comments! Or, share your accomplishments from this past year. My intention: to write 800 words per day. Gotta push through and finish the next draft of my novel!

Do You Spend Your Time Mindfully?

janav Creativity, Productivity, Time Management, Writing Leave a Comment

After the hectic pace of the holiday season, the week before New Year’s Day - the last week of the year - can be a time of reflection and intention-setting for the upcoming year. Notice I said intention-setting, and not goal-setting. Our productivity may have faltered over the past few weeks. I know my writing time has been impacted by baking, shopping, wrapping presents, attending parties, etc. All this is good and fun! A break in the routine can be healthy, in fact (regardless of how actually healthy we’ve been…).

However, sometimes it can be hard to get back into the routine. Setting specific intentions and making a commitment ahead of time can help us get back on track faster, and start out the New Year strong.

Here are a few suggestions to help:

  • First, reflect on the past year. What were your goals and intentions? Did you meet them? What can you appreciate about your efforts? What do you wish you had done more of? You may want to write about this in your journal.

  • It’s fine to set overall goals (“I will finish my novel by the end of the year.”) but if you want to meet them, specific intentions are much better than vague resolutions. For example, “I will write 500 words a day, five days per week.”

  • In that vein, think about what’s doable for you. Set your initial intention as low as you need to for it to actually happen. “I will spend 15 minutes per day on my writing” will get you started. You can add time, or number of words, later, when you have re-established a routine.

  • Write it down. Don’t just say it in your head. Write it in your journal, or on a big piece of paper you see every day. Tell a friend. Maybe commit to regular check-ins with that friend, to help keep you going when things get tough.

Do these things, and when the New Year starts, you’ll be ready to go. If you’d like, share your intentions with us in the comments! Or, share your accomplishments from this past year. My intention: to write 800 words per day. Gotta push through and finish the next draft of my novel!

Try This: A Week Without Technology

janav Creativity, Productivity, Time Management, Try This, Writing Leave a Comment

In Week 4: Recovering a Sense of Integrity in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, she asks people to refrain from reading for one week. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, and I find most people who come to that task of that chapter don’t try very hard, or at all, to do it.

However, reading this article in The Guardian: “‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia,” made me think again about the power of technology and social media in our lives, and how ubiquitous – and addictive – it is.

When Julia Cameron originally wrote The Artist’s Way, the internet as we know it didn’t exist. Social media didn’t exist. Smartphones (cell phones) didn’t exist. Sure, there were computer and video games, but they didn’t exist in the amount or quality they do now. In other words, we operated in a world of fewer distractions based on instant gratification and ultra-connectivity. Plenty of people have written about the Age of Distraction and what it might be doing to our brains, our intelligence, and our creativity (I wrote about it back in July) but I imagine most of us nod, sigh, and click to the next thing. What are you gonna do?

Well, in the spirit of Julia, I’m going to propose A Week Without Technology. Well, within some guidelines: you can use a computer if you need it to work a paid job, and you only use it for the designated tasks of that job. You can use a cell phone if you don’t have a landline, or if you only use it for a specific call/text connection (i.e. to set up a time to meet someone). That’s it. If you’re a writer, write longhand, using pen and paper. (Yep, even if you’re editing. Just try it.) No social media, no email not directly related to your paid employment, no web surfing or blog-checking, no video games (not even computer solitaire). If you read, try making it an actual printed book. Do whatever you have to do to make it happen, using whatever blocking apps you need to. If you can shut your home computer down and put it out of sight, do so. Same with your cell phone, your IPad, or other devices that lure you into the endless time-wasting, addictive labyrinth.

Journal about how you feel. Is it difficult? In what ways, specifically? What are you doing instead? Do you suddenly have more time on your hands? Do you have more energy? More anxiety, or less? How do you feel, physically and mentally? Most importantly, did you spend more time on your writing, or other creative pursuits?

Remember this isn’t a punishment, it’s an experiment: how addicted are you? How many hours do you typically spend on devices? It’s only a week: can you get through it? What changes might you decide to make in your life? Join me, Monday Oct. 9 through Sunday Oct. 15. I’ll write my notes in my journal, and post them here when we’re done. I’ve done this before, but only in places where I didn’t have internet access or cell service. When I got back home, I always jumped right back into my old habits. This time I want to be more mindful of technology’s impact on my everyday life – especially my creative life. If you want to join me, let me know in the comments or at jana(at)janavanderveer(dot)com!

