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Figuring Out Success

I mentioned that book I just read about analyzing conventional wisdom about success. It’s called Barking up the Wrong Tree and is by Eric Barker, who also has a blog on the topic.

This is an interesting book to read if you’re trying to optimize your life, looking for ways to improve your career, get more done, or are just interested in human nature. I’m pretty much all of the above. It’s essentially a Mythbusters of success and motivation, except instead of doing crazy experiments, he looks up actual research studies.

One of the sections that intrigued me most was on dreaming and visualization. One of the big pop culture things about success over the past dozen or so years has been visualization, with the idea that visualizing yourself having the thing that you want will somehow magically bring it about. You hear terms like “manifesting.” Even if you’re not going so far as to believe that just thinking about something will make it happen, there’s the idea that visualizing yourself having what you want and seeing what your idea of success will look like when it happens is motivating.

It turns out that it’s the opposite. Research has found that visualization is actually de-motivating because it tricks your brain into thinking you’re already there, so you’re less likely to be motivated to work toward getting that thing. You feel like you’ve already received the reward, so you have less energy for going after it.

What does work is turning that dream into a plan. If you have a thing that you’re dreaming of having or doing, then you need to get specific about the exact outcome you really want. Then think of what you have to overcome to get it and come up with a plan to address that. Going through this process instead of just picturing the end result is more likely to energize you to go after that thing — unless the thing you want is unreasonable, and then you’ll lose motivation, which makes it a good test of your dream.

There’s also stuff about how turning steps of a plan into a game makes you more likely to carry out that plan and how to go about networking in a way that doesn’t come across like you’re trying to use people.

The other interesting takeaway is about finding a balance between overconfidence and lack of confidence. Being really confident can help you be effective because you go after things and stick with them, but that can also make you a jerk and make you blind to your own weaknesses. Having less confidence makes you work harder to improve, but makes you feel bad and may make others see you as less competent. The balance is “self compassion,” which is recognizing your faults, but forgiving yourself. See yourself accurately but don’t judge yourself harshly.

His blog looks pretty interesting, with a lot of lists of books to read or items from research on various topics.

And now, a key part of my plan to achieve my dream of publishing world domination is to spend more time writing, so off I go to work on my book.

Learning Never Stops

The fun thing about returning to something you last worked on months ago is seeing how much you’ve grown as a writer since then. I applied my “but” or “and so” trick to this book that I put aside to work on the one I just finished, and that immediately exposed the plot problems. Now I just need to fix them and figure out what happens in the rest of the book.

That will be today’s fun, a day spent plotting (and scheming). I hope that means I can get to the writing part tomorrow.

I have to say, I really love playing in the Enchanted, Inc. world. These are such fun characters who immediately come to life for me when I write, and I love slipping into Katie’s narrative voice because I can let my snark flag fly.

I came up with some ideas on my morning walk, and now I need to see if they fit.

Needing Something

I got a slow start to the day because I was up for about an hour very early in the morning (around 2 a.m.) when a big hailstorm hit. I have a clay tile roof, so storms tend to be very loud. Regular rain sounds like a hailstorm, so an actual hailstorm sounds like boulders hitting the roof. There’s no sleeping during that because each strike of a hailstone sounds like it’s going to be hurtling through the ceiling. I saw posts on Facebook (while I was awake, I was checking various news feeds for weather conditions) from friends nearby who had tennis or baseball-sized hail and who had broken car windows. I don’t think it was that bad in my neighborhood. As soon as the sound of hail stopped, I looked outside and didn’t see any hailstones on the ground, so they must have been small enough to melt quickly in the rain. The trees around my neighborhood were shredded, and there are leaves and twigs all over the ground under every tree, but cars that look like they were parked outside during the storm (because they’re wet and covered in shredded leaves) didn’t have any visible damage.

Rain is good, but I can do without the hail. It took me a while to get back to sleep after the hail finally stopped and it seemed that the storm had moved on. Then I slept late.

I’m doing a near-final pass on the book I’ve been working on, and I think I’ve hit the part that will need the most revision, so it’s going to slow down a bit. The problem is that I know it needs something, but I’m not quite sure what that something is. It’s been a while since I looked at this part, so maybe that something will strike me now.

Hmm, maybe I need to add a good hailstorm.

Subscription Services?

I took a short break to visit my parents, and now I’m hoping to be fully in summer work mode. There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to do this fall, once we’re back to it being cool enough to go outdoors without bursting into flames, so I need to do the bulk of this year’s writing during the summer, when I’m huddling indoors under the ceiling fan.

