Moving my blog

The time has come for me to streamline my blog and websites. I will be continuing on with my coaching blog over at www.sherrypeters.com/blog.

If you have this page bookmarked or subscribe to this blog, please change your bookmark or subscription to the new site.

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The Struggle Is Real

Struggle PuppyI was going to have a completely different post this week, a continuation of the theme of change or about embracing our fears. I may post that next week.

I needed to change my post. If this is a journey we’re doing together, then I need to be honest with you. So here goes:

I’ve been struggling. I’ve been struggling a lot the last few weeks. Sure I have good writing days and not so good writing days. We all have those, and that’s OK.

But most days, i feel like a fraud.

I feel like a fraud because those nasty self-doubts I coach writers to work through, have been rearing their ugly heads. A lot.

Things like: It’s never going to happen, no one wants to read this, it’s terrible writing, I’m a terrible writer, I’m a failure, a complete and utter failure.

I don’t believe that my doubts are different or any stronger than anyone else’s.

They are my doubts, and I have been giving in to them. For that, I am ashamed and a fraud.

Except that I’m not.

I do take my own advice, and find ways to argue back against my inner saboteur, but I still give in.

That doesn’t make me a fair or a fraud. It makes me human.

It makes me a human, with depression. It’s not something I’m ashamed of. I struggled for many years before I even knew I had depression. Getting medical and psychological help for it has been a tremendous help. But that help doesn’t mean it will ever really go away. The depression may fade for a time, but it does come back, and when it does, I struggle, and I struggle a lot.

When I struggle with depression, I do my best to get words on the page. Often I have to be satisfied with a sentence or two, or the placement of a period. Most days I pick up my pen and paper or turn on my computer and stare at it for hours with no clue how to proceed, with too much noise in my head to form any kind of clear thought.

I know enough on the worst of days to be gentle with myself. To understand that I simply don’t have the energy or the mental fortitude to write anything that day and that if I take it easy today, tomorrow should be better. Often times it is.

I’ve been gentle with myself. I took it easy. I make myself write. I tell my inner saboteur to shut up. And the next day, I have to be gentle again. I tell myself that I’m drafting and that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I need to be patient with myself and the whole writing process. It’s the same stuff I coach my clients on. I pick up my pen, turn my computer on, and I try again, until it gets easier.

So what’s my point? My point is that I’ve been struggling.

My point is to tell you so that if you’re struggling, you know you’re not alone.

So here’s to better and brighter writing days.

Just Do It!

day light in room through open door on stairs towards field on black background

We’ve all had times like these, where we talk with our friends about how we can’t find the time to write, and we just want to write but it’s so hard, and we hate our jobs because we want to write, but we never actually do any writing. The same happens when it comes to making changes to our routines. We can talk about changing and taking action all we want, but until we actually make those changes, nothing is going to be different.

I hate that rut, and I have a feeling you do too. Now is the time we take practical steps, we implement the changes we want, and we make our writing happen.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to make a list, to write down what you’re doing now in terms of writing, and where you would like to be. I asked you what the difference between the two was, and what needed to change for you to get to where you wanted to be. If you haven’t done it already, do it now.

I want you to be detailed. List the tasks and activities you do on a regular basis. This includes things like: coffee with a friend every week; house cleaning every Saturday, driving the kids to music lessons and hockey practice, going to the gym, shovelling the driveway/yard work, visiting parents, time with the nieces and nephews, helping the kids with homework, meal prep, watching The Good Wife and Blacklist. Write down all of it.

Beside each of the activities you list, mark off which ones you enjoy and which ones you don’t. Chances are, the activities you don’t enjoy, are the ones that are necessary to the survival of you and your family, such as work, cleaning, cooking, etc. However, of those activities, are there any of them you can delegate to someone else? Are the absolutely necessary that they get done as frequently as you do them?

For example: are your kids old enough to take on some of the household chores? What about your spouse/partner/roommate? Can they take over some of the duties? Are you in a position to hire a cleaning person to come in once a month to help out? What about the neighbours kids? Can you pay them to clean your driveway and do the yard work?

Is there a way you can use these activities to your advantage? If you’re taking your kids to music lessons or sporting practice, rather than gossiping with the other parents, can you use that time to write?

I have found that in order to make the changes necessary, it is important to start with one thing at a time, then add on. So start with one activity, the one easiest for you to eliminate, reduce, or delegate. I’ve done this by eliminating my specialty cable channels to reduce my TV watching time, though this still needs work; hired a cleaner to come in once a month to reduce the amount of time I spend cleaning because I hate it and take forever to do it; and I use my slow-cooker to make larger meals for left-overs. I also live in a Condo so while I’m not a fan of the maintenance fees, I don’t have to worry about snow removal or lawn-care.

