A Writer’s Year Plan

It’s been a great year for me and it hasn’t been by accident. At the end of last year, I wrote down my reflections of the year, I pinpointed the things that went wrong and wrote strategies for how to avoid them or deal with them if it happened again. I wrote down all the great things that did happen and all the things I wanted to change. And I mapped it all out, both personally and professionally and then I executed it, month by month. And I did it all in Leonie Dawson’s Create Your Shining Year workbook.550x381_AffiliateGraphics_2016

You know how they always say that when you write something down it’s more likely to come true?

That is the value in year planning.

In my last post, I introduced you to the year planner that changed my life in 2015. In this post, I want to tell you about some of the things I wrote down in my year planner that came true, even when I thought they were just fanciful, fun dreams.

The funny thing about writing these things down was that, for the most part, I completely forgot about them. And then months later, when checking in, I stopped and went, wait a minute! I just did that! Better than that, often what I wrote down came true, yes, but in a way that was even BIGGER and BETTER than what I’d written.

Here’s some:

  1. Get new author pics. I was lining up a friend or my sister to do this for me and then about two weeks after I wrote this, my publisher emailed out of then blue me asking if Allen & Unwin could organise this for me, with a professional photographer and a makeup and hair person. Whoa! Yes please! Thank you, A&U, you are generous and wonderful and make me look much better than I feel.
  2. Do yoga. I wrote this down, thinking I’d like to do a class. But you know what? We did better. My husband and I decided we needed a private yoga teacher and it was possibly one of the best things we’ve ever done for ourselves.
  3. Fly to Sydney to see my publisher and agent (for no other reason than to see them). I did this and it was great not only to catch up when things weren’t so hectic but because EXTRA things came directly out of the fact that I did that: (1) totally unexpectedly, I was invited to submit a manuscript for a children’s book that I’d been scribbling away on; (2) I got a new title for my next book, The Beekeeper’s Secret (thanks, Tom); and (3) I booked a flight to the UK! (see next point)
  4. Fly to the UK. I did it! That one was totally a ‘wish list’/ ‘in your dreams’ thing and yet… it came true!
  5. Pay off the mortgage. Okay, this one was also an ‘in your dreams’ thing. But the thing with this one is that I didn’t specify which house to pay off. In my head, I was thinking our family home. But what has happened is that our beautiful tenant has left our other property (our family home before this one), so we put it on the market and we’ve just got a contract for it and that will pay it off. So it’s all good.

I also invested in my business systems.

  • I changed my focus from social media and began a quarterly newsletter, and when I mentioned it to my publishers, they offered to help out with some prizes for some issues. (Did I mention how great they are?)
  • I made a book trailer for The Chocolate Promise / The Chocolate Apothecary.
  • I got a personal assistant. This was also an ‘in your dreams’ thing (almost laughable). But guess what? I did it! Only for a couple of hours a week, sure. But it is a great move and I’m so pleased I’ve done it.
  • I invested a lot more time into my financial bookkeeping systems, spreadsheets of what contracts are where and when reporting periods happen, actually went and found all my contracts (I know, I know). In other words, I really took the legal/financial stuff a lot more seriously and set up processes to help manage the growing correspondence about this. (Truly, I’ve no idea how authors who have ten or twenty books all published in different regions and with translation rights keep on top of it all. But since I do hope that will be me one day, I guess it’s best I try to figure it out now.)

The other great thing that happens when you start writing down not only what you want to happen, but also what does happen, and what unplanned successes came along, is that you get into the FLOW of synchronicity and more and more good things come your way.

Great surprises and beautiful blessings for the year of 2015

  • A New York agent took on The Chocolate Promise and is hopeful of selling it.
  • I have contracts for The Chocolate Promise to be translated for the German market!
  • Kim Wilkins (Kimberley Freeman) gave the most beautiful speech about me and my book at the launch of The Chocolate Promise this year and it will stay in my heart forever.
  • I received an ABIA nomination for The Tea Chest and my publishers flew me to Sydney to attend the awards.
  • I got to take my sister, nephew and Dad with me to the UK, for fantastic family support on my research trip there. Lots of gorgeous memories were made and I even got to tick off another of my year’s ‘fanciful’ things to do… play Canasta!!! (We are Canasta tragics in our house and spent many hours laughing ourselves silly over the cards in the Cotswolds).
  • I have learned so much about myself as a writer, woman, mother, creative and human being this year (and I’ll get to another post about that soon).

