Tag Archives: achieving goals

Milestone Party: How to Survive Fast Draft and Dance Like No One’s Watching


Helloooo Out There!  Come one, come all; we’re having a party today!  Most of you know that about a year ago Marcia Richards and I founded the organization called The Life List Club.

What is the Life List Club?

A bunch of us writers got together to create our life lists – those things you want to do in life and never manage to complete.  We spent many months touring around each others’ blogs guest posting and getting to know our readers.  As the group adapted, we created our own blogsite, The Life List Club!  If you haven’t followed us, what are you waiting for?!  Click on over and sign up!

In short, you can get involved in the Life List Club in two ways:  as a Reader or as a Writer.  Anyone and everyone should be a reader.  As readers we encourage you to create your own life list of those “to do’s” that are lingering around or big dreams you’ve put on hold too long.  Your goals are anything that is right for you.  Post your life list on your blog, and share with us via comments and tweets how you’re doing!  You can cyber hang with us at the hashtag #LifeListClub.  Enjoy weekly posts filled with true stories, inspiration, and humor to boot to keep you motivated on your goals.

Hey Writers out there!  You can get involved by becoming a contributing writer for the LLC blog!  We’re currently accepting new writers to our rotation of posting and would love to hear from you!  E-mail me at jessi(DOT)witkins(AT)gmail(DOT)com if interested!  You don’t have to blog about writing.  We’re looking for a variety of goals to be covered so our readers can find multiple avenues of inspiration.

Here’s What We’re Celebrating Today!

Since launching the LLC blog, 3 months have gone by and we always have a Milestone party to celebrate the learning lessons and achievements along the way.  You can check out how all the Life Listers did by reading and entering our sweet giveaway for a $50 Amazon Gift Card


Cue the Party Music!  

This is my new favorite song!  Why?  Because it involves splices of Love is Strange by Mickey and Sylvia from Dirty Dancing!  Duh!!!

My Goals:

  • Write Everyday.
  • Read 2 books a month.
  • Save money.
  • Work out at least once a week.

The Recap:

Write Everyday.

There were definitely days where only my minimum 5 things in the gratitude journal got written down.  Examples from the past few months include:  reading a good book, meeting bloggers I follow at the DFW Writers Conference, Joe cooking dinner, Bellavitano cheese, iced tea, leaving work on time, hammocks.  What really kicked my butt into gear on this goal was attending the DFW Writers Conference.  I decided to give Candace Havens’ Fast Draft a try.  Fast Draft is the idea that you complete your first draft of a novel in 2 weeks by writing 20 pages/day.

Now before your eyes bug out of your head, know thatI hadto adapt this goal.  On day 1, I did get 20 pages written.  But once I was back at work, it was too difficult to get to 20.  I set a minimum of 10.  Ten pages was exactly ten pages more than I’d been writing everyday.  And this process takes a lot of planning!  I spent the whole week before blogging ahead, reading books, and getting emails sent out so I could focus on my writing.

Then week 2 of Fast Draft came around and I had a really difficult time.  I was having arguments with my boyfriend.  I was trying to assist planning 2 weddings/bachelorette parties/getting dress fittings for the upcoming marriages of my two best friends.  My sister underwent surgery for her third recurrence of cancer and was recovering.  We had company stay at our house.  The cupboards were getting bare.  And I was up until somewhere between 1 – 4 a.m. every night?  morning?  I’ve lost track.

It wasn’t my week.  Still, I always got some writing done!  The least amount was one page, and the most on those awful days was eight.  But that’s one more page or eight more pages closer to the “The End.”  Despite all that happened, I’m proud and relieved I’ve completed this challenge.  It taught me what’s important to me.  What I’m willing and not willing to give up, and it showed me who truly supports me in this journey and who doesn’t.  I would like to give Fast Draft another go for the next round of LLC goals.

Read 2 books a month.


Right now I think I have 7 books going at once.  I’ve had to postpone a few in order to complete others.  Books read just this month:  Back to Madeline Island by Jay Gilbertson, Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James, and Red by Kait Nolan.  I also coordinated an author interview with Jay, and have one next week with Kait!

