The Things We Learn Along the Way — Part 1

Aside from the obvious lesson that I am terrible at blogging consistently, I think it will be useful to take a look back at each quarter of 2019 and reflect on the lessons that I learn along the way. Maybe you’ll find these lessons useful, too.

I’ve been using the SELF Journal from Best Self Co. for well over a year now. Basically, it’s a 90 day planner centered around goal setting. In each journal, you choose 3 goals to focus on for those 90 days and then break then down into manageable and measurable pieces (think SMART Goals). The planner features a three month calendar, a weekly breakdown to set goals and summarize progress for each of the 12 weeks, and daily pages to set your schedule and help you focus on what needs to get done that day.

 

Each day, there’s a spot to write down the lessons that were learned. I haven’t been using this slot as well as I should have, and I haven’t been looking back on my past journals once I’ve completed them. So for 2019, I’m going to be better about looking back in order to reflect and move forward with greater confidence.

So what did I learn in 2019 Q1? Here’s the list and my present reactions in purple:

  • 1.7: Stanford is not an Ivy League school. Oh, the things I learn at trivia on Monday nights! Now I know the ivy only grows on the east coast. 
  • 1.8: I’m really relying on that OTBeat screen. The board was down at Orangetheory that night and I kept looking at the blank screen way too much!
  • 1.9: Freeze under “View” in excel to fix that first row. Excel hacks FTW!
    You don’t always need permission. I find myself waiting for a go ahead way too often. I am an adult and I don’t need to wait for permission on everything.
  • 1.10: Can’t win ’em all. I have no idea what this was about, but ain’t that the truth. 
  • 1.14: Just defriend the dude, even though it’s the douchey thing to do. Make Facebook great again! I did some defriending and unfollowing for a chance at inner peace. 
  • 1.15: Instagram must think I’m fragile. I don’t remember what this was about! Eeep!
    Anything will get stale after a while. Too true. Gotta keep things fresh and interesting! I’ve realized that I get bored quickly with certain areas of my life.
  • 1.17: Should have gotten the library card sooner! Getting that card was the best thing I did in January.
  • 2.4: If something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Murphy’s Law. Duh. 
  • 2.5: Gallery view is only available on a local recording, not a cloud recording. Zoom webinar learnings! 
  • 3.5: Sometimes you get way less, even when there’s more. Grrr. No comment. 
  • 3.6: I’m rowing just fine. I asked my coach at OTF to check my rowing form and was assured I am doing it right. Phew!
  • 3.12: I shouldn’t get stressed out about not having innovative ideas. I can help in brainstorms and bouncing ideas with a group can help get me there. I feel so pressured to always have the best, newest, and freshest ideas at work. But I’m much better at building off a brainstorm session with other people. And I’ve decided that is just fine! 
  • 3.13: Sometimes you have to jump through the hoops, even when you don’t want to. Grrr. No comment. 
  • 3.27: I do already know this SEO stuff. Yup. I do. *hair flip*

My biggest takeaways from the first 3 months of 2019 are that I need to be better about recording the lessons that I’m learning, and I need to focus on my writing WAY more than I have been since the start of the year.

We’re already closing out the 11th days of April and I still haven’t set my goals for the second quarter. After reviewing this list, I know what my first goal is:

I will treat my writing like it’s a career, not just a hobby. 

What’s are your goals for the next quarter? What did you learn so far in 2019? I’d love to know!

❤ always,
Laura Patrice

 

The Mind, Body, Writing Connection

And just like that, it’s the middle of January and a whole month and a half has raced by since I last posted. Shame. Shame. Shame.

It’s hard to remember December at this point, but if I recall correctly, I spent much of the month feeling pretty low. Admittedly, that’s been pretty par for the course in my world. But with the extra chaos December brings, I wasn’t writing nearly as much as I would have liked, the break room at work was a minefield of Christmas treats, and my anxiety was through the roof. By the time January rolled around, I was so happy to say goodbye to the holidays that I welcomed back the normal work week with open arms.

