sk lamont Reward Yourself Along the Way Stepping Stones to Your Goals

Reward Yourself Along the Way: Stepping Stones to Your Goals

sk lamont Reward Yourself Along the Way Stepping Stones to Your GoalsThis week’s post is a simple yet effective strategy that I have found extremely beneficial for getting my edits out the door. The last couple of weeks have been a tough road, and there’s nothing I hate worse than doing lots of hard work with no fun involved.

At the end of my first week I really wanted to throw in the towel, walk away, and do something fun like; watch a movie, play a game, have a glass of wine, read. Anything to get away from the task at hand!

The first week went really well, but coming into the second week when the task was taking longer than I expected, I could feel myself starting to flag.

Create stepping stones to support yourself on the way to your goal.

A Simple Strategy

Keeping momentum up for a week when I was really cranking was relatively easy, but the second week I began to slow right down. This simple strategy really helped me out, and I think it’s an important one to talk about, for those of us who are struggling to get to the finish line.

Delayed Gratification Goals

What I discovered, that worked well for me, over the last couple of weeks was delayed gratification; also known as—rewarding yourself for working your butt off, not now, but later. I started working in two or three hour chunks, and put a nice reward in place that I got to indulge in after I put my time in.

It didn’t have to be expensive or elaborate:

  • Like a new book on my kindle.
  • A new app for my phone.
  • A delicious desert.
  • A craft item that I’ve been after for a while.
  • At the end of the night a glass of wine to enjoy—don’t do this one in the morning, or it’ll really mess your day up!

Whatever floats your boat!

The Carrot and the Stick Method

My new reward system worked great when I stared implementing it half way through my mountainous journey. It gave me a new lease of life and made me excited about getting to my reward.

The reward only had to meet two criteria:
1) It was cheap and easy to make happen.
2) That I really really wanted it.

I also find having a bigger final goal reward in place for when you complete the entire piece, like going out to dinner, is a nice incentive, too.

Grand Finale Goal

Having a grand finale goal is always a great idea for when you complete a large project.

Reward Yourself Along the Way Stepping Stones to Your GoalsLike smoking a cigar and downing a bottle of champagne! All joking aside; I have heard of writers that celebrate when they complete a novel, by doing something unique that they always do when they reach their goal.

The Finish Line

I am proud to announce that I am finished at least with this part of the journey. So time to smoke my cigar and have some R&R, before the next leg of the journey begins, who knows what surprises lie ahead!

What are you thoughts?

I’d love to know what you think! What strategies have you used to get yourself to complete tasks? What do you do to hold yourself accountable? Or, have you found yourself walking away because the task at hand was too difficult? What is your special way to celebrate when you achieve your goals?

sk lamont Reward Yourself Along the Way Stepping Stones to Your Goals

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Oh, and don’t forget to enter my giveaway for an excellent writing resource: A Copy of Story Trumps Structure by Steven James

How do you stay on track?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont


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Is Your Emotional State Wrecking Your Goals?

sk lamont Do You Write Organically Story Trumps Structure Giveaway

Do You Write Organically? Story Trumps Structure – Giveaway!

sk lamont Do You Write Organically Story Trumps Structure Giveaway

Do you write organically or do you plot out your novels? I don’t think there is only one way to write. Different writers choose different paths, and the main question to ask is, what works best for you?

We must each find our own path.

I really wanted to be a plotter. I mean really. I bought books and their accompanying workbooks. Downloaded seminars, audio books, and software for my computer. Then tried to get my ideas to behave themselves, and allow me to organize them into the nice tidy outline had planned for them.

Did it work?

In one word … No!

Not for me, which, to be honest was a bit surprising, I can be a scatter brain, but I also like to follow rules a lot. Especially formulaic rules. I like a nice tidy path to follow, with step-by-step instructions, to make sure I’m getting it right.

A side note on rule breaking – I’m also a bit of a rebel. I like to break the rules too, especially if they’re authoritative, and I love to follow my own path. But, the security of a rule book is a nice addition, so that I don’t get lost.

Breaking The Rules

I’m also a bit OCD: I like to line up my pens, coordinate my sticky notes, and color code everything. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that outlining was not the vehicle for me–at all!

No matter how hard I tried to force my wild and crazy ideas into the box of outlining, the more they refused to communicate. In fact my imaginative ideas dried up completely, and sat in the corner like a glowered faced five-year-old with arms folded refusing to communicate.

Reading Books on Writing

Reading books on writing is very important aspect of improving our craft. We should be like sponges, and devourers of information to become masters of our trade. But, book after book I read kept talking about outlining and all its merits, and referred to pantsing as if it were some dirty little secret. Pantsing, if you don’t know, is the idea of writing without an outline, also known as flying by the seat of your pants.

Set Your Imagination Free

Do You Write Organically Story Trumps Structure GiveawayAs much as I didn’t want to be a pantser, I thought I would give it a whirl–never say never, right? And, I was surprised by the results! I was truly astonished as my imagination was set alight. My little storytelling five-year-old loved it, she wouldn’t shut up. It was all I could do to keep up with her, as story after story poured out of me and onto the paper.

I believe it’s worth giving your imagination the freedom to fly. You jump off the cliff and see what happens.

No matter what kind of writer you are, you should fill yourself up to the brim with great resources. Have a thirst for knowledge. Even if you’re a pantser you should still know how to outline–at least in theory. You gotta know the rules so that you can break them, well. Read books on how to write, listen to audio books, go to seminars, drink it all in.

Fire Up Your Imagination

If you are a storyteller then read great stories that inspire you. Read what you love. Watch copious amounts of movies. If you watch movies then you already know how story works, it’s innate–it’s in you!

