Simple is not easy: The first step to get unstuck and moving toward your goals

I can understand how people can feel duped when marketers sell them something. Most of the time, what really sells is the idea of simple and convenient.

I’m the prime audience for marketers. When I see a food commercial, I’m immediately hungry and want to eat. When I see a campaign for a new makeup release, I’ll immediately want it. When I see a new exercise program, I want to jump on board.

Then of course my rational mind comes in and brings me back in line with my financial and health goals and tells me that just because something is pretty doesn’t mean I need it in my life. And just because something looks simple to use, doesn’t mean it will be easy to get the results I want.

For example…

If simple were easy, everyone would be at their ideal health and fitness goals because the answer is scattered everywhere: eat real food and move more. Everyone I know from all health levels knows that they ought to be eating more greens and fruits; they just don’t.

But simple choices are rarely easy to make. It’s not easy to choose the healthy option when it’s more expensive than the dollar burger. It’s not easy to choose water when your friends are drinking beer. It’s not easy to cook a meal when you pass five fast food joints between work and home and you still have a million errands to run. It’s not easy to get up before dawn to work a body that just wants to sleep.

It’s especially not easy to continue to make those healthy choices when you don’t see results.

However.

We’re not doomed to being stuck.

We’re already past the first hurdle: awareness. At least we are aware that we are trying. We are aware of our goals. We are aware of our obstacles. We are aware of our excuses. We are aware that this new process we are embarking upon is hard.

So we accept it. Not the excuses. The awareness. The reality that this new process is hard. Only then can we really tackle the goal and treat it with the mindfulness it deserves. Only then can we decide if it’s truly worth it to us to continue.

I think I really like this topic, so I’ll continue my train of thought tomorrow…

How about you? Do you have any goals that are constantly on your To Do Lists, but never seem to gain traction on? I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading,

xoxo

Liza

Why coaches are necessary

One of the most impressive things my husband has ever done was take apart his old 300ZX and put it back together again. And when I mean take apart, I mean every little nut and bolt that comprised the underbelly of his car–and what essentially made a car, a car–was all spread out on his parent’s garage floor like a jigsaw puzzle pieces. Two days later, after he fixed whatever it was he needed to fix, it was all put back together and running. Minus a handful of bolts.

All of the bits and pieces boggled my mind. (And I’m sure boggled his parents, who were hopeful to get their garage back sometime soon.) But what was most impressive was that he didn’t use any special tools. Just the same old lifts and toolbox tools he and his dad owned.

The husband isn’t just car-handy, but everything handy. He doubled the value of our house and land with all the upgrades and renovations that he installed himself. And I’m not talking the stuff you see on HGTV. I’m talking all the dirty, grimey, tedious behind-the-scenes stuff that they cut out of the shows, like installing an HVAC system, creating a proprietary whole house water filter, rebuilding an entire bathroom from the 2X4s up…all with the same simple tools that anyone else would own.

THE PROBLEM WITH TOOLS

I have access to all my husband’s tools. They’re racked neatly in my basement on industrial shelves. They make a great backdrop while I workout next to them.

Yet, I would not have the first idea how to build a car or build our house. I know their intended purpose, of course. I’ve been able to function OK following DIY manuals. But to have the vision to know what other potential the tools have and use them to fill that purpose? Uh, no.

This same kind of ambiguity plagues me when I see people or businesses selling tools. Instead of screwdrivers or wrenches, they’re selling software and automation systems for businesses. They’re all there to help the business professional and entrepreneurs create simple and intuitive processes.

But there is a missing component to many of these sales pitches and that’s the how. How do I use these products in my business? How does this fit my specific gap and need?

I’m looking at it all and I’m seeing the gap. I own and can competently use all the common business tools out there from email marketing to social media to web design. But at the moment it’s very much how I’m looking at the tools that are in my basement: I know how each tool works. I don’t know how to use them to build a house.

For that I need a house-building expert.

FIND THE RIGHT PERSON, NOT THE RIGHT TOOL

It turns out that I’ve been seeking information from the wrong side. I didn’t need the developers to tell me how to use their tools or ask them how this will help my business. I needed to ask a business professional how they used the tools in their business. What are their best practices, how do they unleash the tool’s potential?