Since 2019 has started, I’ve come to the realization that I thrive on structure. And I’ve been very careful about keeping myself to a consistent schedule, setting goals that I chip away at each week, and taking steps to reduce my anxiety. I write every day and I set word count goals. I’m vigilant about picking up and always doing the dishes right away, because that just makes me feel better in my space. I ruthlessly unfollow anyone who constantly posts political stuff on social media (especially stuff I don’t agree with — sorry, not sorry) because Facebook was making me feel even more like garbage than usual. I very recently started tracking my food. And most importantly, I’ve riding high off of the incredible mental health benefits I’ve been getting from Orangetheory Fitness (OTF).

Even though December felt like a dark slog, there was a little pinprick of orange light that came into my life. Orangetheory Fitness Wauwatosa officially opened at the beginning of December. A high school friend raved to me about OTF in the past, and I was starting to think about checking it out at the beginning of November. And as we all know, as soon as we have a thought about spending money on something, a Facebook ad will appear that speaks to that product. I guess social media can be good for something. In my case, an ad for a new OTF studio near my apartment popped up in my feed. I completed an interest form out of curiosity. Props to the team over there, because I got a call, text, and email within a day and in no time I found myself at the studio joining as a Founding Member at the Elite level, paying for 8 classes a month. This was all during the first week of November.

Cut to my first VIP class that first weekend of December. As I was squeezing myself back into my workout clothes, I questioned my choice. What was I doing? Was I going to be able to handle the workout? Was I going to look ridiculous? Was I going to hate it? As someone who used to run marathons, albeit slowly, starting a new workout regimen is a painful reminder of how far I’ve fallen after I burned out on running. Since I moved back to Milwaukee in June 2013, I’ve gained 75 pounds and for the life of me I can’t seem to get that weight to budge. Simply put, it sucks feeling and looking terrible all the time. With all of this in my head, I rolled up to the new studio and had my first workout.

After my first couple of VIP classes, I was feeling pretty good. I ended up bumping my membership to the Premier level for unlimited classes while the studio was still offering reduced prices prior to the grand opening. At first, I was a little weary about going for the unlimited package. I’ve done that before with yoga and other memberships and ended up wasting money by not making the most of it. The pressure to attend would literally stress me out so much that I wouldn’t go. Stupid? Yes. But that’s how it went.

December pressed on. I think I was going to about three classes a week for most of the month. My friend asked if I was obsessed yet at some point in the last couple of weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve. I said that I was enjoying it, but that most of the time I didn’t want to go, but since I always felt better after, I had enough motivation to stick with it.

On New Year’s Day, after getting home from a lovely time with good friends in Indiana, I had a little meltdown about finances. Oh hi, anxiety! I started looking for things that I could drop to help with my budget. My first OTF workout of the year was the very next day. As I was driving to the studio, I questioned whether bumping up to Premier was the right choice. If I dropped back down to Elite, I’d be saving $50 a month. I made a bargain with myself that I’d wait until February and then cut back.

When I left class that night, I felt so much better. The tears and heart palpitations of the previous night felt far away. I went to classes on Saturday and Sunday the following weekend. And just like that, I was completely hooked. I was able to tell my friend, “Yes, I’m obsessed!” I owe her so much for being a cheerleader for OTF and for me. It did take a month to get there, but the first week of January made me a believer. The coaches are awesome and make you feel like you matter. I finally started getting out of my head and push myself every class. I actually look forward to going, and the hour goes by too fast! I always want to stay and keep burning those calories. I have NEVER been able to say that about any class or workout I have ever done in my life.

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My highest calorie burn to date. I look to beat this every class. You can read about heart rate zones here.

Looking forward, I have no plans to drop Premier for the foreseeable future. Being a member at OTF has already been worth every penny for the mental health benefits alone. I have no doubt the weight loss and fitness level improvements will come (I’m already getting a little faster on the treadmill), but it did take five and a half years to sink to a new low in this body, so it’s going to take some time to claw my way back. I’m not going to give up.

So … what does all of this have to do with writing? Well, to put it bluntly, now that I don’t feel like shit all the time, I’m excited to sit down and write after a workout (and after a shower and a meal). I have more energy. I feel more optimistic about my works in progress (WIPs). I’m still struggling to resist the urge to go back and edit, rather than writing forward, but I’m working hard to get myself to a completed first draft. I’m aiming for March 30 with my latest WIP.