I read a great book at the beginning of last year called Story Trumps Structure by Steven James. In his book he talks about a style of writing he calls organic writing. Here are some of his ideas:

I would rather …

  • Write a story than plot one.
  • Tell a story than outline one.
  • Follow the narrative than follow a formula.
  • Pursue a process that allows for surprises.
  • Save time.
  • Live in the joy of discovery rather than fill in the blanks.

I also listened to one of his seminars online, through Writer’s Digest, and I picked out this idea of his:

“Art requires trust – Fear will always drive you back to an outline.” – Steven James

There are lots of arguments for and against writing organically. But, I did enjoy his book immensely, so I thought I would give away a copy to one lucky reader in this week’s post. Please feel free to fill out the rafflecopter below.

To Enter

Use the Rafflecopter widget below!

      • You get an entry for every item you complete in the Rafflecopter widget (up to eight entries!)
      • You can also come back once a day and ‘tweet about the giveaway’ (for extra entries!).
      • You also get two entries, if you leave a comment!
      • If you already follow or friend any of the items listed, please help yourself to free entries in the Rafflecopter! Just click the appropriate checkbox in the widget.
      • You must have a US postal address to enter.
      • The winner will be announced here March 22nd, the winner will also be contacted by email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway will run till March 21st at midnight (EST).

What are your thoughts?

I would love to know what you think! What have you found to be your best methods for getting a story down on paper? Are you are plotter or a pantser? Or are you still trying to figure out what works for you? Do you believe we are innate storytellers? Or, do we need someone to show us what story looks like?

sk lamont Do You Write Organically Story Trumps Structure Giveaway

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What kind of writer are you?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont


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sk lamont Focus The Power of Concentrated Effort

Focus – The Power of Concentrated Effort

sk lamont Focus The Power of Concentrated EffortSometimes I just want to get stuff done. Like those edits that have been lingering for far too long or that book I just want to get finished. So I get my head down and don’t lift it till the task is complete.

I know I can achieve anything I put my mind to, but it does require that I give it my all,* in effort and focus for a certain period of time.

*meaning it occupies the bulk of my thinking and gets the lions share of my time.

When you focus on what you want, everything else falls away.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in having great habits in place and chipping away everyday to make that goal happen.

Sometimes I need push

But, sometimes things get under my skin and drive me crazy, and, I feel like I don’t have the energetic effort required or the moxie to keep chipping away at it. In fact the chipping away is robbing me of joy everyday because the task at hand seems insurmountable. Like I’m going to be working on it FOREVER! That I’m NEVER going to finish.

I know from experience that if I let this feeling of hopelessness continue for too long, then I might end up loosing the project that I had so much passion for in the beginning.

When I get to this place, when I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall, and getting nowhere fast, I do the one thing that always seems to work for me …

I attack!

When I reach threshold I tell myself: I’m not dinging around with this anymore. It’s time to get it done.

Then I dive in.

Doesn’t matter what it is. As long as it’s something I absolutely want to achieve. And, it’s a must. And, it’s important.

But, if I’m not making progress, and I don’t see an end in sight…

Then I take the project and make it the number one priority in my life till it’s done.

I shoot it straight to the top of my list.

I make room for it in my life, I set a timeline, and I make a plan…

You can get a lot done when you decide you’re finished playing around.

sk lamont Focus The Power of Concentrated EffortThe important thing is to take your goal, break it up into manageable chunks, and schedule them in everyday. Then work like a dog till you complete your project. You may enjoy the process or you may not, it’s irrelevant. As long as you’re still connected to your initial vision you had for the project and your still committed, then you walk through fire till you get it done.

Now that imagery may seem a bit strong, but honestly sometimes you just have to commit all the way and do the work. Especially on long projects like writing a book, it’s a lot of work that has you invested for months to years.

What if a project has stalled out?

If a project has stalled out then maybe it’s time to get reconnected to that initial vision you once had:

  • What made you excited about it in the first place?
  • When you complete it what doors does it open up for you?
  • How will you feel when you know you didn’t take the easy path?
  • Just imagine how good you’ll feel with the end in sight, and when you finally cross that finish line!

So set a hard dead for yourself and get it done.

So why am I writing this blog post?

Focus - The Power of Concentrated EffortBecause, I set this task for myself this past Monday to complete all edits on my current manuscript, and to get it out the door to my editor by the end of the month. I have been working my butt of this week. My body hurts. I have assigned household tasks to other members of the family. Pizza has featured largely in this week’s dinner menu. But it doesn’t matter, I’m committed and determined that I will reach that finish line even if it kills me.

Yes, maybe a little extreme but it means I get the thing I want to get done–done!

“You can move mountains when you set your heart and mind to it!”

I take the week, stop all the tasks that are not a priority, like cleaning the house, watching movies, going out to dinner. I pull the plug on all of it, get my head down, and work my butt off till the task’s complete. It’s surprising how much you can get done when you decide too!

What are your thoughts?

I’d love to know what you think! Have you ever used concentrated effort to get a task done and been surprised by the results? Or, do you fail miserably in this department and seem to never complete your project, loosing hope with the lack of forward momentum? What measures have you gone to, to complete a task?

sk lamont Focus The Power of Concentrated Effort

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Have you ever just went for it?

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When Distractions are Driving You Crazy!

sk lamont When Distractions are Driving You Crazy

When Distractions are Driving You Crazy!

sk lamont When Distractions are Driving You CrazyAt the beginning of last week I came to realization that my house was a disgusting mess! One of the less exciting side effects of throwing yourself fully into your work as a writer—a messy house—and it was really getting to me. It was getting to the point where my environment was effecting the edits of my current manuscript.

All the mess was making the inside of my head messy.

No, I don’t believe its was a diversion or procrastination. As I’ve said before, I’m all or nothing and I have to take these breaks sometimes to keep myself in balance and stop our family from getting nasty diseases. 🙂 So I downed tools on Wednesday and got to work. Besides, everything was beginning to ache from pouring over my keyboard everyday. I desperately needed a break. So I donned my lovely cleaning outfit, pulled my hair up into a pony tail and got to work scraping the grunge from our life—a nice clean slate as it were…

…Did it work?