Of course, wouldn’t you know it, we got a thunderstorm this morning, right after I got up to go take my walk, so that kind of ruins the whole “summer” thing. Not that I’m complaining. I’m definitely okay starting a June day with the windows open, listening to the rain.

One of the topics of discussion at that conference I went to was subscription models like Patreon. I hadn’t really considered doing something like that because I make decent money from my books and don’t necessarily need my fans paying subscription fees for access to my stuff. But it sounds like this has almost become a new promotional platform, with the money you make a bonus. So, you might post a blog there that doesn’t require payment, and then there would be bonus content at various payment levels. Just the announcement of the bonus content gives you something to publicize in between books. Some writers post movie and TV reviews there. Some serialize novels, and some post short stories or deleted scenes.

I’ve been putting most of that kind of stuff just on my blog, and the thought of having to produce extra stuff, in addition to writing books, is a little stressful. But since that seems to be where the cool kids are, it might prove to be a way to stay in touch with fans. On the other hand, I don’t even have 600 Twitter followers, so it’s not that likely that I’d get enough patrons to make it worthwhile.

One thing I’ve considered to start with is doing some rewatch reviews of Once Upon a Time, from the perspective of a fantasy novelist. An online forum I’m in is doing an organized rewatch, so this might be something I’m doing anyway. These posts might be more detailed than I’d do in a regular blog, and it might be of interest both for fans of the show and for writers (because, oh, is there a lot of What Not To Do, especially as we get into later seasons). I wonder how many people might be willing to pay $1-2 a month for access to something like that, along with other writing advice-type posts.

But, really, I mostly need to spend the time writing.

Summer Already?

I can’t believe it’s Memorial Day weekend already. Summer’s beginning (traditionally and soon meteorologically, not astronomically) and I feel like we skipped spring. I should probably do the winter and summer closet swap because I doubt I’m going to need flannel pajamas or a heavy sweatshirt anytime soon. Alas.

It’s also the weekend of a new Star Wars movie. I love that we’re getting more Star Wars content now, but at the same time, it used to be such a major event when we only got a movie every three years, and then there were those big gaps. Now it’s maybe a little less special when it happens every year. But still, more Star Wars is good, as long as it’s good, and I could use something fun right now.

Then we’re having our Memorial Day concert Monday night at church.

So, busy weekend, but I’ll fit in some relaxing because I’m still recovering from my trip and then a bunch of other stuff I had to deal with when I got home. Still, in all the excitement, I manage to draft a short story, and I may even like it.

My plan for the summer is to buckle down and do some serious writing. I will hide in my cool cave and emerge in the fall with a few books.

Travel Needs

I’ve been busy wrapping up some things and getting ready for my trip to the Nebula Awards weekend. I may try to post from the road, but things are going to be busy, so I’m not sure it will happen.

As I’ve been planning my packing, I found myself thinking of a feature they used to have in the travel section of the newspaper, in which they had various famous people who travel a lot tell what things they can’t travel without. Of course, they were mostly useless for normal people because these people were rich and traveled in first class, so it was stuff like “my personal set of silk sheets and cashmere blanket.” So, here’s my more realistic list of travel must-haves that make life on the road easier:

My travel hot pot — I don’t drink coffee, which means most hotel coffeemakers are useless because they produce hot water that smells and tastes like weak coffee. I have a small travel hot pot that’s about the size a school lunchbox thermos used to be (before they made them smaller and a different shape). I bring tea, hot cocoa mix, spiced cider mix, some herbal teas, and chicken noodle cup o’ soup. That allows me to have a cup of tea before I face the world, cocoa at bedtime, a refresher whenever, and I’ve got a light meal, if necessary. I learned to bring the soup when I was traveling on business. Our company’s travel department always seemed to have us fly late in the day, so we could put in a full day of work before going on a business trip. That meant I usually got to my hotel after they shut down room service, and far too late to try to go out to eat. After a few meals of hot cocoa and Doubletree cookies, I learned to bring soup.

A pair of yoga pants — these are a multi-purpose garment. They work as pajama pants with a nightshirt, if the room is cold. I can wear them to the hotel gym or to take a walk. I’ve used them as a swimsuit coverup. Mostly, though, they’re for comfortable lounging in the hotel room. I try to travel light, so I often bring just a couple of skirts or pairs of slacks and then have different tops. If I change into yoga pants whenever I’m in my room, I can hang up the skirt/slacks and let them freshen up/not get dirty or wrinkled.

