~by Amanda Smith
Usually we share our best writing advice, inspire you to set goals, and help you find strategies to meet those goals. We’ll be back to that soon enough, but it is December. Snow has fallen. Trees are decorated, cookies baked, gifts wrapped, and candles lit. So grab a cup of hot chocolate and a candy cane because December is a time of…
This season let’s take time to ponder our accomplishments and the goals checked off the list, our disappointments, and our triumphs in writing. Also, let’s reflect on what worked and why. Thomas Carlyle said, “The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.” Let’s look into our mirrors, acknowledge what we see, and start planning new writing goals for 2017.
A writing partner reminded us this is a season for generosity, and we should extend some of that generosity to ourselves. Once we have looked into that mirror, let’s give ourselves the gift of grace for what we didn’t do and focus instead on what we did accomplish. Hey, if ever there is a time for carrots, it is December! Leave yourself a little reward, all wrapped up with a bow, under the Christmas tree.
Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the season, let’s find some peace. Take some time to rest. Make room for solitude, so you can reconnect with your heart, passion, and dreams.
Hope is the desire for a certain outcome, a feeling of trust. Once we have reconnected with our passion, let’s set expectations, focus our efforts, and set yearly goals that will help us realize the hope we have for this new year. And keep working, because...
That being said, this season is also a time for family. Let’s trust our work, our characters, and our muse to still be there in the new year. For a few glorious days let’s enjoy the small moments with our families – the movies, the baking, the games, the songs, and celebrations. Let’s allow ourselves guilt-free time away from writing so that we can soak up all the precious expressions; gleeful laughter; teenage snark; fiercely frustrating, absolutely infuriating, delightfully humorous family interactions. (And don’t be surprised if some of those show up in future writing projects.)
We look forward to a productive new year filled with goals and writing tips, but for now, from our 24 Carrot Family to yours, Happy Holidays!
by Kelly Carey
Mid-December is a time of great anticipation. Little sugar plums anticipate Santa's arrival, bigger gingerbreads await college admission news, and for me, it’s a time when I purchase a new calendar full of empty squares. It’s a time to think about a whole new year ahead – a time to map out my writing goals, and set some writing New Year's resolutions.
This year, I'm enlisting a secret weapon to move my resolutions from goals to habits. I'm going to use Habit List - a high- tech, but easy to use app ($3.99 on I-Tunes, http://habitlist.com/) that will track my goals, remind me to meet them, and give me cool stats on my success.
At 24 Carrot Writing we advocate setting two writing goals a month – one craft goal and one butt in chair writing goal. We encourage you to reward yourself for hitting your goals with well-deserved carrots or rewards. The Habit List app can be a fantastic asset in helping you become a 24 Carrot Writer.
Let me run you through how Habit List would work using a daily craft goal.
Let's set a goal to read one picture book or one chapter of a middle grade or young adult novel every day:
1. Set that goal or “habit” in Habit List.
2. Select the frequency "Every day" (you can pick options like weekly, monthly, every 3 days, or every Tuesday).
3. Ask Habit List to remind you to complete your goal at a set time every day (in my case by 8pm every night – right before I might have opted to turn on the TV!).
Habit List becomes my own little sugar plum fairy. Maybe pinging my phone instead of dancing visions in my head, but helping me hit my goals nonetheless.
Now you get to revel in every success.
When you complete a habit or goal, mark it off for that day, and Habit List will track your progress.
The satisfaction of checking off a daily target is invaluable. In a career where we can wait months for feedback, and face rejection more than acceptance, being able to hit “completed” on Habit List becomes balm for the writing soul.
You did it. You accomplished a writing goal. Success!
Habit List will even let you gloat. It tracks your total completions, your current running streak of success and - for those competitive types - it shows you your longest successful streak.
Habit List lets you see how often you've met your target on a weekly basis or a monthly basis.
If daily goals aren't you thing. No worries. You can use Habit List to set weekly goals, or monthly goals. For example you may want to work on a PB revision at least 3 days per week. Or maybe you want to make sure you send out 3 submissions a month. You can set each of these goals in Habit List, let your little Habit List Sugar Plum fairy remind you to hit your goals, and feel great satisfaction tracking your progress on the Habit List stat page.
This steady practice of goals will shift your plans from targets you anticipate hitting, to habits you automatically accomplish every day.
Set two attainable habits for January – one craft and one writing. Then, assess your progress on your Habit List app and add a second set of habits for February – keep adding and building on your successes each month.
This time next year, you will open your Habit List app to discover that you have made being a 24 Carrot Writer a wonderful habit.
by Francine Puckly
A number of years ago, I began my illustrious side career as taxi driver. I shuttled my kids to school, various music lessons, drama, hundreds of soccer and baseball practices, student council meetings and friends’ houses. The numerous hours allocated to driving substantially cut into my personal reading time, and one-half of every roundtrip was spent alone in the car. After having exhausted every last FM radio station and my expansive iTunes library multiple times, I somewhat reluctantly turned to audio books for sanity and entertainment.
There were fits and starts with this new form of story consumption. I was skeptical that I could pay attention to a story while driving, and I struggled when certain readers had voices and cadences that didn’t keep my attention, or worse, downright irritated me. But over time I tweaked my selections, and I have come to embrace this form of reading. I actually look forward to driving now!
It was a huge surprise to me to find that I remember plot and subplot structures, character flaws and descriptions, themes, clues, and imagery far better with an audio performance than when I read a paper version of the same story. I believe there are a few reasons for this.
First, I can’t jump ahead. Ever read a suspense novel and can’t stand the thought that the character might be killed off? And then you find yourself peeking at who’s still alive on the last pages? Well, guess what? You can’t do that with an audio book! It’s maddening, but because I have to stay firmly in the current section of the story, it makes me acutely aware of how the author is teasing the story line and emotionally engaging me as a reader.
Second, you read (or hear) every last word. There is no speed-reading or skimming or “let me see what’s going on at the beginning of the next chapter” sorts of cheating. By noting adjective and verb choices as well as passages of descriptions you love and those you might find tedious, you’re able to see what works for the story and how those techniques may or may not apply to your own writing.
Third, pauses are emphasized. I can (and need to) shut off the recording for a few minutes between sections to analyze how the author has wrapped up phrases, chapters or complete sections. This reflection helps me discover how the author has left me hanging until she presents the next morsel for me to consume.
If you’ve never tried audio books, here are a few hints to help you get started:
So whether you’re painting a room, taking a solo cross-country trek, or driving in circles dropping your kids at various activities, expand your reading time in the new year!
Good luck and happy reading!
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