Decluttering Magic

I decluttered 15 years ago for the very first time. It was one of the most revolutionary and refreshing things I’ve ever done. I know crazy right, how can putting your house in order make you feel so good? But it did. I laughed manically as I dropped trash bags full of the past from an upper window. My first born, then aged one, giggled and laughed as mommy was having some kind of weird mental, but liberating, breakdown.

You see I was freeing myself from the past—from the grunge of my life. That stuff that had clung to me for decades. I was carrying the past with me and into the future and even allowing it define who I was as a person. At first I was terrified to part with some of it. Feeling that the stuff I had surrounded myself with was somehow part of me and that if I let it go I wouldn’t know who I was anymore. So I clung to it for years creating some kind of pack-rat mentality. It made me think of those little decorator crabs that carry camouflage around on their backs that they pick up from their environment. I felt camouflaged and I didn’t know who I was anymore.  When Distractions are Driving You Crazy

Then one day I snapped. I had had enough. My environment felt oppressive and I felt constricted, imprisoned in a cell of my own making. The weight of all my unfinished projects and college classes that I had tanked at pressed against me reminding me that I sucked. And, that I would probably fail at the next thing I tried. I needed a revolution and a really large dumpster to get a new life.

I needed a really big dumpster

In the space of a couple of days I had eleven trash bags ready to go to the dump. Yes, I only had one child then, if I were to do the same exercise now with five kids I’d probably have one hundred and eleven bags. But for me at that time it was a huge deal. I found out I was hanging onto stuff from when I was ten and it was time to let it go. I started to open up the windows of my house, one by one, as I gave each room a good clean. I admired all the new open spaces. I walked down to the front door and opened it. A wind swept past me and though my house—it felt like the winds of change were sweeping through my life. It was awesome and amazing, and the beginning of a revolutionary journey that turned my life around. It marked a brand new period in my life. Where I redefined myself as a person and decided who I wanted to be without the past clinging to me trying to remind me of who I thought I was. It opened up the space for me to become something new. I highly recommend it.

This time around

Now I’m not where I was then. I’m no longer buried under the past. Every couple of years I have a good purge, I think it’s good for the soul. I’m not even in a place where I need to do a good purge, because I did a decent one last year. But it was just time for a tune up, some tweaking, and some cleaning. Sometimes I just have to get my house in order to feel those free spaces opening up on the inside again so that I can fill them with something new.

“But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” ~ Marie Kondō

sk lamont When Distractions are Driving You CrazySo for three days this week I did nothing but tidy, scrub, and mop. It was very liberating. I know kind of weird, but I feel refreshed and renewed and ready to take on the world again.

Sometimes you just need to get your house in order.

This week I needed to take the time to clean out the crud so that it would stop creeping in the cracks of my writing and distracting me. But, I had to do it fast, like ripping off a band aid. After all, I have a book to finish, and I’m determined to complete it this week.

 

A side note on items you cherish:

I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō last year, she suggests when decluttering that you hold each item in your hands and ask, does it bring me joy? If your body responds with a yes you keep it! I’m a sentimental person, so I’m surrounded by the things I love. I also love collecting knickknacks, this is not about living in a clinical bubble but about surrounding yourself with the things that bring you pleasure. I thought her method was a great take on this age old method of decluttering so that you don’t throw away any of your beloved treasures.

What are your thoughts?

I’d love to know what you think! Have you ever had a major declutter and what were the effects? Did you feel a newness in your life, or were there regrets about treasured possessions being lost? What has been your experience when distractions start taking over your brain?

sk lamont When Distractions are Driving You Crazy

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Are distractions driving you crazy?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont


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sk lamont Fear A Writer's Friend or Foe

Fear – A Writer’s Friend or Foe?

sk lamont Fear A Writer's Friend or FoeFear seems to be one of those emotions that we writers have to deal with a lot, or anyone else for that matter. It seems to chase us down anytime we try to step outside of our nice comfortable comfort zone. But I’ve always thought that a comfort zone can one of the most uncomfortable places we can be. When it comes down to it, when we are alone, or the TV is switched off, or there is zero distraction in our life and we sit quietly listening to that inner voice—it whispers something profound to us…

You are more than this, you can do more than this, you have something special to offer

…and it’s a terrifying thought. Because then, we have to look that monster, Fear, in the eye. That somehow we would have to conquer it—we would have to face our fear! And that thought is often too much to bare, it’s easier to hit the button on the remote and slip back into our coma.

Is fear the enemy?

I know this is a strange question and I think most people would say, yes, fear is definitely the enemy. It is the menace that stalks the writer and squeezes out all hope of ever being published. It is the killer of inspiration that crushes the life out of our creative endeavors, and instead leaves us playing small.

Or is it?

Maybe it is right now, but can that negative force be put to good use in the writer’s life?

I have always been a very fearful person. For as long as I can remember fear has stalked my every hope and dream. It has been around the corner, lying in wait, every time I thought I could try something new. Or it has tried to kill the life out of every new connection and communication.

sk lamont Fear A Writer's Friend or FoeWho knows where my fear came from; fear of not being loved, fear of not being good enough, fear of falling flat on my face. I could go on.

One thing I do know is it has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember. It has traveled with me everywhere I have gone, and in everything I have done.

I spent the majority of my younger life trying to shake it loose; trying to run away from it, overcome it, conquer it, or destroy it. I pinned a badge on My Pinterest Page years ago that says Punch Fear in Face.

But I then realized I was going about it all the wrong way. I was always looking at fear as a problem, a curse, and as something that I had to get away from. Then one day I realized I couldn’t. That fear was my constant traveling companion, it had always been there and always would be, and there was nowhere to hide.

