January 1, 2020

Successful people do consistently what normal people do occasionally.

I recently heard this saying in a sermon by Craig Groeschel. Well, the sermon is a year old, but I listened to it again recently because it’s on a topic that is my word for the year—habits.

Yes, habits is my word for this year. I know, it’s a bit odd, so let me explain.

As many of you know I’m trying to develop a writing career. On my free time I write fiction (primarily) and I have a dream of writing fiction full-time. I’ve published a few books, but I have a long way to go.

I am not satisfied with the amount of work I accomplished last year. I’ve work hard the last few years to have more time in my schedule to write, yet I don’t feel like my productivity lived up to the time I had available.

Every year I make goals (actually, more often than once a year as I make adjustments continually), and this year (2020) my goals are rather ambitious. Maybe too much so, at least according to my 2019 work habits. So something needs to change.

I’m reevaluating my whole life system and considering what I need to adjust to become the person I want to be and achieve the things I want to achieve.I’m determined to make some new habits.

It will be a work in progress, but my overall goal this year is to train myself to become more of the person I want to be.Here are my first steps. I’ll start with my spiritual life, since that is the most important to me.

I’ve been inconsistent in spending time with God and that is not acceptable. I have this smart phone that barely gets more use than my old flip phone, so I decided to start there. My goal is to do a devotional using the YouVersion Bible App on my phone first thing every morning.

It takes me ten minutes to read through and pray. It’s intentionally a short goal, so I can develop the habit of doing in every day. If I succeed, that will be 3,660 minutes (61 hours) with God in 2020. Not a bad start.

The second habit I’m adding to my schedule is the use of a ten minute timer to help me write new fiction.

In 2019 I did a lot of revision work and not a lot of new story writing. That’s going to change in 2020. So far, setting a timer while I write has improved my focus. One of the problems I’ve faced is getting easily distracted by, well, by about everything.

I set a timer (another nifty feature of my new smart phone) for ten minutes. Then the only thing I do for those ten minutes is write. No editing, revising, laundry, checking e-mail, or anything else. Only writing new words. So far this has been a huge help. In fact, it’s how I’m writing this column, although with the looming newspaper deadline every Tuesday afternoon I’ve had little problem in the past of getting my column complete.

But when I’m writing fiction, especially in my house, I tend to spend too much time thinking about what I’m doing instead of doing it. Thinking about things too much is a problem I’ve had for most of my life. Hopefully, at least in this area of my life, I can mitigate that issue a bit.

When it came to deciding what I should give up this year, I had way too many viable contestants to pick just one. But I knew if I pick several things to give up I’m less likely to complete even one. So I came up with another plan.

Every month I’m going to give up one thing, and only for that month. I hope that as I try life without certain things I’ll want to let some of them go permanently, and if I do my trial period, that will make the departure easier.

For January I have given up watching any shows, which for me means no Netflix or Amazon Prime. I don’t have television. Already it feels like I have more time and I’ve read a lot more, which makes me happy. I like reading more than I like watching a show, but often watching a show is easier to do. It became a subconscious habit. And with the online format, it can be hard to watch just one.

My writing goal for 2020 is to self-publish 2-3 books, send query letters throughout the year to agents/publishers for three of my books, and to write 2-4 new stories (novel length). I really want to be on the high end of those goals, and too many goals drown in a sea of good intentions, so I’ve determined to adjust my time and my life accordingly. Besides, if I want to write full-time at home I need to have stronger writing discipline and I need to have them in place before the opportunity presents itself.

My life is too short, my time too valuable, and my calling too important to squander my time.

I want to invest my life, not spend it.

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