Leonie Dawson’s 2016 Shining Year Workbooks  are on sale now but stocks are already running low. I cannot recommend them enough. You can choose just the personal life book, or the business book, or both, and you can get them in digital and print copies. They are a small investment in what could be a huge return on your dreams.

Leonie’s books get right to the heart of what it means to live, of what it means to have a business (the big ‘why’ of why we do what we do), of what it means to be alive and have dreams, and then grounds that in real visionary activities. I can’t wait for mine to arrive and to dive into planning the next beautiful year of my life.

The 2016 Year Diary and Planner for Life and Business

550x381_AffiliateGraphics_2016Have you got your 2016 diary, calendar, and planner yet? No? Then I have a treat for you. Put simply, these books can change your life. That’s a big call, right? Well, I speak from personal experience so please read on 🙂

Today I am excited to share with you the products I have had on order for months now (yes, I really was a very early bird), that will be in my post box this week, and that I am confident will once again enhance or change my life next year, just as they did this year.

Many of you will know that I follow Leonie Dawson and that I am super energised by her vision, creative products and writing. I’ve followed her for around seven years, but last year was the first time I bought her 2015 workbook, which covered both personal life and business life. I knew from the first pages that the workbook was going to stir deep reflection, poke at hidden tender spots, stoke huge fires of dreams, and get right down the practical heart of running a business and life.

All products are both in print and digital form!

I’m going to do another post soon letting you exactly the things that happened to me this year that I ALT550x381_AffiliateGraphics_2016attribute right to having written them down and worked them through in Leonie’s 2015 workbook. But for now, just know that the stocks are already running low. So if you want to take advantage of this great product, I’d advise getting on board today 🙂

(Disclaimer: Yes I am an affiliate of Leonie’s and damn happy to be! This is the ONLY thing I am currently affiliated with so that should attest to how much I believe in these books! 🙂 )

The Little Red Typewriter

Following, is a special memory and story for me, one that makes up the intricate tapestry of my creative self. And I’m wondering if you have any similar memories like this.

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Do you believe that kids often know what they’re supposed to do in the world from a very young age? In my case, I think I did. I have a very strong memory from when I was around three years of age, the timing of which my mother was able to verify based on where I described we were living at the time.

photo-3On this particular day, my parents took my sister and me out shopping and we ended up in a toy store. I wandered around and was interested in many things, including a plaster of Paris kit, with figurines of Paddington Bear. But then, I saw a little red typewriter. I was struck with an all-encompassing need to have that typewriter. Soon after, my parents announced it was time to go. I began to cry, real tears of utter pain that I would be leaving without that typewriter.

‘What’s wrong?’ my mother asked, kindly. But I couldn’t articulate what the problem was. I’m not sure I even had a clear idea of what a typewriter did, yet I knew for some reason I desperately wanted it.

‘Do you want the typewriter?’ Mum asked, clearly confused. Then, ‘Or do you want the Paddington Bear kit?’

Now, here is where it got interesting. I can’t remember for exactly what reason–whether it was because I knew the typewriter was expensive, or whether it was because I didn’t think it was reasonable that a three-year-old should want a typewriter (I remember thinking both of those things, but am not sure which argument won out)–I pointed to the Paddington Bear kit and said yes I wanted that.

We took it home and I remember spending many happy hours out in the backyard under the trees making and painting those plaster moulds. I did love it.

But what my heart and soul really wanted that day was the typewriter.

For some completely inexplicable reason, I knew that I was here to create stories and bring them into the world, and at that time the way you did that was on a typewriter.

I was telling my mother this story on the phone recently and I choked up. The pain of leaving that typewriter behind was a strong as it had been when I was three. So when I hung up the phone, I searched ebay to see if there might be a similar one out there. And there was ONE. Just one. Sitting there for sale in England. So I bought it. And now it sits beside my laptop in my writing room and reminds my inner child (and therefore my inner artist) that I am a writer. That I’ve always been a writer. That I deserve to be a writer. That I hear that calling and I acknowledge it. My mission in life is there as a very real, tangible object–a realised dream.

If you’re a creator of any kind, I’m wondering if you have any memories like this? Or if you have any symbols around you  in your space that affirm your dreams? Or have you noticed something like this in your own children? I’d love to hear these if you do.

