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Satisfaction Guaranteed by Kitty Bucholtz

June 9, 2010 by in category Archives tagged as ,

It’s the beginning of the end. (Thank you, God!)

Last night was the first of my final classes in semester one of my master in creative writing degree. I turned in my final paper for my Professional Editing class, wrote a sample back cover blurb for the manuscript we’d done a structural edit on, and then most of us went to the pub to celebrate with a drink and some potato wedges. Woo-hoo!

Now I need to do it again tonight. And tomorrow night. I finished tomorrow’s final paper only this morning. Talk about cutting it close! Last Sunday I woke up and did the math – I had four projects to complete in eight days. (They’d all been started.) That’s two days per project. Eek! I finished the first two projects in four days – totally on time according to my self-inflicted schedule. Then the third project took the next four days. Yikes! So I had only a few hours over the next two mornings to finish the last project – thankfully, the one for the last class.

By last week, I was already questioning my expectations about what I wanted to do – finish four A-quality projects in the time I had – versus what I thought I might have to do – finish as best I can. I even asked a few friends what they thought because I was seriously stressing out – tight shoulders, headache, sleeplessness. One friend told me I needed to lower my expectations to what I could really do at this point. Another friend said I shouldn’t try for anything less than an A, no matter what it took. (After all, it was only one week.) Well, kind of them to try to help but… I still had to try to decide what *I* was going to do.

In the end, it’s no surprise that I decided to put everything I had into it to get the closest I could to an A on every project. It’ll be a month or more before I know my grades, but at this point I’ll have no regrets. My expectations of myself were fairly high throughout the semester, and I’m pretty content with my work. But last night, I started asking my friends and fellow students if my expectations of the graduate program were off.

I’ve been more than a little irritated some days when I’m in class listening to an instructor cover an incredibly basic point – like properly formatting a manuscript. I’ve been writing and publishing since 1997 and started grad school to bring my skills to the next level, the novel-publishing level. But some of my fellow students have said in class that this is the first time they have ever written any fiction of any kind! It makes me want to scream!

Hence my question after class last night – are my expectations off?

I am so glad I asked. Turns out there are three writing programs – the master of arts that I’m in, a diploma program, and a certificate program. And many of us are taking the same classes. That’s why there is such a wide range of writers in each class – a few people like me who have had books get to the “almost” stage at a publisher, a few people at the other end who have never written anything, and everyone else in the middle.

Now I know my expectations were off. I need to think of my classes as more like high-level critique groups filled with all levels of writers. Then I can be willing to be helpful to others without feeling like some people are holding me back. Because I’ve chosen to change my expectations, I’m finding myself already calming down, de-stressing, and thinking about how I can just focus on improving my writing. Period.

Stress comes from expectations not meeting reality. When reality is less than what you expected, you experience distress and dissatisfaction. When reality is better than you expected, you experience eustress and satisfaction. It’s not always about raising or lowering your standards, but changing them as needed to accommodate changes in the situation or the available information. (Remember last week when I was trying to decide if my expectations of my work habits were off?) I’m not going to lower my expectations of myself, but I am going to modify my expectations of my classmates and my future classes. I’ll keep the pressure on myself to do what *I* need to do while allowing my teachers and fellow students to do what they need to do.

In the end, I think it will be more satisfying for all of us.

Kitty Bucholtz is the co-founder of Routines for Writers, a web site dedicated to helping writers write more. She writes romance novels, light urban fantasy novels for adults and young adults, and magazine articles. She is currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Creative Writing program at University of Technology, Sydney.

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Anti-Procrastination Month by Kitty Bucholtz

May 9, 2010 by in category Archives tagged as ,

At Routines for Writers, we have declared May to be Anti-Procrastination Month! We all have a pile (mental or physical) of work we’ve been meaning to do, projects we’ve been trying to finish, etc. But when will it ever get done?

This month!

To give you some ideas on what kinds of things you might want to catch up on during May’s Anti-Procrastination Month, I thought I’d share with you my list (in no particular order).
Work on the category romance that I want to finish and send out by August 1. Yeah, the one I’ve barely even looked at since grad school started in March.

Choose which magazine to send the article to that was rejected last week by Writer’s Digest, then get it out in the mail.

Submit a piece to the Christmas anthology that I’ve been meaning to submit to for weeks. (Oh, and actually write the piece!)

Catch up on all the readings that have been assigned this semester for all of my classes.
Read the Margie Lawson “Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors” lecture packet that I started and didn’t finish in January.

Read the other great Margie Lawson lectures I’ve bought and not finished reading yet!
Take the time (what time?!) to work on promotional items for Routines for Writers.