Writing From the Heart

janav Creativity, Writing Leave a Comment

First of all, apologies for the long hiatus – I was moving my mother, and that meant also having to clean out all of her stuff and sort it into donations, storage, sell, or move. I’m pretty ruthless and unsentimental about “stuff,” my own or anyone else’s, which is a good thing since it all had to be cleared within the month. Add this to the start of the semester with classes, events, etc. and September was a very full month indeed. There is still a lot to be done – it looks like a moving truck exploded in my house right now – but mom is settled in her new place and we’re slowly taking care of all the other hundred details.

To be honest, writing hasn’t been on my top list of priorities this month either. I’ve managed to do a little by spending 15-30 minutes per day on it, just to keep my head in the story. It’s yet another rewrite of a book I thought was done. I like the new angle, but we’ll see if it is really better than the old one.

As I’m engaged in this rewrite, I found this article by my friend and mentor, David Elliott*. He is definitely a writer who writes from the heart (as well as the funny bone) and I love and admire his work. He is a children’s book writer who thinks of the children first, not the adults who give awards or review books, and yet his books have won awards and garnered much critical praise. I wanted to link it here since what he says is so important. Especially when we’re just starting out, we can be tempted to write “to the market.” What’s hot? What’s trending? What do agents and editors want, anyway? On the one hand, marketplace considerations are real. On the other hand, we have to write the stories we feel passionately about telling. We have to find the story that doesn’t let us go, that speaks to us (and hopefully our readers) in an irresistible siren’s voice. I love that kid in the article who knows to ask the important question, who isn’t afraid to ask, even when he doesn’t get a satisfactory response. Like David, I hope that kid grows up and never loses that curiosity or sense of what’s really important. And we should all ask ourselves, when we’re working on a project, Am I writing from the heart? And be open to hear the answer, and to letting those stories that come from the heart flow through us onto the page.

*For more about David and his books, check out: https://www.davidelliottbooks.com/

You’ve Got to Move It, Move It

janav Creativity, Writing Leave a Comment

I spent last weekend at the Barrowman Writing workshop, which was a ton of fun and different from other workshops I’ve attended. I wanted to do something fun, to step away from post-MFA seriousness and agent/editor pitch workshops where I get ten conflicting opinions on my work and a lot of “I really like it, but…” (I’m not going to take it). That is a part of being a writer, but this weekend reminded me that taking writing seriously doesn’t have to be a slog of: draft, edit, submission, rejection, repeat.

About all I did know of it was that it probably would be fun, with John and Carole Barrowman involved. The workshop was small – only 16 of us – so I felt very fortunate to end up with a group of people who were both fun to hang out with, and good writers (and yes, I realize I’m using the word fun a lot here – where’s my thesaurus? – but hey, sometimes the description fits, so let’s wear it).

As hard as we worked on our writing (and Carole had a ton of energy, and many challenging and yes, fun exercises for us), the intensive workshop sessions were interspersed with John doing more theater-game exercises (and if anyone has seen John on a panel or in an interview, yes, they were as silly and crazy as you’d expect). They enabled us to rev up our energy before and between sessions, and just take ourselves a little less seriously.*

They also reminded me how necessary it is to integrate intense mental activity with movement. When we’re writing, it’s easy to get caught up in our heads. At some conferences I’ve been to, where craft sessions and panels and keynotes follow each other bam bam bam with hardly a break in between, I’ve ended up exhausted at the end of the day, brain overflowing, and hardly able to integrate all I’ve learned (or even remember what sessions I attended).

Making time to be silly and move around allowed me to refocus. Just when I was feeling tired and tapped out, we’d do something completely different. Most writers I know are serious about their writing. The mantra is: Butt in chair. Write every day. Do the work. And yes, if you’re going to improve as a writer, if you’re going to have a body of work, you need to sit down and write on a regular basis. But we also need to remember to have fun, and that simply moving the body can work miracles on inspiration and motivation.

While I’m not likely run run around shouting “3 knees!” (You need at least two people) or “4 Shoulders!” (ditto), or my favorite from John – no, probably a little too naughty for a blog… I will remember that creativity is a whole-body concept, and that it’s healthier for mind and body to work in some movement and play between writing sessions.

Take a walk, dance around the living room, take a bike ride or shoot some hoops – or do the hokey pokey, if that’s what you’re all about. It clears the cobwebs, gives you energy, and when you come back to your desk, that scene or line that seemed to be so hopelessly stuck might just wiggle loose. And let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to write for the fame and wealth. We don’t have to wait for an Artist Date to let our inner creative child play. We might as well have fun, or why do it at all?

*We also spent time drinking, and swimming, and dancing, and eating. So yes, fun, in between panicked bouts of omg what am I going to read aloud in front of people on Sunday?