Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Resolution Wrap-Up and Hurray for New Year at the Pier, Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

I'm the last TeachingAuthor to announce my resolution for this New Year. (I hope you're not sick of the topic by now.) My fellow bloggers have already shared five wonderful resolutions, and many of our readers have contributed their own inspiring six-word goals. (If you haven't shared your resolution yet, be sure to read to the end of this post to see how you could qualify to win an extra-special prize!) I want to do just about everything that has been suggested: evict my inner heckler; have more fun; start the day with my stories; take time to read, rest, and relax, etc.

However, I already came up with my six-word resolution before reading all these terrific ideas.  Here it is:
"Match my activities to my priorities."
This resolution came from being frustrated with my own behavior. I've been working on two projects for a LONG time: a historical novel set in 18th-century Europe and a nonfiction biography of one of the women who inspired the novel. Despite the fact that I'd really like to finish these projects, I would often find myself spending my designated writing time checking email, surfing the Net, and reading my friends' Facebook posts. With the start of the New Year, I was ready for a change.  

I like this resolution because it's general enough to apply to my personal life as well as my career as a teacher and a writer. However, it is rather vague, which could make it hard to carry out (and measure). Lucky for me, an article in the January 3, 2010 issue of Parade magazine provided specific suggestions for how to turn vague resolutions into lasting changes. The article's number one tip:
Give yourself crystal-clear directions. 

So I translated my general resolution, "Match my activities to my priorites," into three steps:
  1. Create a daily plan or to-do list
  2. On that plan, block out the first two hours for writing/revising. (This means NO blogging, email, Internet surfing, or Facebook until AFTER I've put in my two hours.) 
  3. Also use the plan to set aside specific, limited, times for email, Facebook, etc.
Well, one advantage to announcing my resolution almost halfway through the month is that I can report on my progress to date. So far, I've stuck with my first-two-hours-for-writing commitment. [That's why this post is up much later than my usual 7 a.m. publication time. :-) ] In fact, my dedicated writing time has stretched to close to three hours on several occasions. Hurray!

I wish I could say I've been as consistent with limiting my email/Facebook time. But I'm definitely doing better, and I hope to keep improving.

I'll share another suggestion from the Parade article in today's Writing Workout. If you'd like additional tips on how to turn your resolutions and goals into lasting changes, I encourage you to read "Make Changes That Last" by Chip and Dan Heath for yourself.

Before I present today's Writing Workout, I want to share some news that has all the TeachingAuthors jumping for joy. Yesterday, Kathleen M. Bloomfield announced the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winners on her blog forwordsbooks, and the winner of the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Younger Readers is New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story by our own April Halprin Wayland! Hurray for you, April! You really are "on fire"!

And hurray for you, our readers! If you posted a new or revised resolution here per the guidelines April announced on January 1, you have been entered for a chance to win your very own autographed copy of New Year at the Pier. If you haven't shared your six-word resolution yet, don't worry, there's still time. (U.S. residents only, please.). Don't forget:
  1. Entries must be posted by 11 p.m. today, January 13, 2010 (Central Standard Time).
  2. Provide your e-mail address or a link to your blog in your comment so we can contact you.
We initially said the winner will be announced by 11 p.m., Friday, January 15, 2010. However, tomorrow I'll be posting about a brand new contest especially for teachers and homeschoolers. I hope to be able to announce our New Year winner at the same time. So be sure to check back with us!

Finally, before I leave you with today's Writing Workout, I want to extend a special welcome to all the new readers who found us through the 2010 Kidlit Comment Challenge. We're pleased to have so many of you participate in our New Year contest and we hope you'll keep coming back. I also hope you enjoy our first Writing Workout of 2010. It's rather unusual, as it may require a bit of drawing instead of writing. Or, if you're like me and feel uncomfortable drawing, you can use your computer to copy and paste appropriate images.

Writing Workout: Create Your "Destination Postcard"
In "Make Changes That Last," Chip and Dan Heath recommend creating a “destination postcard” to help you stay focused on your goals. They describe a "destination postcard" as follows. It's a:
". . . vivid image from the near future to show you what’s possible. If your goal is to work out three days a week, find a picture of yourself from a year or two ago in which you look fantastic, and use it as your screensaver. Or hang up the dress or suit you’d love to wear if it weren’t so tight. Just keep the destination reasonable. You’ll be setting yourself up for frustration if you tape up a photo of an Olympic athlete or display jeans you last wore in college." 
I created two "destination postcards" for each of my two writing projects. One is a black and white representation of what the cover page of each manuscript will look like when it's complete. The second is a full-color simulation of the cover of each of the books after they're published.  I look at both postcards right before I sit down to work. The images remind me of my short-term and long-term goals.

For your Writing Workout, come up with your own "destination postcard" to represent your writing goal(s). If you're a teacher, have your students do the same. When you're done, be sure to report back here with a description of your "destination postcard."

Happy New Year, and happy writing!


Patricia J. Weaver said...

Last is not always a bad thing.

Carmela Martino said...

You're right! Thanks, StableGranny!

Doraine said...

Nice way of stating goals and putting them into a visual context. Great idea. Thanks.

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for the feedback, Doraine. We love hearing from our readers!

Heather Hedin Singh said...

Hi Carmela--
Your resolution really resounded with me--matching up activities with priorities is a critical aspect of reaching goals. Otherwise, they're just dreams, aren't there? Today, I set specific writing time aside for specific projects... and didn't get online until now, 7:30 pm PST. I think this could work!

Hope you've had a productive day as well!

Carmela Martino said...

That's terrific that you resisted going online, Heather. I did, too, and it was especially hard knowing it meant I'd get my blog post up really late today. Hurray for both of us!

Anonymous said...

Your not the last I have not yet thought or made a resolution of sorts yet. Now you have me thinking about it.

I love your resolution and I can say I have been making my lists and trying to complete them each day for myself. It is not a resolution per say, but again it's a day by day goal.

Unknown said...

What a great resolution. I'm going to try the destination postcards and leave it next to my computor. It just might be the kind of motivation I need to write first, then play...Pam M

mary ann rodman said...

Love the idea of the postcards! Just as I read this post, I could see the cover of the book I am working on...and I usually don't "see" a book cover, not being an artist. Great idea!

Carmela Martino said...

I hope everyone who tries out the "destination postcards" will check back in a month or two to let us know how it's going.

And MillyMarie, I hope your day-by-day goals are helping you tackle your priorities!

Karyn Hall said...

Enjoyed your blog!