Continue to research for the superheroes book, and the new angels/demons story that I’m writing for class.
Read some more YA books as research for the story I’m writing for class.

That’s the short list – for now! LOL! And it doesn’t include all the “regular” or “household” items that need to be done – like choose and buy an anniversary present for my husband for our 20th anniversary this week! Eek! LOL!

The big question when I make a list is – how in the world am I going to get this all done? Well, I was praying for wisdom this week and what do you know – God really does use email! I subscribe to a daily email from Motivation in a Minute and a recent email had this quote from Amy Jones:

To do twice as much in half the time, you can’t approach your goals haphazardly. A well-thought plan will keep you clearly on track towards your goal; and the methods of planning are as varied as our personalities.

I have a tendency to think that there is plenty of time to get everything done. But experience has taught me that optimism alone is not my friend. I need a plan. One that is too structured will make me crazy and I’ll quit sooner than later. A plan that is nothing more than a To Do list won’t help me stay organized and disciplined enough to get the most important items done first. (And since I’m now convinced I will die with a long To Do list with many items not crossed off, getting the most important ones done is crucial to my emotional well-being!)

Last year at Routines for Writers, I talked about my new routine – My First Five. It’s been working! There are only so many things I can remember to do at once. And when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I need to know what the next thing is that I should do. Just one. So the First Five helps me prioritize. What I need to do now is create a Next Five, and a Next Five after that. I got my First Five done yesterday morning without any problem, then I watched a taped TV program later while I ate lunch and somehow the day just fell apart after that. Today, I did my First Five then looked at my list and put a bullet next to all the things that had to be done today. That didn’t work as well as I’d hoped either. Because I also did several things that didn’t have to be done today. So starting tomorrow, I’m going to organize my To Do List into groups of five items. I’ll let you know if I get more work done.

One last thing – I recently heard about a software program called Freedom. It’s sort of a time-lock for your Internet connection. You can set it for any amount of time up to eight hours and during that time you won’t be able to access the Internet or send and receive email. It’s $10 and is available for both Windows and Mac. I think it’s hysterical that I’m actually going to spend money on a program that will force me to focus! (Why can’t I do that by myself??) I’ll let you know how it’s working.

If you do better with a little accountability, stop by Routines for Writers and tell us what you want to get done this month! We’ll encourage you to keep going and find a routine that works for you. Happy Writing!

Kitty Bucholtz is the co-founder of Routines for Writers, a web site dedicated to helping writers write more. She writes romance novels, light urban fantasy novels for adults and young adults, and magazine articles. She is currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Creative Writing program at University of Technology, Sydney.
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March 9, 2010 by in category Archives tagged as ,

Last month, we heard from over a dozen authors who shared their writing routines with us at Routines for Writers. If there is one clear take-away, it is that there is no one right way to write. Perhaps not even one right way for each person.

When I started to realize that I identified with both the structured writers and the less structured ones, I began to ask myself some hard questions. Am I really as structured in writing as I think I am? If I were, wouldn’t I get more work done? If I tried more unstructured writing methods, would I be more successful?

The advice “learn what works for you” has never seemed more apropos. Because the advice I’ve been giving myself is not really working.

I’m a logical thinker in many ways. I worked in various areas of accounting and finance for close to fifteen years. I love playing with numbers, planning trips, and working with budgets – just for fun. So when I started to get serious about writing, I applied the same techniques to writing that brought me success in accounting. While sometimes everything aligns so that I’m producing massive amounts of work for a while, it doesn’t last. I finish books, but not with a routine or regularity that I can build a writing career on. At least, not according to conventional wisdom.

Which says to me that my routine is not working. More specifically, the way I think about routines and how to choose one for writing is not working.

Last week was the first week of class in my Master of Arts in Creative Writing degree. (Yay!) A very good time to re-think routines. I’m going to go back over last month’s guest blogs and highlight the areas that made me stop and think, “Yes! I get that!” Many of those moments popped up when I was reading about the less-structured writers. A bit of a shocker really.

Maybe my creative brain is trying to tell me that the structure I’m trying to impose on my writing is simply not a good fit. Maybe if I listen carefully, I will hear my brain suggesting some new ideas. I can’t wait to see how this year turns out compared to what I expected when I made my 2010 goals.

What about you? Did you have any ah-ha moments while reading any of the Author Crush blogs? Have you found that the routine you find successful in other areas of your life is or is not successful in your writing life?

Kitty Bucholtz writes light urban fantasy novels, romance novels, magazine articles, and really, anything that comes to mind. She is the co-founder of Routines for Writers (http://www.routinesforwriters.com/ ) and a post-grad student in the Master of Arts in Creative Writing program at University of Technology, Sydney in Australia. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

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