The Write Touch Conference starts on April 5th and I have a lot to do before then. I owe a query letter and the first five pages of my WIP for the critique with an agent that I paid for. I have another entry for the Fab Five contest to polish up. And I have lots of reading to do in the meantime. Good thing I’m in a better place mentally and physically to handle it all.

Now I just have to work on getting enough sleep…. 🙂

❤ always,
Laura Patrice

Starting New … Again

There’s something so enticing about a fresh start, isn’t there?

When it comes to writing, I love getting started on a new project. An idea will capture my imagination and I’ll race to my computer and open up a new project in Scrivener and I’ll let the momentum from the novelty of the “new” carry me as far as it can. But eventually, the wind will go out of the sails a bit. The “new” can’t stay new forever. I get mired in the middle and often, I don’t reach the end.

Problem.

There is nothing I want more than to traditionally publish a novel. And then many, many more after that. But to even consider publishing a novel, I’m probably going to have to finish the first draft. Seems logical, but I know I’m not the only writer who suffers from this problem.

Specifically, I have an issue with editing the hell out the first part of any work in progress (WIP). November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for those of you in the know, or not). In a nutshell, NaNo throws down the challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. I won NaNo once, in 2011, and putting it bluntly, that work was total garbage. It might be why I’ve been NaNo averse for so many years since.

I wasn’t going to do NaNo this year. I have a paranormal romance WIP (basically it’s just set in the future — no sparkly vampires here) that I’ve been working on since the middle of the summer. I’ve basically been pantsing the entire thing — writing myself into dead ends, deciding I wanted to write romance and trying to shoehorn the original idea into a romance structure, and rewriting the beginning over and over and over again. I’m pretty sure my Thursday Roundtable folks at Red Oak Writing have heard several scenes multiple times with different revisions. In short, it’s a bit of a mess. And don’t even ask me to explain it. I can’t without difficulty.

An so, the allure of a new idea took me. “I should write contemporary romance,” I said to myself. Thanks to my full-time gig working at a media company, I starting thinking about how I could brand myself and about how my idea to write “No Coast Romance” would lend itself well to blog and social posts and multiple ongoing romance series. By “No Coast”, I mean stories based in the midwest, because unlike the east and west coasts, we don’t have a coast. Get it? Please say you get it. Anyway …. Long story short, I’m starting new … again. It’s November, after all, a time for aspiring authors to start fresh, like dieters on New Year’s Day.

After my writing roundtable on November 15, I went home, outlined a new story, drew up character sketches, and opened the new project in Scrivener. This one actually has a title — In Tandem — that I think I’m going to stick with. So unheard of — for me, at least. Almost as unheard of as me doing any outlining before diving in. The fact that I even took these very important steps this time around shows some evolution in my writing process.

The next day, I got my project into NaNo with a whole, legitimate blurb and everything! If anyone is doing NaNo and wants to be my buddy, my username is Laura Patrice,  because even back in 2011 I had the foresight to start writing and banding myself under my first and middle names. As of 11:59 p.m. on November 21, I’m at 15,082 words. Not too shabby for officially starting to write on November 16.

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The odds aren’t in my favor to finish all 50,000 words by the end of November. And for what I’m writing, a full story will fall somewhere between the 60,000 and 85,000 mark. I’m going to try my damndest, however, to win NaNo, because I’m bad with numbers and I love pinning hope on unrealistic odds. But in all seriousness, what I’m choosing to take from NaNo this time around is that pressure to keep moving forward, to get that word count, to write that full story. Will I go back and polish things up as I push forward? You betcha! But I’m holding off on the more serious edits and restructuring until I go in for the real, legitimate revision of the real, legitimate manuscript.

I’ve been taking some concrete steps to make the dream of publishing a real, achievable goal. Approaching this new WIP with the same urgency I feel when I’m actually participating in NaNoWriMo is just one of those steps. I’ll be chronicling the others in future posts, because in addition to writing novels, authors — and aspiring authors like me — have to keep up a website. Good thing I work in digital media. +1

So, world, I’m starting fresh. Hear me roar and etc. Writing career, here I come!

Here’s to new starts that actually lead to endings.

♥ always,
Laura Patrice