That’s exactly how I came to realize that I needed a business coach, even though I’ve been in business for years. I know how to run a corporate business, but I’m a new entrepreneur. I have always used a system already working. I need to be able to design the actual system I need for my own business.

(This is probably the frustration people feel when they see all the food choices and workout choices available. They see it all, and have the information in front of them, but don’t know how to put it together to create a lifestyle and system that works for them. Enter Certified Personal Trainers and Coaches!)

This is also the plot twist in Tools of Titans–yes, they are awesome interviews and life stories about different successful people. It also shows you that ANYONE can become successful given the right mix of tools and drive. But the one thing they also ALL had in common (but were referred to more subtly) were mentors, coaches, and guides to make them effective. They all had someone whom they admired, who had walked the path ahead of them a bit, and helped steer them in the right direction.

Do you have a coach or mentor that you use and admire? If so, why? Or how have they impacted your life? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Thank you for reading!

xoxo

Liza

Only do X if it aligns with my Why

Most of the past decade has been driven by what I can now identify as #FOMO–Fear of Missing Out. I’m sure this is related somehow to the Fear of Success that Steven Pressfield mentions in The War of Art.

Even though I’m multi-passionate and want to Do It All, I have taken the sucker’s path and followed every whim to figure out what all the fuss is about regarding X–X being whatever project seems to be trendy or popular.

I don’t regret the rabbit trails I’ve followed, because I am extremely curious and love figuring things out.

Like, the one time years ago I was so overwhelmed with knitting curiosity that I just had to buy knitting needles, a thing of yarn that I thought looked pretty (it was but it scratchy and NOT comfortable), and a how-to guide for beginning knitters.

I learned how to knit and was on my way to a scarf in about an hour. I could have finished the scarf in another hour. Yet, it took my literally years to finish it. I worked on it maybe one line at a time.

It turns out that I love owning knit scarves and gloves, but I didn’t feel the need to knit my own outerwear. Of course when Etsy exploded on to the scene and all these knitters suddenly became successful business owners I thought, “Well, there goes a lost entrepreneurial opportunity! I could’ve opened up my own Etsy shop!”

Should I have opened a shop? Would that have made me happy? I barely finished a scarf even though I knew how to knit. I just liked learning how to knit, and once I learned, didn’t feel the need to repeat it.

I made peace with my decision because I didn’t truly love it (I barely liked doing it), and why would I go into business doing what I barely liked doing? I already had that experience with my past day jobs, I wouldn’t do this for my lifelong dream of self-employment.

That’s been my pattern with other things and hobbies and topics that I’ve stumbled upon over the years. I’m grateful for loving the feel and idea and act of learning and collecting experiences over acquiring stuff…but I wonder if the downside to all of this broad seeking is a lot of knowledge without any depth or wisdom.

Like I somehow crossed over that boundary from the land of Curiosity to Scatter and Distraction.

Could I be justifying my whims and love for All The Things and desire to Do All The Things behind this veil of being an Inveterate Fullfiller-of-Curiosity? (I have decided to make that my new job title, FYI.)

If so, what is it that I’m trying justify? What am I trying to defend or validate? And more importantly, what am I hiding from myself with my multi-passionate curiosity?

Could I really be hiding my Fear of Success under layers of wanting to Do All The Things??

The obvious answer to me is yes.

Yes because All The Things are lovely to me, but a lovely distraction.

Yes because though I love the thought and idea of All The Things, I have a pretty narrow focus on the end goal for my life: Author. Entrepreneur.

Yes because All The Things do not and have not served me in my progress toward those end goals.

(Ironically, I have ALWAYS achieved whatever tasks I focus on. Unfortunately, those tasks have at best validated the idea that whatever I focus on,  I accomplish (with great effort). At worst, it has delayed my own version of success. (This thought is the most depressing because I value time so much. This blog used to be titled “Redeeming the Time” before I just simplified it as my blog.)

