Don’t Make a New Year’s Resolution!

janav Creativity 0 Comments

Every year, we go through the same thing: we make resolutions about what we will do – exercise more, eat better, write every day… and that goes on for a few weeks, or a few months – and then the enthusiasm wanes, and we go back to our old habits.

One thing is for sure: resolutions don’t work. Resolving to take action isn’t enough. You have to have commitment, and to make a plan.

So, this weekend, after the festivities of New Year’s Eve are over, sit down and really think about what you want to accomplish creatively this year. It can help to take a big piece of paper, and draw your ideas, or just write them out, mind-map style. Then decide on your priorities. Not the ones you “should” do, but the ones that are a little scary, the ones you’re not sure you can accomplish. That’s where the energy is.

• Write them down. This can be on a big piece of paper, placed where you can see it regularly, or in a new journal, on the first page, where you can look back on them every day.

• Think about timeline: what is the end goal? Break it down into smaller pieces. What can you do in 9 months? 6 months? 3 months? This month? It’s helpful at this stage to keep to the big picture, but having a large goal broken down into smaller goals can help with the weekly and daily planning.

• As well as goals, think about rewards: How will you reward yourself at each stage? It’s important to choose things that will help motivate you. Don’t skip this step! When you’re in the middle of a long project, especially, it’s easy for motivation and energy to sink, leaving you wondering why you ever wanted to do this in the first place. The prospect of a reward can help keep you going when beating yourself up about lack of motivation or progress will just make you sink further.

• Finally, plan out your first week. What will you accomplish this week? What specific tiny steps will you take to make your goals a reality? If necessary, make it the tiniest possible step. Can you commit to five minutes per day? If your resistance is really strong, then maybe you have to take it in really tiny steps: the first day, just enter the room where you write. The second day, turn on the computer, or pull out a piece of paper and a pen. The third day, sit in the chair and pick them up. And so on. It may seem ridiculous, but tiny steps can circumvent the resistance very effectively. If it’s tiny enough that you can’t possibly not do it, it’s just right.

So, that’s what I will be doing this weekend. There is power in writing things down, in setting goals and intentions instead of just making resolutions. Look over what you accomplished (or didn’t) this year, and use that as motivation to help you plan your 2016. Make this the year you finally accomplish your Big Goal! If you’d like, share it in the comments. In the next entries, we’ll talk about the power of sharing and finding accountability partners.

A Different Kind of Creativity

janav Creativity 0 Comments

The past few weeks have been full of a different kind of creativity for me, and that’s all right. I’ve learned to embrace this time of year rather than fighting it, and stressing out over all the things I’m not getting done. I’ve baked seven different kinds of cookies and bars, I’m buying presents, wrapping them, going to parties, having dinner with friends… tonight is the first night in over two weeks that I haven’t had to be somewhere or do something to prepare for an event the next day. I still have some baking to do, some presents to buy and wrap, some people to get together with, but I’m able to take a breath now.

I enjoy this total focus on something else for a while… which perhaps goes against my earlier post about get something, anything, done, so you don’t lose the thread. Maybe it’s okay to lose the thread once in a while. Maybe it’s okay to let the brain be occupied by other things, to switch focus, and to come back refreshed, instead of feeling like you’ve been pushing a boulder uphill for too long. I want to write more at a later date about the need for creative habit and routine – showing up predictably so the Muse knows it’s time to work – and also the tension between that and the need for creative stimulation, to not get into a rut until everything feels stale and hollow. But for now, I encourage you, if you are feeling like even a little bit is too much, to just embrace this time of year, knowing that you’ll come back to the creative work when it’s time, and trust that nothing will be lost, and maybe much will be gained.

December Challenge: 5 Ways to Keep Your Writing Momentum During the Busiest Time of Year

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If you’re like me, you find this time of year particularly challenging in terms of keeping up with your creative goals and intentions. Looking at my schedule, I have events almost every night. And that’s not including the shopping, wrapping, baking, card writing, and all the other stuff that is fun but cuts down considerably on time normally spent writing or doing other creative pursuits. When I do get a few minutes to sit down and write, I am tired. And it takes longer to get going because my mind is filled with all the other things on the “to do” list. It’s hard to keep my mind on what my characters are doing when it’s more focused on whether I should bake Speculaas or Red Velvet Cupcakes for the next party I’m attending.

So, what can we do in the face of all the holiday madness?

Set Tiny Goals! Realize that there is, in fact, a lot going on right now, and it’s stuff you’re not going to want to miss. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up doing anything toward your creative goals! Maybe instead of 1,000 words a day, you write 500. Or instead of 5 days per week, you make it 3. The important thing is not to quit completely, or it will be hard to get going again after the new year.

Write Your Goals Down! Don’t just tell yourself “I’ll write tomorrow.” What will you do, exactly? At the beginning of each week, I create a table where I list all my main areas of focus for that week, and then for each day I put in what I plan to accomplish. Today it was “write blog post” (yaay me!). You can use a calendar, a vision board, an app, a notebook… whatever is easiest to use and most importantly, see on a daily basis.

Plan Ahead! Look realistically at the time you have, and write down when you will do what. Don’t assume you’ll “feel like it” when you have a moment. Deciding ahead of time that you’ll write at a specific time on a specific day makes it much more likely that you will actually do it.

Get Creative! Keeping your project fresh in your mind is important. It keeps momentum going, and allows your unconscious to keep working on it even when you can’t put in a big chunk of writing time. A 15-minute daily practice of doing something is better than nothing. Try journaling in your protagonist’s voice every day for a week. Mind-map the next scene. Write the words “what if…” on a piece of paper and let your mind (and pen) run free with your characters and situations. Remember to have fun with your writing and not just view it as another chore to be checked off your list!

Relax! Above all, don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t making as much progress as you thought you should. Allowing yourself a little slack now can leave you eager to get going again when the holidays are over, rather than feeling so burned out you can’t even face the page. Use this time to “fill the well” through being creative in other ways – choosing and wrapping gifts, cooking and baking, singing, etc. Enjoy all the things that only come around this time of year, without guilt for what you’re not accomplishing.

Welcome!

janav Uncategorized 0 Comments

Welcome to Set Your Muse on Fire! This is my first post, and I’m excited to finally bring everything I’ve been working on for the past few years to a wider audience.

I’m a writer and creative who has a passion for doing as well as dreaming. I spent so much time in my teens and twenties being excited about living what I imagined was the “real” writer’s life – but I spent more time imagining writing than actually, you know, writing. I was in love with the idea of writing, and being a writer, with no real idea what that meant.

In my thirties I got my M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and later I also became a certified Creativity Coach. Along the way, I learned lots of tricks and strategies for getting the writing done as opposed to dreaming about writing. I’ve hit every block out there, thought about giving it all up, but along the way I’ve managed to write two novels (and am working on a third). I love coaching people toward greater productivity (in whatever form their creativity takes) and teaching them the craft of writing as well.

So, what about you? Are you writing as often as you’d like? Are you feeling stuck, stagnant, wondering if your goals even make sense anymore? Or are you humming along, feeling your work sing, and can’t wait to get to the page every day? Drop a note in the comments and let me know!