Setting Goals for Solitary Souls

We are so excited to welcome our newest contributor, Crystal Liechty!

This week, I made a vision board. It’s my first time undertaking such an endeavor and I felt a little silly the whole time. But I have several friends who highly recommend this process for goal setting so I decided to go for it.

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For those who don’t know, a vision board is when you find pictures or keywords for goals you have (a pile of money for more income; or a place you want to travel to; a new bookshelf, etc) and you arrange them on a poster, then hang it somewhere you will see it every day. The hippies say this shows the universe your intention and calls forth these things to manifest in your life. I just think it’s a good way to help you focus on what you want so you don’t get distracted by squirrels or Netflix marathons.

As I considered my goals and gathered pictures to represent them, it got me thinking. Goal setting is kind of a lonely process. I’m a very social person, so I feel the sting sharply. Here is my goal, I tell everyone, participate in it with me! But you can’t because my goals aren’t your goals. You can cheer me on and in fact, having cheerleaders in your life is very important. But you can’t set the goal for me. You can’t want the goal for me and you definitely can’t achieve the goal for me.

See what I mean? Lonely.

I recently read a study that said people who declare their goals to their community, via Facebook or whatever, actually fail at accomplishing those goals more often than people who don’t announce them. I was surprised by this because in my mind, announcing goals to those around you would make you more accountable, wouldn’t it? But that’s not the reality. Once you shout out your goal and get all the “huzzahs!” and “you can do it!”, what’s the point after that?

Maybe goals are supposed to be lonely, solitary things.

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Guess what is also a very lonely undertaking? Writing. And to write, you have to set goals. Lots of goals. And then some more goals if you accomplished the first goals. (Someone keep track of how many times I use the word “goal” in this blog.)

If you’re an introvert, this prospect is probably less terrifying to you. I’m an social vampire, feeding off conversations, Facebook likes and retweets. Perhaps that’s why I constantly find myself in a goal whirlpool, struggling to know what I want to do next. Struggling even more to get myself to do it.

But fear not, my fellow social butterflies! I have found a few tricks to escape the desolate wasteland that is writerly goals. One is writing communities. I love my various online writing groups, where people ask writing questions or seek life advice and just in general, human together. Accountability partners are another way to lessen the loneliness. I have a great one who checks in with me daily and makes me feel like someone out there sincerely cares if I write 1,000 words today.

Writing conferences are an extrovert writer’s holy land. I’m never more inspired or fired up than after a good writers conference. They can fuel me for months and I probably get more done immediately after a writers conference than any other time of the year.

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Only time will tell if my vision board helps me. Only practice will help me learn to set and follow through on my goals despite the loneliness. Only good friends will keep me sane through it all.

How do you  handle the loneliness of goals?

Writing Stress? Try Visualization

Have you ever experienced writing stress? Writing stress occurs when the pressure of having to produce so many words a day builds to incapacitating levels. Sometimes writing halts to a standstill, which only exacerbates the stress. Writing stress has the effect of pulling in negative energy, which in turn decreases your enjoyment in writing, which then pulls in more negative energy. Some may call the result of this snowball effect a “block,” but I personally don’t like this term because it provides an image of a solid barrier that you have to leap over or squeeze around to bypass. Instead, there may be better ways to remove that barrier once and for all. 

When you find yourself in that negative cycle, yes, by all means take a break. But you can do it in a way that can harness some positive energy to help you more directly with your writing. 

Darci Cole had an excellent post last week about writing exercises that help keep your writing mind sharp. The following is a visualization exercise that I’ve adapted for writers who are down in the proverbial pit of despair and can’t envision a way out. I have a close friend who had a bona fide nervous breakdown because of an impending deadline, and after several counseling visits, she tried this visualization technique with success.

Visualization techniques may be used to harness positive energy to achieve your goals. They also help with your overall sense of well-being. These techniques are are sometimes called controlled/directed visualization or receptive visualization.

What you need:

  • A quiet, comfortable place
  • A block of uninterrupted time (20-30 minutes)
  • Ambient music or a writing playlist (whatever you choose, it shouldn’t be distracting but used to set the mood).

How to visualize:

  1. Select a single scene in your MS that you want to work on.
  2. Lie back, close your eyes, and breathe. Spend a few minutes listening to the ambient sounds or music.
  3. Imagine the physical scene unfolding in front of your mind’s eye first. Imagine the details as though you were there. What are your physical surroundings? Can you feel textures and pick up smells? Are there cues that you can use to pinpoint the time of day? Is it warm or cold? etc.
  4. Add your characters to the scene, but don’t let them run amuck in their physical surroundings — you are the silent director of this scene. If you’re writing from first-person, focus on the character who owns the POV in this scene. If not, view it as though you are watching a movie. Pay attention to how your character(s) is/are oriented within the scene. How are they interacting with their physical surroundings?  Listen to their trains of thought. Hear their dialogue. See if you can carry out the scene all the way through. This may take more than one sitting, but that’s okay! If you can vividly imagine any portion of your scene, you are doing great 🙂
  5. Don’t forget to breathe. Relax but stay focused. You got this.

After you’re done with the visualization, try sitting down and drafting some of what you just visualized. First focus on the aspects of the scene that were most vivid and real to you. Maybe it’s the scenery, or it could be the dialogue. Maybe it’s the thought process of your character. Whatever is most vivid and real in your head will probably be easiest to draft first.

Keep breathing and feel the positive energy and words flow. You can do it!

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Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. Find out more about Helen at www.helenboswell.com.