A pair of those fuzzy spa socks — I use these as house slippers while in the hotel room, and they’re also good for recharging if I have a break during the day. Taking off your shoes and socks and putting on the spa socks even for a few minutes can make a big difference, especially if you’re on your feet a lot.

A couple of binder clips — these are good for organizing documents, of course, but they’re also good as clothespins if you’re hanging something up on the over-the-tub clothesline, and they’re great for clipping the curtains shut so you don’t get that gap that lets in light.

My tablet and bluetooth keyboard — I bring this instead of a laptop when I travel. It works as an e-reader and as a computer for Internet access. I haven’t tried to do heavy-duty writing on that keyboard, but the keyboard is nice for making social media posts.

Earplugs — I use the silicon putty kind that you stick on the outside of the ear canal, since the kind that stick in the ear are uncomfortable and tend to fall out. They’re good for dulling the usual hotel noise of the ice machine, people in the halls, plumbing, etc., but I can still hear the alarm clock and fire/smoke alarms.


Finally, the book is done! Well, this draft, at least. I’m not totally happy with it. I think I’m going to make another pass on the ending later this week to fine tune it. Then when I get back from the Nebula Awards conference I’ll re-read the whole thing. But I got to the end. Yay!

Today’s fun is catching up on the stuff that hasn’t been done while I’ve been focused on writing. My kitchen is something of a disaster area at the moment. I have some business/admin tasks to deal with. And then there’s the epic to-do list before my trip next week.

I also finish entirely with children’s choir tonight. It’s the “sharing program” in which the children’s choirs perform for their families. So I have to get them through one more song, and then there’s a pizza party, and then I’m done until September.

Finishing a book gives a similar feeling to the end of semester in school. There’s a moment of “done!” elation, but then you feel strange and a bit guilty when you’re not writing/studying. You’re torn between doing all those things you said you’d do when you were done and doing absolutely nothing.

I do think I’ll allow myself some patio reading time later today. That counts as work because I’m developing something that I need to get done, and it requires a little research reading.

If I get everything else on the list done by Saturday, I’m planning on a purely relaxing Sunday to rest up for a busy week.

Almost There (Really!)

Still not there, though I did make good progress and have the rest of the book outlined, for real this time. All the bits are tying together, and I can see patterns emerging. So yay! I think …

I’m dying to clean my house right now, but I will prevail!!!!

I may have to shut off the wi-fi, close the blinds, and put in earplugs so that I don’t do anything else until I get this book done.

Well, Not Quite There

I didn’t quite finish the book Friday. On this round of revisions, I wrote the big final turning point scene first so I’d know what I was aiming for. I thought all I had to do was bridge from where I was to that scene, and then do the mopping up aftermath stuff.

Then I read the scene I wrote, and it’s now all wrong. I guess I made some very different turns along the way. But this means I was farther behind than I thought. After a good day’s work and several thousand words of writing, I ended up with fewer words than I started with. I may even have to revise some of the stuff I did on Friday to really set up the new big climactic scene.

At this point in the process, having it done well is the important thing. There are no prizes for when I finish, only for having something that makes publishers excited. And after all the work I’ve put into this thing, I really need to make publishers excited.

So maybe I’ll finish it today. I have to finish this week because I’m going out of town next week, and I want it done other than for maybe one more pass before then.

Almost There!

If I’m very good today, I should be able to finish this draft of the book. I’ve got the rest outlined, and I only need about 4,000 words to hit my targeted manuscript word count (though I don’t know how many words are necessary to finish the story). That’s within range for what I can do in a good day, and it’s a rainy day, which usually means I can get a lot done.

I’ll want at least one more pass on this manuscript, but I’ve mostly been editing along the way so I don’t anticipate a lot of rewriting on this round, just wordsmithing and adding a few little tweaks and details.

Then I have a story I need to write that I’ve already been researching and developing, then I need to finish Enchanted, Inc. book 9, which is about halfway done, and then I’ve got Rebels 4 to research and write, and there’s the possibility of something else that might come in the middle of it all. And then there’s a book I’ve been dying to write that I don’t know quite what to do with. I’m not sure it’s even viable, I’m not sure how to market it, I don’t know if I can pull it off. But it won’t shut up and leave me alone so I have to at least try to work on it and see what happens.

This is going to be a busy summer, it seems.

So, off to finish a book!