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway

I read a book back in the 90’s called Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers, it stayed with me long after I read it, particularly the 5 tenets about fear. I wrote them on cards and stuck them to my wall, to try and get the principles through my thick skull:

  • The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow!
  • The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and…do it!
  • The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and…do it!
  • Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else!
  • Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness!

But it still took me another ten years, at least, to get it! I was still fighting, still battling, and still trying to punch fear in the face.

My Friend Fear

Then one day I had an epiphany, fear wasn’t the beast I was trying to make it out to be, it was actually my friend.

I know, shocker. All it was trying to do was keep me safe from the big bad world. Like an over-concerned mother trying to stop her child from swinging too high on the big swing at the playground—never mind that the child gets to experience the exhilaration of flying! It’s better to just be on the ground, to be safe, to be secure, and let’s not let any of that bad stuff happen to you.

Fear - A Writer's Friend or Foe?The problem is bad stuff still happens. Not only in the playground, but crossing the street, or driving in the car. At any moment something bad can happen and it puts the brakes on this whole thing we call living, either temporary or permanently.

So I got to ask myself the question: Do I want to die in the back seat of my car riding to play park strapped into my nice safe seat? Or, did I want get up on the freaking swing and fly as high as I could? —with death being a mild consequence of living and taking that wild ride.

Fears just fear, it’s never going away, I told myself. So I decided to treat it as an awesome friend whom I would listen to very closely and consult on all my endeavors. Anytime I’m about to step out into new territory I listen carefully to that inner voice of fear. My close consultant.

The voice of fear that sounds something like this:

You shouldn’t do that thing: no one will like you.


You shouldn’t do that thing: your going to look like an idiot.


You shouldn’t do that thing: who the hell do you think you are.

I listen very carefully and then I do the exact opposite of what fear tells me to do. See if fear is just trying to protect me, then I know longer see it as a menace.  I now see it as a compass and I use it to guide me to where all the growth is at, where all the fun is at, and where all the best swings in the playground are.

sk lamont Fear A Writer's Friend or FoeI’m still scared. I might fall flat on my face, but it doesn’t matter. I have to just pick myself up and look for the next big swing. Sometimes, I may take a little time to lick my wounds, but I don’t stay there, I have to get up and look for that next swing—the one that scares me the most—after all what else is there?

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

I can either choose to live full out or shrink back and hide in the corner.

I get to choose.

 

What are your thoughts?

I’d love to know what you think! Do you see fear as a friend or foe? How has it stopped you in the past? What will you do now to change things? What tips and strategies do you have to motivate you to step out and take risks? What do you tell yourself when fear tries to cripple you?

 

sk lamont Fear A Writer's Friend or Foe

 

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Is fear your enemy?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont


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sk lamont Giveaway Neil Gaiman 3 Book Box Set

Giveaway! Neil Gaiman 3-Book Box Set: Coraline; The Graveyard Book; Fortunately, the Milk

sk lamont Giveaway Neil Gaiman 3 Book Box SetIn this week’s blog post I’m giving away the 3-Book Box Set: Coraline; The Graveyard Book; and Fortunately, the Milk, by author Neil Gaimen. Please note these are the British versions! I like this box set in particular because it is the British version and also because of the fun illustrations by Chris Riddell.

You can enter here or scroll to the bottom.

Bedtime Stories

In the fall last year I decided that it was time to bring back bedtime stories to our family. It’s such a wonderful time for us to connect and be together. It used to be part of our regular bedtime routine but managed to slip through the cracks, the year before last, when our newborn baby became deathly ill. Our baby boy had to go through thirteen surgeries including two liver transplants in 2014–he was not expected to make it–but remarkably he did! You can read a little about his story here.

It was enough to flip our family upside down for the last couple of years, so I was extremely happy when our life began to settle down once more. I loved bedtime stories when I was a kid and I wanted to make sure that all my kids could experience the magic that my older kids had, before life got in the way! So we began with Serafina and the Black Cloak to enrich our new bedtime routine. I even got the chance to interview author Robert Beatty, the article was featured on Writers Digest, you can read it here.

A Bit Spooky

Serafina and the Black Cloak was rather creepy and scary, and I could never of handled a tale like that when I was a kid. But my kids asked me for it repeatedly until they finally wore me down, and they they loved it. So I decided to pick up this lovely Neil Gaimen box set as our next set of bedtime stories even though they have the creepy factor too. There is a wide diversity of reading ages here–I’d say, five through eight for Fortunately, the Milk; Eight through ten (or older) for Coraline, though watch out this one is a bit creepy, especially if you have a sensitive child; and The Graveyard Book, is probably about ten and up, my 15-year-old snatched this one out of my hands and devoured in a matter of hours.

My daughter loved it, and it renewed her interest in reading again. Having spiraled into the world of all things teenager, her love of reading had been put on hold for months, so I was particularly excited that The Graveyard Book inspired her thirst for reading once more.

Here is what my daughter had to say about it:

“It was a really great book! I enjoyed the characters, all the different elements, and how everything tied together. I loved the plot twists and turns throughout the story, and overall it was an exciting ride. I just wish there was more!”

Our family has been enjoying these books immensely and I think they’re fun for adult readers too, Fortunately, the Milk, may be a little on the young side, but it is stuffed full of fun and interesting illustrations.

From the Back Cover of the Book Set:

Giveaway Neil Gaiman 3 Book Box SetAn exclusive box set containing three Neil Gaiman classics, including the Newbery Medal and Carnegie Medal winner The Graveyard Book; Coraline; and Fortunately, the Milk, all illustrated by acclaimed and award-winning artist Chris Riddell.

These editions, containing the British illustrations—which are both hilarious and moving—have never before been published in the United States.

From the back covers of each individual book:

The Graveyard Book

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts.

There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives, and he has already killed Bod’s family.

