No, I’m not getting ready for Christmas in March. I’m making a list of things I need to do to work as efficiently as possible and write good books, plus more personal things, like consistent exercise, etc. Examples: I’ll be writing “The Wager” next, and this is a contemporary Western romance involving a hero, Cord Hollister, who trains horses in the new way, with gentle persuasion, humane treatment, mutual respect and, above all, patience. I know a bit about horses, but not nearly as much as Cord, since he’s a professional, so I’ll be listening to several very good books on the subject. I need to know more about my heroine, Shallie Fletcher, who comes to Cord’s ranch to study his methods, so there will be more list making around her goals, etc. I will also break my 49 page outline, much of which is backstory and will not appear in the actual book, into chapters and, wherever possible, scenes. My editor, Margo, and I will speak once a week, after she’s read my work, to brainstorm ideas and make sure the story is flowing along nicely, and meets the criteria of any good story, as Kathy Sagan, my Mira editor, and I have done so successfully with–drum roll, please, because the new and most probable title follows: “The Blue and the Gray”. I LOVE that title, and I hope it passes through the vetting process–as I mentioned in a recent blog, publishing is a co-operative effort, and we all have to agree. I will need to revise my Christmas novel, which features the Mustang Creek folks, and, finally, revise the Civil War book.
I’ve always been a list maker; in fact, I start every new book with Lists of 20, a marvelous technique I learned years ago, at a Brian Tracey seminar, which I attended with Debbie Macomber. The process can be used for any project, and I highly recommend it–the rules are simple. You start out with a heading, such as (in my case), What are 20 things I know about this book? This character? This scene? I use plain notebook paper and start listing ideas, without judging any of them. Usually, the first half a dozen or two are downright ridiculous, but as I persist, something wonderful happens. I start coming up with original stuff I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise, and often, there are many more than 20 potential ideas by the time I finish. This trick has never failed me and the applications are endless. Try it.
By making the above lists, I will be able to put all these different projects into working order, by priority. Since I’m a gold-star girl, I love being able to mark off a task as finished–what satisfaction that gives me! (Probably why my bullet journals seem to work so well; I use lots of color and art, and I love being able to color in a square because I’ve exercised that day, or met my page quota, etc.) I would probably accomplish little or nothing without my lists and charts; in my native state, I am wildly creative, yes, but very scattered, too. I need a plan, and if I can incorporate color and drawings, my right brain is happy to let the left hemisphere have its say.
Today, I came across an audiobook that has me so excited, I have to share. It’s called “The Five-Second Rule” and the author is Mel Robbins. I’m not even through listening yet, and I am blown away by this simple tool for getting past procrastination and its evil cousins and taking action. If you are struggling with analysis paralysis, as they say in the 12 step programs, this is the book for you. We all have things we know we ought to do, in all areas of our lives, but too often, fear stops us from even trying because–gasp–we might fail. Well, so what? Unless we’re in a life or death situation, we won’t die if we fail. What’s the worst that can happen? Sure, we might fall on our face, make a fool of ourself, suffer a painful disappointment, but, really, is that the end of the world? Of course not. And, well, what if it works? What if we don’t fail? We’ll never know if we don’t try.
Mind you, I’m not saying I always jump right in and go for the main chance. I struggle with doubt every single day of my life, and I’m out to win the fight a little more often. Hence, “The Five-Second Rule”.
This amuses me, how I’m supposed to be selling my own books on this blog, and I always seem to be selling someone else’s. Here’s the thing: if I say something that helps one single person, on this blog or elsewhere, then I have accomplished something important and real. I see my stories in a similar way–success is nice, but it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all–if my yarn gets somebody through a hard day, or inspires compassion toward an animal or another human being, or puts a smile on someone’s face, then I’m happy. And if, when I’m gone, somebody says, “That ole cowgirl was good to me”, that will be all the success anybody could ask for.
Have yourself a wonderful weekend, and be kind to every living creature, including your own dear self. A smile, a touch of the hand, a little well-placed forgiveness, well, any or all of these might make a bigger difference to the recipient than you can possibly imagine.