So. I’m going to take my own medicine and advice and choose a lane and drive it. One lane. I am going to remember my Why, and only choose those tasks and activities that will get me to my Why. I will no longer wonder if I should be doing X, I’ll know because I will refer to my Why.

If X aligns with my Why, then I will do it. If not, I will dismiss it.

I will remember these quotes:

“Activity does not equal Productivity” + “You don’t need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.” (Seth Godin) = Happy Liza

I will be like Gryffindor’s sword and only take in what will make me stronger.

Something positive to end my reflection on: I did have one main constant and focus this past decade, and that was to be successful in business and drive profitable sales growth through an engaged, loyal, and motivated sales team.

I may not have a book deal yet.

I may not have had the courage or conviction to start my own business 5-7 years ago.

But, I have those things now, and I have over ten years of experience creating profit for someone else to give me the confidence I need to know that I can do it for myself.

Thanks for reading.

xoxo

Liza

 

This Week: July 1, 2016

BOOKISH FINDS:

I used to be a voracious reader. I’m talking like four books in one day kind of gluttony.

I was one of those people who would side-eye someone if heard them say, “I haven’t read a book in months/years.” Craziness. Seriously impossible. My ravenous brain monkeys were relentless; I couldn’t read fast enough to satisfy them.

I’d bring home piles of books from the library and read the entire pile in a week. Heck, sometimes I’d read an entire series in one day/night. (I’m looking at you, Anne Bishop’s Dark Jewls Trilogy. I started the series on a random weekday afternoon and finished it sometime around 7 or 8AM the next morning, napped for a bit, then went in for my closing shift at the Job. Totally worth it…one of my best reading marathons EVER!)

…but now…

I’d be lucky if I could finish a book in a week.*

I do have competing priorities for my time now like never before, which has made me pickier on which books to spend my time. And, I have decided to *Adult* and focus on getting enough of that Sleeping thing that so many people have told me was beneficial for my health.

(And, yes, OK, so my eyes don’t bother me as much, and perhaps my skin and overall immune system is a thousand times better…still…)

But, I ‘d gotten overwhelmed with how many books I’ve acquired and have a list of books I have been told I NEED TO READ, that I ended up doing what I’ve always done with things that intimidate me or make me anxious.

I avoided them. I either read something else entirely or ignore reading altogether.

Since reading makes me happy (my original blog title!), not-reading makes me not-happy. So, I’m embracing my first love, and making it a focus to read All The Books (and why I’m returning to this Reading and Writing blog format).

All that said, here are some titles that I was so excited to see available in my digital library (I promise next week I won’t ramble on and on so much before sharing 😉 ):

  • Lair of Dreams, Libba Bray (audiobook)
  • Shadowshaper, Daniel Older
  • Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  • Truthwitch, Susan Dennard

I absolutely LOVED The Diviners, by Libba Bray, and had waited so long for the sequel that it fell of my radar! So, when I saw it available, I immediately snatched it up! I also loved the hype around Shadowshaper…anything Urban Fantasy intrigues me.

Some people can’t get into audiobooks, but as someone who commutes to the Job and values efficient use of time, audiobooks are an amazing way for me to get through my lovelist of books. (And, when my eye is irritated, which it often is, audiobooks are a great escape for me!)

Plus, there’s something about audiobooks that makes it easier for me to read books that were “too boring” to read as a physical book…I’ve found and finished so many amazing books this way!

For those who love audiobooks, SYNC is a free summer audio book program for teens 13+ that gives away two audiobook downloads a week (powered by the Overdrive App) from May 5-August 17. I really love this program, because I get to test out books I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up, or re-read a fun classic. (It was through this program that I’d read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys three or four years ago? Worth it!)

This week, SYNC is featuring Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle (easily one of my top ten fave books of all time) and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. (They have weekly themes, which I’m always delighted by!)

WRITERLY RECAP:

Most days, I’m staring at my WIPs wondering WHAT DO I WRITE NEXT, but today all I want to do is work on my NANOWIP (my clever code name for my WIP that I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2014). Maybe it’s because I watched a whole slew of comicbook movies recently. Or maybe I have a whole load of feels because I may not be able to do my annual summer trip to NYC. Or perhaps it’s the news that this year would be Stan Lee’s last year at NYC Comic Con.