I’m currently on track to complete my TBR Pile Challenge book Blessings by Anna Quindlen this month, as well as my first Janet Evanovich book, Three to Get Deadly, and the final book in the Fifty Shades series, Fifty Shades Freed.

Looking for more book reviews?  Check out my Bookshelf!

Save money.

Believe it or not, folks, I made myself a sticker chart to save!  And it helped!  I was able to budget better and reward myself for not buying more clothes or jewelry, etc. and had enough funds to travel to South Korea and to Texas for the writers conference.  Next trip I’m saving for is Joe’s and my road trip out west in August!

I still need to visit with a personal banker yet and look into some better savings options at the bank and read Suze Orman’s Women and Money book.

Work out at least once a week. 

This goal was a bit hit or miss.  I dove back into working out and did so many weighted lunges around the gym floor that I spent a good 3 days walking around like an old pregnant woman!  I was literally hobbling and could barely get in and out of my car.  I did start up at the gym again, weight training, using the elliptical and stationary bike.  Even if I didn’t make it to the gym, I would have a dance party in my room – just to move around!

I did improve my diet.  For several weeks I limited the amounts of red meat and cheese in my diet (mostly cause my boyfriend is doing that on his diet), but I also tried several great recipes from Self magazine.  I found 2 awesome breakfasts, and made two different chicken curry dishes.  I’ve been better about packing my lunches again and eating salads or peanut butter and jelly.  For breakfast on the go, I invested in some nut mixes to get protein in my system.  I cannot agree to switch to Almond Milk.  I still prefer cow’s milk!  LOL.


There’s my Life List recap!  Be sure to enter for all the great Life List Club milestone prizes by visiting our blogs!  You can find us all in the blogroll on the right.  And to enter for the $50 Amazon Gift Card, you’ve gotta get to the Life List Club blog!

But first, enter here!  Win an additional $10 I-Tunes Gift Card by subscribing to the Happiness Project and leaving me a comment about a learning moment or success story from your own life list!  I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

Living in the Eleventh Hour

It’s time for another exciting episode of the Life List Club!  Remember, the Life List Club is a place for anyone to find support and ideas toward fulfilling their life goals.  Every other friday, our LLC Contributors (who can all be found in the LLC Sidebar) guest post on what advice they can help with toward achieving goals.  We’re honest, full of laughs, true friends, and we’re here to support you!  Join us by commenting, making your own Life List page on your blog, or rolling in the fun over at our twitter party #LifeListClub.

Today I bring you technical writer, Diana Ligaya.  I’m guest posting at the hilariously coy Lyn Midnight’s blog and sharing my bizarre true life dream series with you.  Please come say hi!  Diana, take it away!

Living in the Eleventh Hour

Have you heard of the phrase the “eleventh hour”? Originally taken from the Christian Bible (Matthew 20:6) where it referenced the practice of hiring men late in the day, it is used now to reference that time when the clock is ticking and you’re running out of time.In a perfect world, you would accomplish whatever your goals are without ever approaching the eleventh hour. In the real world, you may have had to beat the clock once or twice. And if you’ve had to do this, you probably remember the added stress and pressure you felt. Suddenly, accomplishing your goal becomes exponentially harder as you fight the clock.For most people, having a project come down to the eleventh hour is stressful.If you are a chronic procrastinator, chances are that you LIVE in the eleventh hour. For eleventh hour junkies, the danger of looming close to the deadline is a thrill. The more chaotic, the more jumbled, the tighter the deadline, the more of a rush eleventh hour junkies get at the completion.

While the occasional eleventh hour save may be thrilling once or twice, living in the eleventh hour is never a good idea. Not only does your project suffer but over time, you will suffer as well. You may soon discover that the stress of constantly working to the eleventh hour outweighs the “payoff” at the end.

So what can you do to avoid living in the eleventh hour? The first step is to figure out what it is that makes you a chronic procrastinator. If you are one of those types that gets a “thrill” out of beating the clock, remind yourself of the stress you feel in the moment by writing it down. Then make it a point to not go to the eleventh hour on your very next project. If you find yourself living in the eleventh hour because you routinely take on too much, pare down your workload, if possible.