So right now, I’m going to make a deal with you, a committment: I almost always write with the TV on, but I am far more productive without it. My promise to you, is that I’m going to watch less TV. A lot less TV. I’ll reduce the number of shows I record, and give myself at least 3 hours of writing time an evening without the TV on.

What is one activity you can eliminate, reduce, or delegate? Let me know in the comments, and we will hold each other accountable!

The Inevitability of Change

Change is inevitable

One of the first principles of coaching is that change is inevitable. Change can be painful, it can be challenging, and it can be refreshing. Without change, there can be no growth.

Often we fear the word change, because it suggests the unknown. Far too often we would rather stay with what is familiar, than move on to something we know nothing about, assuming some kind of danger lurks around the corner. Without change, we remain in the rut we are in, unhappy, unfulfilled.

Look a the list you made last week, of how much writing you’re actually doing, compared to what you’d like to be doing? What did you say needed to change in your life to make that happen?

The first thing that needs to change, is our mindset. We need to accept that change is necessary for our goals to be met. When you are ready, when you accept this mindset, then you are ready to move on, to grow, and to achieve.

Once you’ve accepted that change is necessary, then you will be more open to determining what changes need to be made. You will recognize what activities need to be dropped or reduced, what you can delegate to others, and how you will alter your work-space.

Recognize that in acknowledging that things need to change, this will not always be an easy road. There will be times along the way when sacrifices are made that will affect you, and potentially cause some discomfort with family and friends, especially should you decide to spend less time with them. There will be times when you would rather stay for that extra beer, or watch the game, fall back into the same routine you have now because it is easier, and familiar. But will it get you to where you want to go?

Rather than seeing these changes as all sacrifice and doom and gloom, look forward to them. See them as finally the chance to work on what you want to do. See them as necessary self-care, putting yourself and your goals first. See them as stepping into who you are meant to be, into that better life you want, finding that happiness and fulfillment you want.

When you take care of yourself, put yourself first for a little bit each day, you will be happier. When you are happier, you will be more willing to interact with family and friends, you will be better equipped to take care of their needs.

What is holding you back from accepting change? What can you do to accept change? Join in the conversation!

Until you try, you’ll never know

Through Accepting Limints

 

The other day I was telling a friend that the soundtrack to the musical “Wicked” was the soundtrack to my life. It may or may not be a bit of an exaggeration, but two lines in particular resonate the most with me: “I’m through accepting limits, ’cause someone says they’re so. Some things I cannot change, but ’til I try, I’ll never know.”

Back in the summer of 2004, I took a trip to New York City. I saw the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the American Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim, went to the top of the Empire State Building, and so much more. It was a fantastic week. I also went to see “Wicked” on Broadway, with much of the original cast, including the incredible Idina Menzel. (brag, brag, brag).

This wasn’t just a random trip to New York. While it was a trip I’d always wanted to make, I had decided to go to New York because I didn’t get in to the Odyssey Writing Workshop. I’d made the waiting list, but not in to the actual workshop. I’d thought that was it, whatever, I’ll cheer myself up with a great vacation.

I’d been in a rough place for some time. I was nearing (if I wasn’t already) clinical burn-out at my job, I had no social life to speak of, and my writing was just not happening. I was tired of it. I was tired of being tired, and of failing to live the life I wanted to live, because I was doing what was expected of me. To say I felt stuck was an understatement. I needed to get out. Hearing those lines “Some things I cannot change, but ’til I try, I’ll never know,” stuck with me. I could relate. I needed to at least give change an honest try.

I gave myself 1 year to make things happen; to change my job, and to take my writing more seriously.

A few months later, I was given the opportunity to work in Northern Ireland for a year. It was a dream come true. As I was preparing for Northern Ireland, I received a reminder of the application deadline for Odyssey. I hadn’t intended to apply again, but since I was already leaving my job, I decided “why not?” I could just leave work a few weeks earlier than planned. That summer, I got into Odyssey.

Big changes were happening. They were happening because I was committed to making them happen. They didn’t come easy. Sacrifices had to be made. I had to sell my condo to be able to afford to go. I had to give up my pet bunny, I had to leave my family, in particular my young nieces and nephew whom I adore.

Last week I asked you how committed you were to achieving your writing goals. It can be easy to say your 100% committed, that you’ll spend every waking minute on your goals, or to writing 1 word a day, every day. But unless something changes in your daily routine to make that time, it doesn’t matter how committed you are, it still isn’t going to happen.