At any rate, I’m really excited and motivated to revisit the rough draft and get a game plan started on it. It’s the only YA Contemporary that my brain elves have fashioned together that survived past the seedling idea stage to bloom into a full-blown story. Hopefully, other people will enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of a teen-aged Filipino girl who secretly works on her art projects while at science camp.

As for WIP 2, I have printed off the manuscript and am currently sifting through it. Oftentimes, I feel like I’m raking through a Maui beach with a back scratcher, but I’ve found so many typos and tense/POV shifts (still!) so, it’s a tedious-yet-necessary step. Considering it took several back-and-forths for my query to finally be typo-free, I was inspired to re-read my manuscript and I’m so glad I did!

Speaking of the query, I’ve sent off my latest, shiny query to Writer’s Digest’s Chuck Sambuchino for a workshop critique. I’ve already gotten positive responses from my writing buddies on this version, so I’m eager to hear his feedback! Then, in about three weeks, I go to my writing workshop! So excited!

My goal is to get the manuscript all cleaned up without these silly typo/spellos, so that it’s ready to send off into the world in August! (After re-reading it a million times, of course.)

Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to bribe myself enough to submit to Pitch Wars in August. We’ll see.

So tell me: anything new with you?

WIPWednesday: The Revision Cave

My current novel looks like this now:

WIP 2 Revision Writing

 

I love drafting novels. Love, love, love them. I love being swept away with the story. I love how my fingers fly over the keyboard. I love the fugue state I go into where the external world just drops away, and all I see is my internal world.

Reading what I’ve written, however, is something…else. There are moments that surprise me, of course, flashes of brilliance and heart that make me smile and make me all warm and gooey inside.

But most of the time, reading through one of my first drafts is like trying to glean poetry from vomited up alphabet soup. Not pretty. And, the Not Pretty keeps me from working my revisions as eagerly as I do my drafting.

I can do a whole rabbit trail about mindset and motivation and mental bracing to accommodate the new skillset of revisioning, blahblahblah, but I’ll just cut to the chase: I found a way to get over my issues.

I realized that:

  1. Everyone’s first draft sucks. They are ALL filled with plot holes, dropped characters, extraneous plot devices, and so much more. I know no one exempt from this universal fact.

2. The effort that goes into revision is ten times harder than writing a first draft, so brace yourself. The revision process is the actual “go to work” version of writing, at least for me. Sure, it could be fun, but it’s still a Responsible thing to do, up there with Eating Kale, Paying The Bills, and Taxes.

3. The work of revision is simply finding where the story dropped the connection with the reader. That’s it. I didn’t need to rewrite from word 0, add multiple subplots, and untwist/retwist the ending. For sure, I’ve done all those things and more over the years, and yes a story may need those things…but it may not. It may just need an extra scene or sentence for clarity. There’s no extra credit for rewriting and reinterpreting your previous draft(s) when the original vision was perfectly serviceable and just needed tweaking.

Revisions always feels daunting to me because I made The Crappy First Draft, so how do I get from CFD to that fun, beautiful, action-adventure that I see when I close my eyes?

This is where my INTJ brain comes in handy. We INTJ-ers love to create systems and make processes more efficient. (This is a pastiche of revising strategies I gleaned from other writers that I made work for me. If you’re familiar with Holly Lisle’s strategies at all, this is basically like that.)

What Did I Want to Write?

First, you can’t hit a target you can’t see. I spend months thinking about my story, dreaming it up, loving it…remembering why I love it and wrote it in the first place. I condense all that love into a  series of index cards.

  1. WHY I WROTE THIS STORY
  2. Story in a nutshell
  3. MC story arc
  4. Themes–major and minor

I eventually transpose those snippets into my writing diary (I have a different one for each WIP) so I’d have them to look back on, but the index cards were important to help narrow my focus and scope. Those who know me well know how I can ramble on and on because I find everything fascinating and pertinent. Index cards don’t have a lot of wiggle room. If I can condense my story on to the front of one index card, then you can too!