Do you live in the eleventh hour? If so, why? What are your tips for avoiding it?

Diana Ligaya has been fascinated with science and technology ever since she could remember. Her voracious appetite for stories and thirst for adventure led her to explore the infinite worlds of speculative fiction.

She loves everything from hard science fiction to post-apocalyptic dystopias and everything in between. She prefers to mix aspects of sub-genres within her work rather than sticking to a “standard” genre framework. When she’s not working on her fiction credits, Diana works from home as a freelance writer, specializing in technology. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, their daughter and their mutt.

Diana blogs at Regimented Creativity and can be found on Twitter @DianaLigaya

Sit, Waddle, Scoot and Swim

It’s Life List Club Friday again, and I’m pleased to welcome back Pamela Hawley from over at Hawleyville.  You can find me dishing on my latest meltdown over at Gene Lempp’s Blog.  Then, fix yourself some coffee and hang out with the rest of the Life List gang by stopping at our blogs through our sidebar or you can come party on Twitter at #LifeListClub.

Sit, Waddle, Scoot and Swim

I live just a short drive away from the Baltimore Zoo. In the spring and fall, my boyfriend and I like to spend a leisurely day wandering around, enjoying the sunshine and observing the critters.

He is drawn to the Wizard of Oz menagerie – the lions and tigers and bears. I love to watch these majestic creatures too. But the exhibit that could keep me enthralled all afternoon is the penguin habitat. The awkward birds fascinate me. I love to watch them waddle about like toddlers getting used to their legs. No matter what life is throwing at me, a penguin can make me smile.

But it wasn’t until we watched an Animal Planet show on penguin life that these birds also gained my complete respect. Those of us who are striving towards ambitious writing goals can learn a lot from these waddling, feathered survivors. If you think you’ve got it rough on your climb up your word-mountain, then walk (or waddle) in a penguin’s flipper-feet for a while. You’ll discover quite a lot.

1. Teamwork is Critical

In the penguin world, there are no deadbeat dads. In Antarctica, penguins mate, each female lays a single egg, and then she takes off with her fellow mommas for a very long girl’s night out. For the next two-plus months of frigid darkness, male penguins squat on top of their eggs, all in a vast huddle of feathery male bonding.

Each male is incubating his own chick. Yet, he could not do it alone. The penguins rely on their huddle to sustain warmth in the brutal winter. They even take turns sitting on the outer edge of the circle, where the icy winds are the worst, so that everyone has a turn at being warmer.

As writers, we are each incubating our own stories. However, we should take a lesson from these creatures and huddle for warmth as we work to give life to our progenies. Writing is often a cold and lonely business. We can cheer for each other when milestones are met. We can help each other find our way back to the fold when we suffer from writer’s block. We can warm each other after an icy blast of rejection.

2. Stay in Your Seat

By the time the chicks hatch and the females return to bring up their young, the long sit-in has brutalized the determined daddy penguins. They are starving and have lost nearly half of their body weight.

In a writing class I took last spring, the instructor Eva Shaw referred to something she called chair glue. Simply put, chair glue is the determination to sit at your computer and write, no matter what. You’ve got dirty dishes in the sink and a hamper full of laundry? That’s too bad. Your crew is going out for margaritas? Just say no. Your butt is numb and your eyes are bleary? Welcome to life as a writer.

If a penguin can sit on his egg for weeks, hungry and cold and probably bored out of his little birdbrain, then as writers we have no excuse for letting our chair glue get unstuck. For the duration of your scheduled writing time, there is nothing but you, your story, your numb behind and your computer. Deal with it.

Otherwise, your writing project will be as frozen as a penguin egg without a poppa’s warm pouch.

3. Get There One Awkward Step at a Time

A walking penguin looks like evolution’s cruel but funny joke. This is especially true when the stumpy-legged, silly-shaped bird is traveling over rough and rocky terrain. In a penguin’s world, that’s often the only type of terrain there is.