Coraline

There is something strange about Coraline’s new home. It’s not the mist, or the cat that always seems to be watching her, or the signs of danger that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, her new neighbours, read in the tea leaves. It’s the other house—the one behind the old door in the drawing room. Another mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin are waiting for Coraline to join them there. And they want her to stay with them. Forever. She knows that if she ventures through that door, she may never come back…

Fortunately, the Milk

Mum’s away. Dad’s in charge. There’s no milk. So Dad saves the day by going to buy some. Really, that’s all that happens. Very boring. YAAAAAAAWWWN. There are absolutely definitely none of the following inside: Globby Green Aliens! Intergalactic Police! Pirates! Angry volcano gods demanding human sacrifice! And most definitely NOT a time-traveling hot-air balloon piloted by the brilliant Professor Steg…

To Enter

Use the Rafflecopter widget below!

    • You get an entry for every item you complete in the Rafflecopter widget (up to eight entries!)
    • You can also come back once a day and ‘tweet about the giveaway’ (for extra entries!).
    • You also get two entries, if you leave a comment!
    • If you already follow or friend any of the items listed, please help yourself to free entries in the Rafflecopter! Just click the appropriate checkbox in the widget.
    • You must have a US postal address to enter.
    • The winner will be announced here February 16th, the winner will also be contacted by email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway will run till February 15th at midnight (EST).

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

sk lamont Giveaway Neil Gaiman 3 Book Box Set

Who has been your most memorable character or characters, and why?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont


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Do You Use All Five Senses — Do Your Characters?

sk lamont Do you use all five senses - Do your characters

Do You Use All Five Senses – Do Your Characters?

sk lamont Do you use all five senses - Do your charactersThis week I’m looking into the idea of fully inhabiting our bodies as a way to deepen the experience readers have with our characters. And, maybe in the process this will allow you to inhabit your body, even more fully. So that you too can appreciate the subtleties of life that you may possibly be missing out on.

There is a lot that can delight our senses if we deepen our awareness.

So first ask yourself a few questions:

Do you live fully in your body?
Do you use the full range of your senses?
Do you experience all of your senses on a regular basis, at a conscious level?
Do your characters?

For some this is easier than it is for others.

Some people are a lot more cerebrally driven, than sensory driven. Which means they tend to be pretty focused and get things done, which is great! But at the same time, this may mean that they miss out on a lot of the little pleasures in life that surround us on a daily basis.

Usually what is required to access all this extra information that our brain has managed to delete as unimportant, is an awakening with ourselves—allowing us to be completely grounded and centered in our body. A lot of people walk around not really connected to their body, or some are but only a little.

Others have a heightened body awareness, they are aware of where their limbs are in time and space the majority of the time, they feel the clothes against their skin and sense changes in the environment easily.

So what you might say—what has this got to do with me? For one, the more grounded in your body you are, the more you will experience the fullness of life. And two, if you are a writer, it’s going to help you get inside your characters skin—to breath life into them fully and see the world through their eyes.

sk lamont Do you use all five senses - Do your characters

Make Your Characters Come Alive

If you inhabit your skin well, then it will be much easier to jump into your characters bodies, and experiences life through their eyes and all of their senses. You will breath life into your scenes when you can step into them fully, clothed in your character skin, and experience the world you have created through their eyes.

Connect to Your Characters Environment

Breath in the air and describe it. Marvel at the nuances—the yellow kettle in the corner puffing steam gently into the room. The brilliant greens in a blade of grass at a significant moment. Also pay attention to pain and when the stakes are high, usually our senses sharpen and come into tight focus. We start to notice things that were insignificant moments before—time slows down and we actually start to see and feel what surrounds us in minute detail.

Switch on Your Senses

But this can apply anytime too, we don’t need a trigger like pain to switch us on—to make us come alive. Anytime we want we can step into this moment and feel, taste, smell, hear and see.

The benefits of characters who feel

When your characters fully notice and engage with their surroundings, your readers will too! Thus deepening your reader’s experience. Taste the air, take a deep breath, smell the sweetness or foulness that lingers there. What do you notice?

A Super Power

Do You Use All Five Senses - Do Your Characters

The way to learn this super power, and yes I consider it a super power—I know I’m weird—is to start noticing your environment on a much deeper level. Sound is a miraculous and underutilized sense. An interesting exercise is to open a window and listen to what you hear outside, do you hear birds singing, cars driving past, kids playing, what else do you hear, listen deeply. The same with music, listen to a complex piece of music that you know well—then listen deeper, depending on the music, you might hear a whole other level or layers of instruments that you never noticed before—then press closer.

Pay attention to your skin, what do you feel? Notice the surface you’re resting against, is it rough or soft? Smooth or hard? Where are you clothes touching you? Where do they squeeze or pinch? Where do they feel comfortable? Pick up a drink, feel the weight of the cup in you hand. Is it warm or cold? Touch the cup to you lips, what do you taste? Breath in. When you’re brushing your teeth, really brush them, consciously notice the bristles against you teeth how does it feel, taste the toothpaste, engage and then go deeper.

Now take your new super power and slip into your character’s skin. What does it feel like to be in their body? How do their senses interpret the world you have created around them? What does he/she feel, see, taste, smell or hear? What’s it like to experience your character in this way?

Do you have a favorite sense?

Does one of your senses dominate over another? Do you tend to experience life visually, audibly, through touch? What about in your writing? Do you tend to focus more fully on one sense? Would developing your character’s other senses give your reader a fuller experience?

What are you thoughts?

I’d love to know what you think! Do you inhabit your body? Do your characters? Do you consider yourself pretty well versed in this department, or could you grow? What tips and tricks do you have for living in a body, or for slipping into your character’s bodies?

sk lamont Do you use all five senses - Do your characters

Please share your comments in the comment box below, along with any other ideas you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Who are you?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont


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sk lamont Goals and Planning - When Things Go Wrong

Goals and Planning – When Things Go Wrong

sk lamont Goals and Planning - When Things Go Wrong

Okay, so I thought I would just throw this blog post up because of my ridiculously silly, January 1st, start to the new year!