I also write a synopsis page of sorts, hitting the high points of the novel so I know which scenes are part of the DNA of the novel–part of the reasons why I wrote the story in the first place.

What I Actually Wrote

Then, I read through the current spine of my novel (about 40-50K words) and print it out, each scene on a new page. I divide the story into scenes, number each scene from 1-infinity. Then, another read through on paper, this time with a spiral notebook where I note all the issues–plot holes, convenient plot devices, characters that jumped to just the right conclusion, etc–including scene and page numbers and reasons why it’s off.

When I finally figure out what I wrote, I line it up with the story I want to see, aka my Ideal Story. The comparison is often brutal, but also reality, and the sooner I get over how wide the gap is between the two versions, the sooner I could work on narrowing that gap.

Prioritizing the Story Problems

I find that the most efficient thing for me to do is to work through Big Picture/Plot issues then work my way down so that the very last thing I worry about is polished prose and Oxford commas.

With that in mind, I make sure each scene gets its own index card scene summary. For easy cross reference, I put the assigned scene number and page numbers on the card. All the issues that I noted in my notebook get assigned a color (Blue for Plot, Pink for Character, Yellow for Setting, whatever) and an alphanumeric label (P1 for the first plot issue in my story). I write that alphanumeric label and page numbers on the corresponding colored post-it tabs, and stick it to that index card.

WIP2 Writing Revision

When I finally have my story condensed to color tagged index cards I spread them out and see what I’ve got. Based on the colors, I can see at a glance where my WIP needs the most help, where there are plotting issues or characterization issues. (I recently added a subplot flag to my process, so I can see where I can weave the plot lines together to help with the pacing.)

This is where I can move scenes around and shuffle them up a bit. (Scrivener is a program that I know and love and use…but I enjoy the tactile sensation of literally feeling out my story. Plus I’m convinced that the brain-eye-finger connection works at a different level off screen than onscreen. Not saying it’s better, just different.) When the rearranged scenes look closer to my Ideal Story, I read through the cards again. I use a different color index card to add in new scenes if needed, writing out a summary sentence on the card with elements I need to see in there to make it flow with my Ideal Story.

All of the above sorting and organizing and reading through basically takes me two days. The long part, the hard part, THE STRUGGLE is the long slog of actually making the words better. This arduous march is made so much easier with a clear guide of what was wrong and what I want to see. This process makes revising the content so much more efficient, and I don’t end up wasting countless hours and words on following shiny, exciting rabbit trails.

Beware of Shiny New Ideas

I love to ideate, it’s one of my top five strengths, but I have learned that I need an exceptionally fine filter when it comes to ideas at this stage, and which idea will stick.

Most of the time, it’s my muse BORED TO DEATH and wanting to play with a shiny new idea. I honor the idea, recognize its cool factor, jot it down in my journal, and continue the march onward through my WIP.

Be honest and critical with yourself–Would this new idea really serve the story you want to see, or are you finding yet another reason not to finish this novel?

Editing the Content 

The actual edits I do by hand on the printed out version of the ms. This is easy because each scene is paper clipped together, so I just go to my scene card, look at the issues there, reread what’s on the page, and make the words better. Most of the time, it requires giant X’s, squiggly arrows, and just writing stuff out on another piece of paper. (When that happens, I go to the working draft version on my computer and input the changes immediately and print it out again.)

Each scene gets edited until every issue on the scene card is addressed. I do not move on until I do. Once it’s finished, I paperclip the pages together again, and they go into the done pile.

This is the most time consuming aspect but I’ve learned to look at each scene like a micronovel so instead of figuring out how to describe setting, I look at conflict–what are the obstacles here, how is the MC going to overcome those obstacles, and will the MC be successful? Even if it’s a bullet point summary in the margin, at least it helps me grease the groove into crafting better words for my reader.

I’m still going through each scene for WIP 2, weaving the story together. I’ll be done soon. I’ve crossed the tipping point where momentum is taking over, and the flywheel is basically running itself.

It’s all pretty exciting, considering this story has lived in my head for five years. Some day soon, I hope to share it with the world.

If you have any revision tips of your own, I’d love to hear it!