As soon as the momma penguins return, the males take off in a frenzied search for a fish feast. In the documentary I watched, the male penguins made their way to an icy, rocky cliff, which they then had to descend to get to the waters below. It would have been rough going even for a surefooted and agile creature. Watching these guys scoot, slip and tumble their way down to the waters below was a lot like watching me and my friends walk home after a night at the bar. Once they made it down, they had shoreline predators to contend with – equally hungry critters just waiting to dine on half-starved penguin daddy.

As writers we have our own rocky cliffs to waddle down. Often, we’re starved for more time to write as life’s million-and-one other demands chip away at our time and our energy. We find it hard to slip and slide our way through the busy chaos of the world when all we really want is to be left alone with our ideas. Our day jobs and the bills we must pay are hungry predators, ready to devour our dreams before we reach them.

I have no answer for those challenges other than this: Be like a penguin and waddle through the rough terrain. Slip, slide, scoot and tumble your way to your writing goals, stealing a few more words from the obstacles each day throws your way like a starving daddy penguin inches closer to the sea.

4. Weaknesses are Often Strengths in Disguise

As I said, a walking penguin looks like the world’s court jester. Watching them move, you wonder why nature would make something with such harsh obstacles to overcome evolve to be so awkward and ungainly. It seems cruel and unfair.

Then, the penguins reach the sea.

When these fat, funny birds dive into the water, they are transformed. Suddenly, the waddling creature becomes a streamlined, graceful speeding bullet. The bodies that are so bumbling and misfit on land are designed to be masterpieces for surviving the perils of the sea. In the water, a penguin is speed, grace and beauty.

Sometimes writers and other creative types feel like we’re just not built for everyday living. The solitary and reflective parts of our personalities can be chafed raw by the noise and chaos of fast-paced living. The sensitive natures that lead us to create are sometimes beaten to exhaustion by busy, hectic schedules that seem to just roll off the backs of others.

But when we do muck our way through the chaos and find ourselves in our element, how beautifully we swim!  The aspects of our nature that lead us to struggle at times also let us breathe life into stories and weave worlds that didn’t exist before we built them.

Our creativity may have us waddling a bit on the dry land of daily life, but we are streamlined speeding bullets in the sea of imagination.

As a writer working towards ambitious goals, I often seek wisdom and inspiration in the words of others. Instead, I found them in the life of an awkward but amazing bird.

Your journey may not be pretty. You’ll need to do a lot of sitting, waddling, slipping and sliding. But if you keep at it, eventually you will swim.

     Pam Hawley is a writer living in Baltimore, MD. When she’s not working at her day job, writing or in the gym, she can usually be found at her family’s pub, Hawley’s in Baltimore. So far, her new approach to achieving goals seems to be working – her first published short story, “A Wingding and a Prayer” appears in the July issue of eFiction Magazine (http://www.efictionmag.com). Pam blogs regularly at Hawleyville (http://hawleyville.wordpress.com).

Avoid Unintentional Sabotage: Help Those You Love Support You in Your Goals

It’s Life List Friday and I’m thrilled to have Pam Hawley of the Life List Club guest posting with me today.  It might be the fact our lives seem like parallel living situations on opposite coasts (if by coast you mean the Mississippi River, right?), or it could be that she’s just a phenomenal writer whose honest words never fail to inspire me, but I think you’re going to love Pam’s advice about how to partner with your loved ones to best achieve your goals.  Enjoy Pam’s wonderful post and be sure to stop by Sonia Medeiros’ blog where I’m guest posting for Fear Factor Friday on how horror films impact our life goals.  Then you can check out more of the Life List Club blogs by visiting the writers in the LLC Blogroll in my sidebar.  We’re all guest posting today and we love hearing from you about your own goals and life lessons; stop on by!  Don’t forget, the party continues at #LifeListClub, open all hours and there’s none of that hand stamping that won’t wash off for days.  🙂

Avoid Unintentional Sabotage:  Help Those You Love Support You in Your Goals

I once worked with a woman who had been overweight her whole life. She was the “office mom,” the one who brought in donuts on Mondays to make them less Mondayish. She was the one who noticed when you were headed for a stress meltdown and surprised you with a treat. When she retired, we all felt a hole where her nurturing presence had been.

