Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

You Can Do It: Keep Your 2008 Resolutions on Track
Or…The Dragon researched methods to ensure you succeed with your writing, and other, goals

By Sandy Lender

Mid-January seemed an appropriate time to assess the progress of New Year's resolutions. Adhering to a new exercise regimen to attain a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a new budget to save up for a vacation, or sticking to a regular writing schedule to realize your publishing dreams, etc., can all be doomed if you give in to the rest of society's penchant for instant gratification. Like the three-toed box turtle in the smoking-cessation ads, slow and steady toward an achievable goal wins the day.

During the research for this article, I found a host of advice, but the item I felt was most salient for writers visiting this blog came from the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Their experts suggest a variety of exercises for staying the course with New Year's resolutions and personal goals, but the best was "make a plan and write it down."

For those of you familiar with The Secret, you can probably see an element of visualization in this method. By writing down your goal and the steps you need to take to realize that goal, you set yourself up for success. Getting derailed, which University of Maryland Medical Center researchers warn happens within the first few weeks of "good intentions," is more difficult if you can spell out your plan of action.

What I like to do is a tried and true practice from a job-hunting resource. I take a large sheet of paper and write my goal in the center with an action verb. For instance, about four months before I moved from Missouri to Florida, I wrote "move to Florida" in the center of a huge sheet of drawing paper. Then I began to randomly write down steps I needed to take to make that move a reality, without worrying about what order to write them in. At that stage in the planning, there's no point in limiting yourself with editing. I wrote down things such as "find new job," "give notice at work," "sell house," "replace carpet," etc. Once all the thoughts were down on paper, I could organize them into categories and a logical order. That same process can take place with any personal goal. Once you're finished, your goal is that much easier to visualize and attain.

Another aspect to planning the success of your resolution is making it realistic. When I wished to get my fantasy novel published, my only bylines were in trade publications and association newsletters. I had no hope. So my resolution back in 2004 couldn't be, "I'll get Choices Meant for Gods published with TOR this year." My goal had to be more realistic. A researcher at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Jill RachBeisel, M.D. and director of community psychiatry, advises that the trick to keeping resolutions is to keep everything "in perspective. Focus on realistic goals with measurable results. You need to break things down into small steps that you can manage."

When I finished writing Choices Meant for Gods, I'd taken the first step toward the goal. Contacting agents to represent me in the publishing industry was the logical second step. Setting an appointment to meet with a small- to mid-size publisher in Florida was the logical (and best) third step. Getting a contract with that publisher was the fourth step, and so on. I didn't limit myself to going after a large publishing house within a certain set number of months.

This exemplifies what researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center advise people do when setting their New Year's resolutions: "Don't make absolute resolutions. Keep them realistic."

That also means keeping them flexible. If your goal is to finish a research-based novel by the end of NaNo this Nov. 30, and you've performed the mapping and visualizing exercise above, you probably have to start looking up information prior to Nov. 1. Visits to sites associated with your text, Internet research, interviews with primary sources, etc., all take time that you want to build into your goal. If some aspect of your research isn't complete by a certain date, don't let that sabotage your entire project. Your resolution doesn't have to fail because one aspect has fallen through or because you miss a week of preparatory writing, etc.

APA lists "forgiving yourself" as one of the important aspects of success. A small setback is just that: small. With an achievable, realistic goal that you've taken the time to map out and visualize, it's just a matter of time before you're back on track. By maintaining a steady pace and watching yourself take each step toward your goal, your chances of meeting your resolution increase each day.

(Additional information for succeeding with your New Year's resolutions can be found at www.healthyminds.org/resolutions.cfm. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers suggestions for resolutions for preschoolers through teens at www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/jankidstips.cfm.)

Sidenote: During my research, I found that the top resolutions people make are to be healthy, lose weight or exercise more; to quit smoking and/or quit drinking; to save money, get a better job or make more money; to manage or reduce stress; or to spend more time with family. At http://www.lifehacker.com/, they broke it down by percentages. They surveyed 10,883 people and found their top resolution, at 32.6 percent, was to lose weight and get fit. I didn’t weigh in, but my category of "I didn't make a New Year's resolution" came in with 21.6 percent of the votes, which I thought was high. (Interestingly, 3.2 percent of their respondents want to write a book.)

"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

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2 Comments:

Blogger Laura M. Crawford said...

Sandy, I am sooo happy you are posting again! This rocked the house, honey! Great article, and research. If you mosied on over to my blog, you will see that losing weight is top on my goal list for 2008, for health reasons, and I want to look good on Oprah! :)

I sent you an email offlist, you might get a good laugh!

Take care!

Laura :)

3:17 AM  
Blogger Sandy Lender said...

Hey, Laura!
I'm glad to be back to posting, too. It makes me feel like I'm connecting with the outside world. :)
And I'm glad to hear your excitement about your health goal! Good for you! Are you partnering up with anyone to work on your goal? The APA info I researched (and a most of the other sites I visited) list that as a sure-fire way to succeed. I go to a gym with a friend in the mornings to make sure I keep my heart healthy (and to keep that "connecting with the outside world" thing going. ;)

I'll check the e-mail!
Sandy L.
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

8:25 AM  

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