What needs to change in your life, to make it possible for you to follow-through with your commitment? What needs to change so you can achieve your goals?

How much are you writing now? How much would you like to be writing? What is the difference between the two? What needs to change to get to where you want to be?

I’m going to throw in a caveat here. We’d all like to quit our day jobs and write full-time. Unless that is truly financially feasible for you right now, let’s assume that it isn’t and it won’t be for a few years. So think about what needs to change without quitting work.

I’d love to hear where you’re at and where you’d like to be. Join the conversation!

 

The Horse and the Carrot – A story of perseverance

by Ryan McFadden

So I had a book come out. That was October, and now it’s January, and I’ve yet to hit the NYT best seller list, or the Macleans best seller list, or even the London Free Press best seller list, or any list at all. In fact, from my perspective, it feels more like a whimper than anything else. Oh, I’ve been trying – trust me, I’ve been trying to flog this book wherever I can without being rude about it. I believe in it, I think it will entertain my readers (by saying ‘my’ I mean readers that are typical of the dark fantasy story that I tell).

However, success is a funny concept. I graduated a creative writing program from York University. I loved university, and I loved the experience, and I always thought that I’d be successful quickly. My best friend gave me six months to hit it big. That was 1995.

It would take another 12 years before I made my first professional sale: a tiny little story called Last Rites (which can be found here: http://www.ryanmcfadden.com/541/).  I made $5 and I was a professional writer (though I never cashed the cheque).

12 years. That’s a long time to be alone in the wilderness.  During that time, I continued to write and I completed five novels (though really it was a 10-year period when I did that).  There’s that whole concept that you have to spend 10,000 hours on something to become good at it. Well, my 12 years was about right. None of those novels will ever see the light of day.

From there, I sold another few stories for a few bucks here and there. My good friend Eileen Bell asked me to come onto a project called The Women of the Apocalypse. They wanted a novella! Why, if I could get a novella in there, I’d be happy. Who knows what doors it could open? Women of the Apocalypse exceeded expectations and we won an Aurora award for it. Why, everything is perfect now, right? Yes, for about three days.

Then came a call for submissions for Evolve 2: Tales of the Future Undead by Nancy Kilpatrick. Why, if I could get a story included in there, I’d be set! Sure enough, I sold a story. Everything was going to be right in the world. And it was, for about two weeks.

You can see here I’m going with this: more stories, more awards, more Auroras, more inclusions in successful anthologies, and now, finally, my own novel.  Success! Right? Meh. These are all things that I wanted so badly – and don’t get me wrong, they are 100% awesome – but they still don’t quantify as success.

I’m sure as human beings, we always want more. A little more success, a little more money, a little more love. It’s like playing a video game where you’ll stop playing once you just kill this boss…

Success is a perspective.  I also wonder if I looked around at some of the things I’ve accomplished (that all seemed impossible only 7 years ago) and thought ‘wow, you’ve finally done it’ if I’d stop. Throw up my hands and say “I’ve done what I need to do here, time to call it a day.” Maybe. Maybe the lack of success is what drives perseverance.

There are many who claim to love writing: unicorns dance over rainbows and little orphans find homes. But not for me. I don’t particularly enjoy my time writing. I find it difficult – nearly painful sometimes, but I also find it’s something I absolutely must do, that my whole being is centred on striving forward.

This all sounds so incredibly negative, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was that our benchmark for success continues to move ahead, which in turn, drives us forward. Perseverance is the cart or the horse, and the success is the carrot, just slightly out of our reach…

 

About Ryan McFadden:

I am a writer of fantasy and horror, with short stories and novellas published through Dragon Moon Press, Edge SF & F, and Absolute X-Press. In 2014, my novella Ghost in the Machine won the Aurora Award (Canada’s most prestigious award for SF&F) for Short Fiction.

My motley past involves such dangerous work as database administration, ice cream flavouring (seriously, that’s a thing), hockey league administration, screen printing, web design, furniture building, and home renovations.

He lives in London with his two beautiful, but sometimes diabolical daughters, who he is sure are plotting to one day overthrow him.

My other writing credits include stories in Chicago Overcoat, Afterburn SF, Sinister Tales, as well as a finalist in the $1500 JFJK contest, a semi-finalist in the Writer’s of the Future (as well as receiving two Honourable Mentions)

http://www.ryanmcfadden.com/

Ryan on Goodreads

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Ryan on Twitter

Commitment-phobic?

Commitment

At the end of each coaching session, clients are asked to come up with action steps that will help them accomplish the goals they set during the session. After the action steps have been stated, the client is asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10, how committed they are to carrying through with the actions. If the coaching session has been a good one, the client is generally pretty keen and committed. The actual carry-through is a different matter.