Before she retired, she set a goal of losing weight. Our little band of coworkers was more than happy to help her. We brought in healthy lunches so she wouldn’t have to watch us eat pizza while she nibbled on a Lean Cuisine. We took walks on our breaks and shared advice on getting fit.

Still, she struggled. One day, she confessed that she had a tough time sticking to her regimen at home.

“I’ve got the willpower not to buy junk food,” she admitted. “But I cave and chow down if it’s in my face.” When her hubby went to the store, he brought home Doritos, Coke, cupcakes, and their other favorite munchies. If he wasn’t raiding the junk food aisle, he was stopping by their favorite carry-outs and “surprising her” with subs or pizza.

As women are known to do when a man is being thickheaded, we called him all sorts of names. She defended him, saying ‘that’s just the way he is.’ In hindsight, I realize she was right.

Sometimes, our loved ones are impediments to achieving our goals. If we’ve chosen our friends and family wisely, this isn’t because they’re evil minions sent to keep the extra pounds on our bodies or our novels unwritten. But people are resistant to change and stuck in (or maybe just happy with) their own routines. When we start making changes in our own lives, we don’t always realize how we’re impacting those in our circle.

When loved ones seem to be sabotaging our goals, their actions are rarely malicious. In fact, they may just be doing the same things they’ve always done. Even in those rare cases where a friend or partner is truly acting in ways that are counterproductive towards our goals, their actions are usually subconscious.

A wife who makes snide comments about her husband “sitting at the computer all day” may be resentful of how his newfound focus on his writing has put extra household burdens on her. A friend who tempts you with invites to happy hours at all your favorite restaurants when you are dieting may secretly be feeling bad about herself. Or maybe she just misses spending time with you now that you’re always in the gym instead of hanging out with her.

My own boyfriend would often try to talk to me while I was writing. I was ready to pull my hair out, until I sat back and thought about it. He doesn’t write. He doesn’t understand the focus and silent reflection time I require when I’m working on my novel or a short story. So instead of just getting annoyed and sulking all night (obviously I’m not perfect either), I talked to him about it, comparing my “writing happy place” to the way he feels when he’s in the zone playing his guitar.

“You don’t want to talk to me about the bills or what we’re doing this weekend when you’re working on a song, right?” I asked. Suddenly, he could relate.

In addition to such simple communication, there are other things you can do to help your loved ones support you in your goals rather than hinder your progress.

  • Ask for what you need. We’d all like to think our nearest and dearest just “know” what we need, but that’s not always the case. Ask your mom or husband to take the kids out for a few hours so you can write. Tell your girlfriend you need her to stop tempting you with offers of gorge-fests at your favorite buffet, but that you’d love to go see a movie or hang out by the pool instead.
  • Make sure you’re being fair. When we’re focused on an end result, it is easy to get tunnel vision. You’re working all day, and writing before and after work. Meanwhile, your spouse has taken on all the household chores that you used to do, even though she works full-time too. You’re writing more, but she’s seething inside because she has no downtime, and eventually the situation will implode. Compromise is essential to keep the life balance you need to stick with your goals for the long haul.
  • Don’t be a bore. Your mom probably wants to know that you wrote 5,000 words this week. However, unless she’s a writer too, she probably doesn’t care about character development and plot struggles and your frustration with your over-use of commas. That stuff is fascinating to us writers, but not to anyone else. Network with others who share your goals. Have your lengthy and detailed discussions of writing or weightlifting or whatever your obsession is with them. You’ll save your loved ones from having to do the “polite stare and nod.”
  • Take time to live in the moment. The only guarantee any of us have is the moment we’re in right now. Time spent connecting and having fun with your partner, family and friends is never time wasted.  Don’t give up date night to write or study, or your weekly dinner at mom’s house to lose weight. Skimping on these special moments leads to resentment and loved ones who feel neglected. Cut corners somewhere else – a few more dust-bunnies under the couch or cereal for dinner instead of prepping and cooking a full course meal one night never killed anyone.
  • Give what you’d like to receive. If you want your loved ones to support you in your goals, make sure you’re doing the same. Don’t get so wrapped up in your own struggles and successes that you can’t see those going on around you. While you’re hitting the gym, your wife is working towards her degree. While you’re pecking away at the novel, your best friend is working up the nerve to do stand-up comedy. Know these things about your loved ones, celebrate their milestones, and pick them up when they fall down. Even when you are pursuing totally different goals a healthy dose of mutual respect, support and admiration can keep you connected to those you love.