How to Keep Writing (When Life Gets in the Way)

I’m far from an expert at this, but I’ve had to learn really fast how to deal with high levels of writing commitments (i.e. publishing contracts with deadlines and money and stuff) with a baby/toddler in tow). And right now, I’m in the middle of my structural edit for my second novel, with a deadline this month so it can move through editing and onto the printers in time to hit the shelves in April next year (yay!).

And, timing of all timings, our household has been hit with one nasty virus after another–I’m talking flu, gastro, and now my toddler has a strain of a particularly nasty chest virus that’s knocked him down for more than a week. And when your very young child is sick, there’s not a lot you can do other than drop everything and look after them. They can’t go to daycare (if that’s what they do) and no one else (even the most doting aunties and grandparents) will want to look after your germ-infested, dripping, feverish, sneezing, snotting, wailing darling child. Quite reasonably.

Act like a squirrel: prepare, prepare, prepare

Act like a squirrel: prepare, prepare, prepare

Add to this the extra effort required with washing, sterilising and disinfecting, trips to the doctor, late-night runs to the pharmacy, the emotional stress of watching your little darling crying with fever or pain, or simply because they can’t breathe well enough to actually get any sleep, their rabid wrestling when you try to administer medication five times a day, and their likely constant need for affection and comfort, and you’ve got yourself a pretty intense time, and not a lot of mental space.

And then there’s the stress that your work is falling way behind.

So here’s what I’ve learnt to do: act like a squirrel. Be singled-minded about preparing for the future. Give up any idea of getting any serious work done and simply nest. Shop for food. Cook food. Freeze food. Plan meals. Do tidying and cleaning where possible. Wash clothes. Order supplies. Pay bills. Make phone calls. Send emails. Essentially, pretend you are leaving home soon to go away for a two-week holiday. You can do these things in little snatches of time between nursing, and they don’t take much mental power. And then the very second that the crisis has passed, you are set to go. Leave all that domestic chaos behind and sink blissfully into the newfound time and freedom you have so efficiently created while nesting alongside your sick child (or sick dog, or couch-surfing nephew, or whatever else turned up unexpectedly at your door). Right now, my freezer is filling and I’m on top of the washing. I’m just waiting for the season to pass so I can dive back into my book and enjoy all those nuts I squirrelled away during the storm of relentless ills.

The Tea Chest #1 Bestseller & Goodbye Dear Jasmine

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 11.25.47 amLife’s a funny thing. This week started out difficult for several reasons and then gotIMG_2421 really tough, with me having to make the heartbreaking decision to euthanase my cat Jasmine, who was 18 years old, and had been with me since a week before I turned 20. That’s almost half my life. Her loss is very much the end of an era.

She’d been with me from university through relationships, house moves, marriage, miscarriage, a baby, and finally my dream of becoming a career author. And now she’s gone.

And then today, a fellow author alerted me to the Allen & Unwin website. My debut novel, which Jasmine helped me write by sitting in my lap and drooling on my pants till I had to lay tissues down while she purred, has just ranked no. 1 in their Top 10 Bestsellers.

Proud? Yep. In awe? Yep. Grateful? Hell yeah. Sad? Yes, sad too.

It amazes me that really sad and really happy things can happen at the same time. It amazes me that, on my last day with Jasmine, I could lie in bed with her, grieving, and be hungry for goodness sake. Hungry! Like, how could my body just keep going on doing its thing when this really important and special part of my life was ending?

I have no words of wisdom here to share, just an observation that really awesome things and really sad things don’t always happen at neatly scheduled times. Life just keeps dishing stuff up and sometimes it’s brilliant and sometimes it sucks. But I guess there’s always hope that more good stuff is on its way.

I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has been buying and reading The Tea Chest. Thank you.

And to you, my dear Jasmine, thanks for the company on this crazy journey of life.

Jasmine, Christmas 2013

Jasmine, Christmas 2013

Jasmine in healthier days, off to greet my horse Lincoln

Jasmine in healthier days, off to greet my horse Lincoln

Creative Breakthroughs: My Writing Room

I had a huge breakthrough this weekend and for me it’s so important that I’m going to continue posting about this topic every so often over the course of the year. It started like this.

IMG_1930Recently, I was invited to submit a photograph and some words about ‘my writing room’ to a UK website. I’ve harboured dreams of a magical, inspiring, nourishing writing room for years. And you may know that I’ve written about my intention to create a wonderful writing room for the past two new year’s resolutions. But I keep failing to achieve my dream.