I know.

I’ve been through these sessions, and I feel that level of commitment. I have a clear plan, the steps aren’t big, they’re doable. I also know my own laziness. I can be perfectly committed, and then I hang up the call, and then I go to my kitchen to get a drink and I get distracted, and often times, that commitment dissipates. It’s like it never existed.

The problem is that solid commitment is necessary to achieve our goals.

To a certain extent, that wavering of commitment is on me. In part, it is the responsibility of the coach to make sure the client truly wants the end result and is willing to do what it takes to get there. If that commitment isn’t there, then the coach didn’t ask the right questions to elicit the goal and actions that resonate strongest with the client, to make sure it is something the client really wants.

When the goals and actions coincide with what the client truly wants, they will do anything to get there, and great things are accomplished.

Last week I asked you what your writing goals are. I asked you to dream big and I asked you to make them specific.

Now I’m going to ask you how badly you want to achieve them.

Are they someday I hope to get their dreams? Or are they something you want so bad you can taste it, to not get there will devastate you?

I’m a huge sports fan. One of the things that amazes me about athletes, is their commitment. When we get to see them, it is at a competition of some kind, where they’re showing off their skills and abilities. And the best ones are exhilarating to watch..

What we don’t see, are the hours and hours of time they put in at the gym lifting weights and doing cardio, and the hours of training, perhaps practicing one particular move over and over and over again. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. I can barely stand half an hour on a treadmill. But they do it. Day after day, hours each day, because they know it is only the hard work they put in, that will get them to their goal.

So here’s my athlete-envy analogy: writers are athletes too. Our glory event, competition, is when our writing gets published, when we get to do a reading. That’s the exciting part, where people get to see our talent and skill.

The time we spend at the keyboard or putting pen to paper, writing those words down, are the same as the hours athletes spend in the gym. The hours we spend editing, perfecting our words, are the same as the hours athletes take perfecting each maneuver.

I think we can all agree, that most of the time, sitting down and writing isn’t fun. We love writing, we love telling stories, but it would be so much easier doing something else: going out with friends, going to a movie, especially having a nap. OK, maybe that last one is just me. I wonder about athletes. How much do they enjoy running on a track or pumping iron and all the other training they have to do? I am sure there are days they want to just stay home or go out with friends. But they don’t. They go to work. Because to not go in to the gym means they are farther from their goal.

So how much do you want it? Are you willing to push through the unpleasantness of the drudgery of writing? Are you willing to push through to find the enjoyment in the work?

I am. I am committed to editing this novel, making it the best it can be. I am committed to getting this novel done and out the door. And I am committed to working on it every day, in every spare moment.

Are you with me?

Make it so!

Happy New Year!

Join me on a goal-achieving adventure this year!

Believe it or not, I’m not big on new year’s resolutions. Why? They tend to be impossibly big, vague, and requiring a drastic change with little to no preparation before-hand.

That doesn’t mean I don’t make any plans or goals for the new year, and I expect you’re the same way. Why don’t we accomplish them together?

Over the next several months, on this blog, I’m going to walk through what needs to be done to achieve our goals. I want you to be a big part of this community. Comment on the posts, participate in the challenges, let me know what is working for you, and what isn’t working for you. With your participation, you will help keep me accountable, and I promise to do the same for you.

To start this adventure, let’s talk about our goals for the year.

Setting goals is one thing. To actually achieve them—to put in the work, to make the time—is a different beast. You’ve probably heard the saying that knowledge is power. Perhaps you’ve also heard that using that knowledge is the real power. I’ve talked more than enough about setting achievable and exceedable goals. You can see yourself the achievable goal of writing one word a day, but if you do nothing different to make that happen, then even that one word a day goal isn’t achievable.

The first thing we need to do to make sure we can accomplish our goals, is to make them specific. Remember my problem with new year’s resolutions being too vague? We don’t want that. We want to be as specific as possible. But like resolutions, make them big. I want us to push ourselves this year. We don’t have to worry about them being too drastic a change, because we have all year to accomplish them.

Aim high.

What are your writing goals for this year?

I’ve got an ambitious year planned. I have a first draft of a novel written that I need to have fully edited and out the door, hopefully in March, or June at the latest. I also want to outline, draft, and edit a second novel by the end of December. And my stretch goal is to outline a couple more novels.

Now it’s your turn. Share your goals in the comments. Telling others what your goals are is a great start to keeping each other accountable and making those goals happen.

Let’s make this year OUR most successful year yet!