Spending the last month planning my New Year’s Goals, having everything worked out in minute detail- I know I was already asking for it at this point- somebody get a big soft pillow and hit me over the head with it please. And being completely excited about getting going, my morning got of to a great start. My plan was set in motion with only a few small bumps, but generally I was feeling pretty happy with my progress.

When Silliness Strikes:

Sitting down to begin my two hours of slotted work-in-progress edits, I opened up my file to the sound of my daughter shouting from down stairs.

“Mom.”

“What’s up?” I called.

“I think there’s something up with the stove.”

Hmm, putting my computer to sleep I headed downstairs, little did I know at this point that my computer wouldn’t be waking up again till much later that evening.

Walking into the kitchen, my daughter’s two semi-runny unfried eggs stared up at me from the pan with their big sad eyes.

“How long they been in there?”

“20 minutes”

“How about we slide them out of there and we can finish cooking them in the microwave.”

Sliding the gooey mess from the pan and onto a plate, I popped them into the microwave to show off my prowess in the kitchen. I hit the button and watched in horror as the microwave light dimmed like some late 1800’s invention, as the plate slowly turned in the flickering light.

Goals and planning - When things go wrongPulling out the eggs one minute later, it appeared that the eggs may have congealed a little more, but they were definitely not cooking.

Being a determined kind of soul, I put the eggs back in and hit five minutes, staring desperately through the window, I watched them turn, as the lights over head flickered in unison. Being from Scotland I never grew up with an Easy-Bake Oven, but watching that plate turn slowly, I imaged this must be what it’s like hoping that a 40 watt light-bulb will produce beautifully baked delights.

“Go get Dad.”

“Daaaad!”

By this point I pulled out a kitchen chair and watched my intelligent husband play with our new Easy-Bake, as the enormity of the situation hit me, how I was going to have my next cup of tea, I boil a kettle on that stove, I thought. It’s my life blood.

About thirty minutes later, after trying various appliances around the house, and watching the kitchen lights grow dimmer every-time we hit a button, (though the toaster, worked a little too well for some bizarre reason, burning my last piece of rye bread too perfection!), my husband called the power company to discover that the most likely source was a voltage problem.

As we waited for some poor soul to be dragged into work, on his day off as it turned out, to assess the problem. I decided to go back to my computer determined to not let a little thing like loss of power stop me, as I sat down at my desk and hit the keyboard, hopeful since the toaster was apparently still in business, I discovered that my computer was selected as one of the lucky appliances in our house, to get New Year’s day off too, with the rest of the country. Fantastic.

I looked at my perfect writing plan printed out on my desk beside my keyboard and sighed.

So most of January 1st turned into sitting around waiting on a power company crew to turn up on a holiday and dig up our yard, whilst I proceeded to help my little boy build his Legos. Later I lay under the covers in bed reading a book, as it started to get colder and colder in the house, thinking, why didn’t this happen a couple of days ago when it was 70 degrees outside!

Anyway not one to miss an opportunity to learn something, here is what I learned, as far as planning and goal setting goes:

What I learned:

  • I’m not half as smart as I like to think I am.
  • I can easily fall into my old patterns, thinking that they are a great idea!
  • That I don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water and start all over.
  • I have the ability to be flexible, if I bring lightness to the problem.
  • That having fun and building Legos is sometimes just what I need.
  • That leaving room to be spontaneous has its benefits!
  • That sometimes I just need to be reminded that being with my family, is more important than any silly plans I make.
  • To go with the flow and not let bumps in the road ruin everything, and look for opportunities to embrace the day anyway.

I still plan to forge ahead come Monday, but after having my plans messed up today, I took it as a sign to do some quick edits on my 2016 plan.

sk lamont Goals and Planning - When Things Go WrongSo I grabbed that meticulously printed out plan laying beside my dead keyboard and with a few quick strokes and listening carefully to that small still voice inside, I slashed everything before 10am off my list and everything after 8pm and felt the sweet ease of freedom slide in.

I’m an all or nothing kind of gal, but I also realized today that it’s important to have room to breath. So, these are my ‘no rules, do whatever I want to do’ times. I can work if I want, but I’ve giving myself the permission to be flexible.

I can be a bit slow sometimes! This ain’t the first time I’ve banged my head against this particular wall, hopefully this time it’ll stick!

Have you ever found yourself making great plans only to find them dashed against the rocks moments later? Or have you found a way to plan and follow through on your goals, that offers the flexibility to still get things done when your day goes awry. What is your experience with goal setting or planning?

sk lamont Goals and Planning - When Things Go Wrong

Why don’t you share some of your ideas in the comments box below, along with any other suggestions, or anything else you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

How do you plan?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont


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sk lamont Is Your Emotional State Wrecking Your Goals

Is Your Emotional State Wrecking Your Goals?

Is Your Emotional State Wrecking Your GoalsThis week I have the privilege of hosting guest blogger Franklin Thomas, having worked for Anthony Robbins for five and a half years as a Peak Performance coach, coaching over 1200 people from 36 different countries, he is an expert in helping individuals achieve success.

I have been focusing on goal setting for the past couple of weeks, so I thought it would be great to have Franklin share what it takes to achieve our goals, especially writing goals, that we set for ourselves in 2016. I hope you enjoy this post, please feel free to ask him any questions in the comments box below.

