Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I finished my revised draft!!! Here is a big section to check out!

I'm so freakin' excited I can barely stand it! Just minutes ago I sent my fully revised draft to the editor. I'm late for publication this December publication but REALLY EARLY for January. Good stuff!

Look, a turtle! Also, my booty.
I'm feeling exceptionally grateful and lucky. Last week I took a soul cleaning vacation with my sister, my sister's husband and Miss Keri.

I brought my laptop with every intention of working on the draft while I was out there starting with using the uninterrupted time on the flight.

Long story short, I fell asleep on the flight over and was completely out for nearly 5 hours.

This never happens.

When I arrived, the warm balmy air enveloped me and I found all my productive fantasies evaporate. I just let it be.

Deadline, shmedline. This girl needed to rest. Come to think of it, you probably do as well.

As a little Thanksgiving gift, here is a section that I think everyone will find useful (whether you read the finished book or not--which I hope you will).

Assemble your team
Even if it feels like your goal is something you are working on alone, you will need help. Think of these helpful people as your team—the ones you will go to for training, advice, guidance, support (mental, emotional and physical) and feedback.

Anyone who is on your team will understand what you are undertaking and express in no uncertain terms that you are capable of accomplishing what you are setting out to do.  This is not to say they should give you false confidence or blow smoke at you. Ideally your team members will have at least some insight into the pitfalls and difficulties of your goal and be there when you run into those things to either give you courage or much needed help to surmount what ever fresh hell pops up.
Here is my short list of the folks you should include on your team (as well as the ones that should stay the hell away).

Yourself—You are the only one who has 100% stake in your goal so you are the leader, the majority shareholder and the only one who needs to be satisfied with whatever it is you set out to do. You and only you set the standards, the pace and get to make the decisions on this. You may ask for help, for input, for advice but at the end of the day you are in charge and responsible for everything. Just own it. Its better to let everyone off the hook and acknowledge up front that whatever happens along the path you made the decision to go there. If you decide to change course or even bail it’s a whole lot cleaner if you do it for your own reasons than to point your finger at someone else or some external circumstance as the reason. Are you going to do it or not?

Experts (teachers, coaches, consultants etc)—See the above paragraph. These individuals are not in charge of your reaching your goal but can be very helpful when you are trying to learn a new skill, overcome a hurdle, or navigate your way through territory that you are not yet expert in. They just can’t do it for you.

Beware of any expert who demands slavish adherence to a fixed method or set of ideas. Also, beware of advice to keep doing the same thing (even harder) if your progress has come to a stand still. No matter what “experts” say, there is always more than one way to do everything. Keep any such experts at arms length.

Peers (who get it)—These are the ones who are working on something like you are. Maybe not exactly the same thing, but in the same spirit. These boon companions will be the ones who are likely to have encountered similar problems and either have good information to lend or can help you work through a problem through shared experience. The friendships that come out of these kinds of experiences are the kind that can last a lifetime.

I can’t say this strongly enough—don’t accept unasked for advice or feedback from people who aren’t on your team. While it is true that you can get good insight from almost anywhere I am highly suspicious of people who pop up in the middle of my projects with a wealth of advice to give when they have little idea of what I’m trying to do and have no stake in my game other than to hear themselves talk. I know those poor souls are desperate to show someone that they know something, but not on my dime. I avoid them at all costs—I recommend you do too.

Also, be careful of getting into unnecessary competition with your peers. It’s very tempting to play this game and it starts innocently enough with one person sharing their progress and another person wanting to show they are also making headway. While it might not seem like a big deal in the moment, what purpose does it serve?

The better you are at understanding your emotional outcomes for your goal, the less of a problem this will be and the less likely you will be to take the bait. Like the unwanted advice giver, be sure to not include people who try to goad you into competition on your team.

Cheerleaders—This is not a group apart exactly. I would hope that the experts and peers you add to your team are also cheering you on to success. But you will have friends and loved ones who might not quite understand what you are doing but who at a baseline believes you are equal to the task and tells you so—especially when things are going to shit. You don’t need realists in this role--you will meet plenty reality along the way anyway so don’t invite people to offer that kind of help. 

Cheerleaders are not there to tell you to temper your expectations or aim lower. They are there to continue flying the flag of your shiniest vision even whey you aren’t able to yourself. 

The Helpful Cast of Thousands (or perhaps one or two)--Anyone who does the dishes, laundry, runs errands, or takes on any task that frees you up to do your thing---these people are actually angels. Treat them like the precious saints they are with lavish gratitude, praise and appreciation. Seriously, make this a priority. If you don’t have anyone in your life helping with these things seriously consider paying someone—and then shower them with gratitude, praise and appreciation as well.

