Monday, November 21, 2011

Staying true to the goal.

After spending my last several blogs gushing (and hopefully not boring everyone) about my trip to Africa I decided to shift back to my seemingly endless journey as a writer. After reading Alison's great post about the book fair and the challenges of promoting her book, I found myself re-energized in my quest to publish my first full length novel.

In addition to teaching and training horses full time, as well as my own competitive career in Dressage, I have spent much of my writing career producing non-fiction articles (usually horse-related) and promotional materials for other companies. It has done a good job of paying the bills but distracts from my own personal quest to publish a novel. In past blogs I have solicited and received great advice on how to be more disciplined in the time I measure out to write "my stuff" and input on keeping the plot organized when having to take breaks from writing in order to make a living.

Like it seems for all of us, life and finding quiet time to write is an ongoing juggling act. I get that, but for me it also comes down to setting the right priorities. I am very guilty of being too available to my clients some times and not defining clear enough boundaries. I tend to spin my wheels trying to be all things to everyone rather than simply saying no once in a while. Well, today I started a new trend. I turned off my phone, locked my doors, turned on my head phones and wrote for 3 hours nearly uninterrupted; if you don't count the cat trying to sleep on my computer keys a couple of times. And I feel great for it!!!! For a long while now I have felt the need to make changes in my perspective. Maybe it is menopausal 50's or maybe just me finally growing up, but I have been feeling a sense or urgency to do the things, like Africa, and accomplish the goals, like my book and my new horse, that have been a part of my consciousness for so long.

Well I am turning the page (pun intended). I am not abandoning my job as a teacher and trainer, (I love it too much), and I am not going to completely stop my non-fiction pursuits, (bills have to get paid), but I am going to scale back significantly. Right or wrong, I put much of my personal life experiences and characters in my real life into my writing. One of my horse characters is very similar to a "problem-child colt" I had in training a few years ago and the adolescent girl in the story has a little bit of every teenage girl I have taught over the years. So becoming a hermit to just write would not work for me anyway and I think I would go a little stir crazy.

I have though, set out a schedule for myself of milestones I want to reach over the next 6 months. Do you think this is a good idea? What works for all of you to keep yourself on some sort of a deadline? I have always worked best under pressure which is really just a way of enabling my tendency to procrastinate. So, I am open to any and all suggestions.

On a separate note, this past weekend I took a big step toward to another big goal on my "bucket list" of sorts - compete at the FEI level in Dressage. Well Uiver, my new horse, and I competed Prix St. George (the first rung of FEI) this past weekend. We, or I should say I, made mistakes on my tempi changes, but we were fairly competitive in a big open class. I will have photos and more details on my next blog. In the meantime any words of advice to keep me on my schedule would be greatly appreciated!


Kelly (ridegroomfeed) said...

Wow! That's seriously impressive! I can't WAIT to hear about your PSG debut.

I think having milestones is an excellent idea. I need to sit down and break my project book into pieces so I have do-able chunks I can work towards too. Make time for yourself; you are important.

(Also, your posts about Africa never approached the realm of boring. They were a fascinating insight!)

Terri Rocovich said...

Kelly, Thank you so much for your comment and kinds words of encouragement. I like your idea of breaking things down into do-able pieces. I am so glad you liked my Africa posts, I actually have more for the future but wanted to change topics for a little while. The whole Africa experience was part of a major "growth" year for me and I am so glad to have a venue to share it.

I watched my video from my PSG tests last night and know what we need to work on. As you will see by his pictures on my next post, Uiver is kind, talented and willing so we just need get better timing on the tempis and our scores should go up. The way I look at it is that it is all good, even with mistake, boy am I having fun!

Laura Crum said...

Terri--I am so impressed by your achievements as a rider and trainer. Way to go! And I, too, loved the Africa posts. As for the writing, I would absolutely never have finished my last four books were it not for the deadline looming over me. I'm not sure if a self-imposed deadline would have worked for me, but I know for a fact that without a deadline of some sort, I would never have finished the books at all. In my own defense, I wrote my earlier books much more freely. It was only after book # 9 that I started to procrastinate endlessly. But I sure know that feeling.

jenj said...

Wow, PSG!!! I can only dream.

I can't offer much advice about writing except what I learned while doing my dissertation: set aside time every day to sit down and write. At least an hour, maybe two, and then DO IT. If you don't have the brain cells or inspiration to write new material, edit something you wrote a few days ago. I found that it was often hard to make myself sit down and get started (especially after a full day at the office), but once I got into it, I would have a hard time finding a "good spot" to quit! I also left notes for myself in the margins so that I would know where I left off and what my thoughts were at that time, so I could more easily pick up the next day.

Good luck, and I can't wait to read your new novel when it's published!

Unknown said...

Never allow yourself the excuse of not having time. If you want it bad enough you will make the time. That's my number one tip for writing a novel. :-) Over the summer with the kiddos home I got up at 5 am and wrote twenty pages before they got up. I have a friend who works full time and was getting up and writing between 4 and 6 am (can we say double ugh) to finish a book, but it was the only time she could do it. You find the time somewhere and you make it work. I love Fast Drafting because I know it isn't permanent. I can do the 5 am thing for two weeks even though I'm naturally a night owl.

On the procrastination thing, I believe most writers become experts at it. :-) I know I can look really busy when I'm not with a deadline looming.

Good luck with your novel (and the next one, and next one).

Terri Rocovich said...

Laura, I hope I can get to book number 9 someday. Now that is an amazing accomplishment! I think I need to train myself to be disciplined like I have a publisher deadline looming over me. Without that I think I will be 90 before I finish book number 1. Thank you so much for your encouragement on all fronts. I feel so blessed to have found Uiver and that we have clicked so well and so quickly.

Jenj, I am going to try your suggestion about making notes in the margins. I sometimes feel I spin my wheels re-examining material because I have forgotten where I was going the previous writing session. That is one of the things that makes picking up the next day seem overwhelming when I am pressed for time. Great suggestion! And a dissertation- now I'm impressed.

Terri Rocovich said...

Angela A/A Derek, you are so right about not allowing the excuses and I loved you comment about writers being experts at procrastinating, now I know why I am so good at it. I am a morning person and now that the weather has cooled down and I don't need to be getting horses out at first light, that is the best time for uninterrupted writing. Thank you for your advice.

Laura Crum said...

Terri--I second what jenj said. For me, I always quit in a place where I KNEW what I was going to do next--and I often made a note to remind myself. The other thing is I kept a very simple running outline--just a sentence or two under all proposed chapter headings saying what was going to happen in that chapter. By the end of the book, these sentences had been changed many, many times, but they still helped me keep track of where I needed to go next.

Alison said...

Terri, great post and I am glad I inspired you. Your post inspired ME, because despite writing a barnful of books, I have been procrastinating like CRAZY this semester all in the name of my students (not much different from your students although I am teaching grammar instead of leg aids.) And there is no excuse, which you have proven with three hours of writing. Keep on even though the holidays make even more procrastinating moments.

Terri Rocovich said...

Laura, thanks for the input on the running outline. I have one but have been feely self-concious about how much I have changed it. It is good to know that you have done the same thing.

Alison, here is to not letting our students enable our procrastinating. I am leaving for my sister's for Thanksgiving and have already packed my computer so I can write in the mornings before everyone else gets up.