It’s not about setting goals…

Have you ever started something and didn’t make it to the finish line? We all have. When it comes to personal achievement there are several components to reaching success and it’s not always about settings goals. Setting a goal is important, however, if that’s all you do, it won’t be enough. For instance, we all know someone who has tried to lose weight and failed- they get a gym membership, change their eating habits, but fall short of their goal. On the other hand, we know people who followed the exact same strategy and achieved their outcome with great success. Why is that… why does someone fail and another reach success?

It’s all about emotional drive

In order to get where you want to go, you really need to have the drive to get you there. Drive is the intense emotional fuel that will catapult you to the next level. It will take you to new heights and in those moments where you start to experience resistance, drive will be there to help push you through and continue on. When you have the emotional drive, suddenly what would normally be work for you becomes effortless and easy. We can spot drive a mile away. For instance, when we watch an Olympic athlete, we can see it in their eyes, in their body and the way they move and breathe. We usually can spot the winner before they even cross the finish line – the signs are there! An athlete just didn’t get to the Olympics by accident – all of what you see is by his or her intention, fueled by an intense emotional connection to what they want. Emotional drive is the most important thing for you to cultivate – It will change everything!

So how do I get intense emotional drive?

Ask yourself the question… Is what I want to achieve just a desire, or is it a MUST?

Anyone can have a desire, but desire alone rarely gets us there. For example, I could desire to buy a new car, but if I don’t have enough emotional attachment to getting a new car, then I won’t go to a car dealership, look at cars, take a test drive, fill out the paperwork, and then drive one off the lot. However, if I change one word, from desire to MUST, then what happens? Consider the two statements below:

– I desire to write a book.

– I must write a book.

Which one of these has more energy? MUST of course. When you say must, there is already an expectation of the book getting finished.

So how is drive accomplished and how do I make what I want, a must?

It’s accomplished by three things:

Physiology: How you posture your body, how you breathe, and how you move.

Belief: What you hold to be true – what you focus on.

Language: What you verbally say out loud and your internal dialogue.

sk lamont Is Your Emotional State Wrecking Your GoalsThink about when a martial artist goes to split a stack of boards with his bare hands, how is he standing? His body is erect and grounded. He stands with confidence. His movements are fast and assured with precision. His energy is high. His breathing isn’t shallow or fearful, but it’s deep and strong. His focus is sharp – it’s only him and the stack. His focus is on the other side of the boards, not on the surface. He has fierce courage and if he doesn’t break through the first time, he instantly strikes again so that his mind does not even have the chance to process doubt. He does not let failure enter his mind. He says ‘Kiai’ (Hi-yah!) because to the martial artist, these words are how he expresses victory.

So how is he able to break through the board? He not only has developed the skills to do so, he also has created inside of himself the resourcefulness to achieve his outcome. If he approached breaking the boards with fear, uncertainty, depression, slow body movement, low energy and an internal dialogue that keeps instilling doubt, then we all know what his result would be – failure.

If you want to accomplish great things, then there must be a congruency between you and the thing you want to achieve.

As humans, we are stimulus response beings.

Everything you feel and all the emotions you have are tied to your body responding to the things you think about, what you believe and how you posture, move and breathe. To give you an example, we all know what it’s like to stand in confidence and we can all recognize a confident person when we see one.

There is a part of your brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the brain’s chemical plant. The only way you feel anything is because your brain creates the chemical for you to feel that emotion. For instance, when you stand in a posture of confidence, your brain at the unconscious level picks up on it, and then the hypothalamus starts producing the chemicals so that you start to feel confident. The same thing happens when it comes to belief. Whatever we believe to be true, at the deepest level becomes our reality and our hypothalamus churns the chemicals to support those beliefs. The same thing happens with language. Our unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie. It only takes in what we repeat to it over and over and then eventually accepts it as truth. We all know what happens if someone tells a lie long enough? They end up believing it. The reason for this is, when they repeat it over and over again verbally, the unconscious mind picks it up and it becomes internal truth. Like the Proverb says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”.

So what now?

If you want success in the things you want to achieve, then you need to cultivate the emotional resourcefulness to get you there. The great thing about this is, we already know instinctively how to do this. Let’s try the following example. If you wanted to instill confidence in yourself, would you:

  • Stand – erect or slack?
  • Posture your face – would it be down or up?
  • Posture your shoulders – slumped or up?
  • What about your breathing – shallow or deep?
  • How about your movements – slow, or certain & fast?
  • Would you say to yourself – ‘I’m going to fail’ or ‘as long as I don’t give up, I can make anything happen’?
  • Would you create excuses why you can’t or would you need to believe there is always a way?
  • Would you tell yourself – ‘it will never work’, or ‘I can accomplish anything as long as I set my mind to it’?

The answers are pretty clear and the great thing about all of this is that YOU are in charge of it. You can posture your own body, you can replace any belief with a new one, and you can speak out of your mouth what you need to help you achieve success. You are already doing all of these things right now so why not do it so that it supports your outcome. Most of what we believe wasn’t derived from things we consciously considered, it came about as a result of experiences, some of which, we don’t even know their origin. The crazy thing is, we let some of these un-resourceful beliefs rule our lives, but the great news is we can change it in an instant. We just have the make the conscious decision to do so.

So let’s get practical, to start with, write down any dis-empowering beliefs that you have and then write the inverse. The more intense the empowering belief is, the better. You want it to crush the old belief. Also when you do this, you should be standing up and put yourself in a posture of the emotion that you want to create in your body. If you want courage, stand courageously. If you want certainty, stand in a posture of confidence. Then write it down and repeat, then own it!

For example:

Dis-empowering belief:

  • I’ll never write my book, I don’t have time.

Empowering belief:

  • My book is an absolute priority in my life, I will not let anything stand in my way.

It sounds a bit crazy and outrageous, but maybe crazy and outrageous is what you need right now. So try it on and then notice what works. Once you have practiced this several times, and you feel the shift, then it’s time to create strategies, goals and plans. How much better would it be, to be writing all of your goal setting from a emotionally resourceful place. How much more likely are you to continue towards your outcome if you practice this everyday?