You will add to this group of stalwart companions as you make progress on your journey.

Monday, November 10, 2014

REWRITE! How to keep going when things are total sh*t

Hey gang. I finished a big chunk of my manuscript but I felt things weren't quite holding together. I turned it over to my editor, Ginger, and asked that we do a review to see what areas should be built up and what should be discarded or deemphasized. I knew certain concepts needed more details but being so close to my subject I couldn't judge for myself.

I received a pleasant email from the editor saying she was really happy with my first draft (good job!) and that there was just some reorganizing needed. Cool! I was in a similar frame of mind and this really was better news than I expected.

Until I opened her edited copy.

I scrolled through to the final feedback and had to read it twice. While what was being suggested was indeed a reorganization of the book, in order to do the reorg I would have to mostly rewrite the prose.

I started to feel nauseous. I KNEW I would need to do some rewriting and reorganizing but this wedged my brain. I literally couldn't see past the monolith in my mind. I had been so focused on getting my first draft written, getting my ideas down and building the manuscript that it never crossed my mind I would have to do it twice.

In "Bird by Bird" by Annie Lamott, Annie wrote about having to rewrite a book treatment for her publisher three times (she holed up in a hotel room and was doing lines of crank if I remember correctly). She busted her way through it too using will (and crank) to get her manuscript where it needs to be.

Cool. I know what to do--be like Annie (but no crank--not even on special occasions).

I've read "Bird by Bird" book many times and know this temporary state is just part of being in the middle of the process--the swamp where I'm elbows deep in my own mire of thoughts and doubt (no biggie).

I met with Ginger on the phone to discuss the new approach. She was still pretty optimistic about the concept so I steeled myself to go in again with a short writing assignment and move forward. I set a time to work on it and let myself have a couple days to kick chairs and complain.

I put my house in order, took a trip to Carmel with Keri and another friend, and visited with my Mom. I allowed myself the luxury of griping. But when my date to write came up, I put that all aside and got to work.

Even faced with the rewrite I knew had made enormous progress. Books usually need lots of rework--sometimes several goes at it. I'm in good company in this regard.

Truly, almost any project that can't be tossed off in an afternoon probably will need some rework. Building in a place for that in both emotional and physical space is important. Its a good argument also for not doing your homework on the bus.

I'm still moving toward my deadline. I have a clear picture of how to proceed which I'm far happier with than what I originally drafted. I have several writing assignments scoped out that will take me forward until draft number two is completed.

Are you in the thick of things? How are you doing? Drop a line in the comments below and let me hear from you.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Can't really move my head--what does a physical setback mean when you are trying to be EPIC

At 2AM last night I ended up in the ER. I couldn't move my head and I couldn't escape my pain no matter what position I tried.

I knew the ER docs couldn't do anything but I was in so much pain I needed to check this one thing off my list--see professional to prove I'm not dying.

They sent me home with pills (I already knew would make me nauseous) and the highly original advice to move as little as possible.

In the meantime I'm thinking "I am behind on my pull-up workout". That and working on all my other  physical challenges because its hard to do anything when you can't move your head.

Setbacks are setbacks. They happen--and with older warriors like myself, the bounce back time is somewhat elongated. Many (MANY) times in the past I would have given in to the temptation to just throw in the towel and indulge in the story of "see, I CAN'T do this stuff--look at what happens".

Repeat. Setbacks happen FOR EVERYONE. The question is, how do you handle them?

In yoga there is a pose called Savasana (corpse pose). It is my favorite pose. You simply lie still on the floor with your arms slightly out from your side and breath.

How is this part of the process? Growth and change have their own timelines. I can trace how I'm feeling back to my workout where too much weight on my dead-lift irritated my shoulder. The shoulder got inflamed. I got on an airplane and folded myself origami style so I could write to pass the time. A few more days of inflammation and then another origami plane ride resulting in the pain traveling to my neck, getting worse until I was in the ER. And now I am still, letting my body reset and rest. Offering it kindness.

Setbacks are an opportunity to look at how you are approaching your goal and to build in ways to cope when things seem like they are at a full stop/throw in the towel point.

Making a miracle happen either with your body or some other project is more holistic than engaging in relentless forward motion. Handling setbacks is just as important as the plan for progress.

In my mind and heart I am still moving towards the things I want. Today, the fastest way forward is propped up on pillows drinking turmeric tea and staying very still.

Got a gruesome setback going? I'd love to hear about it! Leave a comment below.