Now, I’ve dithered about this photo task for weeks (I’ve lost count of how many). And the reason is this: my room isn’t what I want it to be. It’s not finished. I still have an unpainted wall and door, broken and missing glass in the French doors, unpolished floorboards covered by a rug, and the cheapest curtains (for want of a word) I could find as a temporary stop until ‘the real curtains’ arrive.  It’s not pretty enough. I don’t have everything just as I want it. I cannot begin to tell you how much time I’ve spent lying awake, stressed about this task!

I’ve been writing seriously now since 1999 and I still don’t have my dream writing room. But, over that time my writing space has improved. I actually wrote an entire memoir on my laptop in bed at one point because I didn’t have any space just of my own. And this time last year, I had just one corner of a room that was also shared by our senior cat and her kitty litter (so lots of smell and grit underfoot), her frequent deposits of cold vomit on the floor, the baby’s change table and the nappy bin (more smell), and the dirty clothes basket. Life in my writing room has, absolutely, improved.

IMG_1920But I’m still not where I want to be—somewhere in the gypsy cave with silks and lanterns and fairy lights, a desk made of gnarled wood taken from an enchanted forest and carved by elves, magical doorways, couches, cushions, a music player, candles, perfect lighting for day and night, perfect temperature control and aromatherapy. Somewhere peaceful with beautiful scenery. Oh, and somewhere my toddler can’t find me.

And what I’m really saying is my room is not perfect. No wonder I think I keep failing to achieve my dream.

*** And this, my friends, was my breakthrough. ***

Perfection—the deadly word for all creative types. Perfection, the unreachable, the unattainable. The tortuous quest to find the worst in ourselves (not the best).

The excuse to stop.

The excuse to not finish.

The excuse to not enjoy ourselves.

The excuse to hide our creativity from the world.

The excuse to fail.

  

From one recovering perfectionist to another, let me be clear:

PERFECTIONISM IS AN EXCUSE.

But it’s not ready. It’s not finished. It’s not good enough. It’s not what I want it to be!

Excuses. All of them.

Oh, they may be well founded in core beliefs, inherited expectations, fears that pretend to protect us from shame, punishment or embarrassment. But they’re still excuses. And they can sneak up on you and sidle into your mind very quietly and sit there for weeks, months, or years. Just as they did with me, provoking anxiety over my writing room.

But after years of stressing about it, I’ve found freedom.

I now know the reality is this: Creating and decorating my writing room is limited by the structure and size of the room; the fact that we’re still renovating a 113-year-old house and the rest of the house isn’t ‘finished’ yet either; and finances and priorities like, you know, essential plumbing, seven horses to feed and food and bills. There are limits to what I can do and that’s okay. That’s life. In fact, we need limits or we’d lose our minds. It doesn’t mean I have to stop, or have to hide what I’ve done. It’s a work in progress. Nothing in life is ever finished. Nothing. It just changes from one thing to another.

And the lesson here is that this applies to every creative aspect of our life. Everything that seems big and overwhelming can be done by breaking it down into its components. If you want to be an author, you’re going to have to write a book. (Better yet, you’re going to have to write a page, and then another page, and another.) If you want to be an opera singer, you’re going to need to take a lesson. Want a holiday but can’t afford one? Go to the beach for the day. Want a horse but don’t have land? Go to a riding centre and ride for a day. Want to change the colour of the walls in your bedroom? You might first need to de-clutter the room so you can actually reach the walls.

And if you want the perfect writing room? Start with the perfect potted plant… which I did, this weekend, by the way. Isn’t it lovely? And I bought a lamp, too. Just two things for my writing-room-in-progress. And I can’t tell you how much joy that fern and that lamp bring me when I walk into the room. The whole space suddenly feels welcoming and nurturing and I want to spend time there.

So, loud and proud, I’m sharing this with you. This is my writing room. Not finished. A work in progress. And it will probably always be a work in progress for the rest of my life. I accept that now. And I am amending my new year’s resolutions from ‘create my perfect writing room’ or ‘fix my writing room’ to ‘continue to nurture my writing room’.

Because nurturing—of ourselves, our family, our careers, our creativity, and our living spaces—is a daily necessity. I will nurture my writing room and in return, my writing room will nurture me.