Like our goals, our relationships need attention and flexibility to stay strong. It is easy to overlook that simple fact when we’re racing towards a finish line. Instead of running, do the marathon at a pace that allows those you love to walk beside you.

     Pam Hawley is a writer living in Baltimore, MD. When she’s not working at her day job, writing or in the gym, she can usually be found at her family’s pub, Hawley’s in Baltimore. So far, her new approach to achieving goals seems to be working – her first published short story, “A Wingding and a Prayer” appears in the July issue of eFiction Magazine. Pam blogs regularly at Hawleyville http://hawleyville.wordpress.com and is spending much of her free time these days happy dancing about the fact that the NFL lockout is over and she’ll have Steelers football back soon!

Earning Your Scars: Guest Blog by Emily Moir

Hello Friends!  It’s the second edition of the guest blogs from the newly formed Life List Club.  I have to give a big thank you to everyone who read, commented, tweeted, and emailed their encouragement and interest in the Life List Club.  To date, we’ve established 12 writers who will be guest posting every other Friday, but the club keeps growing.  We encourage everyone to make your own Life List and post it on your blog!  Check out our 12 featured writers’ Life Lists in the blogroll on my sidebar.  We’re all blogging today and would love your feedback.

Today, I’m blogging over at Jennie Bennett’s blog, talking about relationships.  *Gulp*  Jennie is a fellow bookworm and busy mom carving out some space to write in, so definitely go check out her blog!  And I’m pleased to host Emily Moir, a newcomer blogger working on a fantasy series with a beautiful title: Chronicles of the Gossamer Dreams.  Welcome, Emily!

Earn Your Scars and Wear Them With Pride

My sister Sara is one of the most insanely motivated people on the planet. I don’t know how she does it, and personally I think it’s unnatural. She must secretly be an alien from an advanced race, but the woman gets what she wants. Sara does cross fit because she wants to be healthier, stronger and of course look amazing. Her  instructor breaks her at every session. And I mean literally breaks her. In one of her latest classes they were doing pull ups and crazy moves involving a pull up bar. The skin on her hand broke open, a nice big tear right across the palm. Sara laughed it off and finished the workout. She proudly displayed her first tear and wore it as a badge of achievement.

When I hear something like this it makes me ask what have I given to achieve what I want?  What scars have I earned in the process? MOST IMPORTANTLY: How have they made me stronger?

Whatever we suffer to achieve our goals, it is always worth it for the strength it gives us. Our scars may not be tears in the skin, or even something visible. If you’ve ever read one of her rejection letters or studied her life story, you would know that Emily Dickinson was definitely a woman with scars. But she gave so much love to her poems that even her death couldn’t stop them from coming forward and changing the world of poetry forever. Socrates died for philosophies that shaped the western world. If you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that achieving your goals would change the world for good, ensure your infamy, or even just inspire those you love to lead more fulfilling lives, what would you give for it? Going back to my sister, it may seem the motivation behind driving herself to exercise so hard is selfish; however, her daughter ran four laps doing the stadium stairs at the track the other day. That child will live a healthier, stronger life because of the example her mother is setting. I’d say that’s worth a tear in the hand.

Thank you Jess for having me on your wonderful blog.

     Emily has lived in Utah for nearly twenty years, and in the Tooele area for about fifteen of those years. When not writing, she can be found with her nose in a book, lurking around the movie theaters or out enjoying nature. Emily primarily writes fantasy, short psychological-horror, and humorous articles. She is currently writing a fantasy series entitled The Chronicles of the Gossamer Dreams and encourages everyone to visit her blog and keep their eyes peeled for more information.

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