Friday, December 31, 2010

How to Eat an Elephant?

Please excuse me for getting a little personal here- I'm working on some posts about flashbacks and pacing and a brilliant post about how I got my agent...I'll let you know as soon as I work out the details on that one! But for now, a bit about writing and how being a Sunday school teacher gave me a little push.

I started writing a few years ago as a result of being a teacher in the Young Women's organization at church. The girls, 12-17 years old, all participate in "Personal Progress," a program with hundreds of activities designed to develop different virtues. These activities could be anything from reading the scriptures daily and recording what they learn to learning a new skill.

In addition, the girls are required to complete a ten-hour project for each of these virtues, and I'd often ask the girls about their progress. As a teacher, I was encouraged to work on my personal progress alongside the girls, and that was why, when an idea flashed through my brain, I picked up a pen and wrote it down. I already had the goal in place and the time had come to act on it.

Two years after beginning to write in earnest, and four years from that first sketch, I realize that my little idea has taken slightly more than ten hours to develop!

It can be done, and here are some things that have helped me.

  • Track your progress. Whether you use a star chart or a marker on your bathroom mirror, write down your goals and what you do each day to meet that goal. It doesn't have to be number of words- that only worked for me for the first draft, but perhaps an amount of focused time? Perhaps it will be to mark up so many pages a day with tiny scribbles that seem perfectly legible until you try to decipher them a week later.
  • You can write a paragraph in five minutes, and eventually you'll fill a book. It adds up. So don't waste your spare moments. Sometimes they're all we get.
  • Eliminate the junk. I don't mean that you can't allow yourself to enjoy some leisure time- even TV can can be a nice break- but if you want to write, you have to give yourself the gift of time to write.
  • Don't get upset if you mess up. Start again. Say it with me: Today is the first day of the rest of my life!

How do you stay focused on your goals, whether writing-related or not?

I hope that you all have had a wonderful 2010, that this coming year will find you well and happy. Enjoy this video--it got me a little pumped!


  1. Great advice, Kelly, I remember working with the YW in Personal Progress. It is such a great motivator, because I didn't finish mine when I was in YW.

    I haven't seen this video yet; I love it. Happy New Year!

  2. Whoever created that video did a great job. I taught a lesson on "the" creation at the beginning of 2010. My involvement in the creation of a novel made me think of the whole concept of creation in ways I never had before. Creation is in our blood.

  3. I am desperate to finish a goal, I almost never set a goal because I fail every time....any ideas?

  4. Hi Jen- Glad you liked it!
    Hey Ben- I had the same experience. It gets me all philisophical to think about it;)
    And Donna- setting reasonable goals is important, because it gives us a plan. And not all plans work out. that's okay. I like to plan big, then consider any porogress made a win. So I may think I should write ten pages a day, but even writing three is still a win. I'll blog more about this soon. Good luck to you!

  5. Isn't it amazing how things happen? I served in YW for years. That's when I wrote several of my novels that are now published. It's inspiring to be around the youth. :)

  6. Hi Kathy- So it's not just me? I love how I leave church wanting to do better and be more. Thanks for stopping by!