What are some ways that you have fallen short in the past, how will you change that now? Or what are some great strategies that you have used in the past that worked great? Share them in the comments box below, I would love to hear from you!

sk lamont Is Your Emotional State Wrecking Your Goals

What’s on you goal list?

 


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sk lamont These are a few of my favorite things - what are yours

These are a few of my favorite things- what are yours?

These are a few of my favorite things – what are yours?

sk lamont These are a few of my favorite things - what are yoursIn last week’s blog post, I talked about gathering my goals and getting ready for the new year, I also talked about reflecting on my life currently- what could I have done better, what’s not great, how am I missing the mark? I started thinking of ways that I can improve.

This week I am doing the opposite, before finishing up the year and creating a brand new set of goals for next year, I like to put together a list of what is great in my life.

It’s all too easy to see what is wrong with our life- at least I think so anyway. We can easily be dissatisfied thinking we’re missing something, or how we can improve or where did we fail and miss the mark. As we draw towards the end of the year, I do like to put my life under a microscope and seek out areas in which I can improve. But it is also just as important to figure out what is great in my life. I like to slow down for a couple of days, take stock, put on some great music even, close my eyes and think about my life and what I love about it!

What is great about my life?

Here is some questions and exercises that I use to focus on what’s great:

What do I love about my life?
Who are the special people in my life?
Special pets?
What is a particular meal I love, or color, or outfit, (I’m a bit partial to fuzzy socks myself! )
How much I love tea!
What music really inspires me or makes me weep?
What movies have I fallen in love with this year, or old favorites.
Or great stories I’ve read?

What do I love?

I grab a journal and start jotting down all the things I love or have a special affinity for.

Oh you might say I’m grateful for nothing, I love nothing, nothing good is in my life. Well if that is the case, think deeper. You’re able to read this aren’t you, be thankful you can read, and write it down. I’m sure it’s been less than 24 hours since your last meal, if so write it. You probably own a pair of shoes I’m guessing, put that down! If you have to start small, start thinking about what you could be grateful for, maybe eventually your learn to love these things too.

These are a few of my favorite things

So I made my children watch The Sound of Music last Christmas, it was one of the movies I loved growing up, it used to get shown every year in my country around Christmas, so my brain has filed it a Christmas movie, along with all the classic James Bond movies

Anyway, I don’t think anyone was that impressed with my choice of movies! But I do love that song.
Here’s the link if you need some inspiration!

sk lamont These are a few of my favorite things - what are yoursA few of the lyrics as a reminder:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things…

…When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

When I feel bad, out comes the list of memories and they help bring a little sunshine into my day. Then I go and enjoy some of the things on my list.

Here’s a few of mine:

My husband’s bristly beard

The soft touch of my two-year-old boy’s little cheek against mine

My first cup of tea in the morning

Walking in the woods, when the dappled sunlight filters through the leaves

The swirl of the ocean around my ankles, stealing the sand from under my feet

A good storm picking up around me and electrifying the air

Watching the rain rush towards me over the mountains, that moment right before it touches my face

Being cozy in my bed whilst a storm rages around the house

Coal fires crackling and the sound of rain outside the window

Okay so maybe I like storms a lot!

Then I write a list of magic moments

What has been a special moment today, this week, this month, this year.

Close your eyes and think about those special moments now, think about the people in your life, how do they look when they’re happy, when you’re playing around, think about special moments that put a smile on your face. When you just cuddled your pet, or went for a run, or danced this morning with wild abandon, or cozied up on the sofa with a good book.

Here are a few of my magic moments from this week:

This morning my little two-year-old son peeked around the door at me, looking sneaky- like a little pixie, expecting me to chase him, I did and he fell onto the floor giggling as I covered him in kisses.

Last night I enjoyed our wee Jack Russell as she ran around the bed doing turbo time, which basically means she goes crazy, running in circles, flying across the bed and then darts back under, before she attacks once more.

The other night I had fun in the kitchen, playing around and joking with my fifteen-year-old as we made dinner together.

Curling up in bed yesterday morning, with a good cup of coffee in one hand and a good book in the other.

These are a few of my favorite things - what are yoursI’m making a list and I’m checking it twice.

(actually I’m making two lists!)

What do I love?
What are some magic moments from this year?

One list is more general, the other more specific.

I want to make sure that I bring more of what is on my list with me into the new year, after all, these are the things that make my heart go pitter-patter and my spirit soar. Doesn’t have to be big things, in fact I find the smallest of things tickle me and bring me delight, and they are pretty easy to experience on a regular basis.

I like to think of it as soul maintenance, I think we can get all crumbly and dry on the inside if we don’t leave much room for the things that delight us in life.

Oh you might say, but they don’t contribute to my big goal this year or what I’ve decided is important. But the tiniest dose of joy is like rocket fuel and will give your purpose more drive, so don’t rob yourself of the things that make you happy.

After you’ve written your list don’t just file it away, keep it somewhere important, put it in a treasured place and pull it out frequently, when your feeling sad or when you just need to remember what is most in important in your life, when you feel truly alive.

It’s so important to stop and cherish what is great in our life, we’re always moving onto what’s next and sometimes forgetting what is now. If we don’t slow down from time to time to smell the roses, or the sweet fragrance that is already in our life, we might miss it all together. Then it is too late. When all we really do have left is memories, having missed the moment completely, where you can no touch and feel and taste and savor the richness that might be in your life right now.

Even if it’s an amazing cup of coffee or a smile from someone at the grocery store. Enjoy!

What are you grateful for? What are a few of your favorite things? What do you savor, enjoy? Who do you love, who loves you?

sk lamont These are a few of my favorite things - what are yours

Why don’t you share some of the items from your list in the comments box below, along with any other ideas or suggestions, or anything else you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you!

What’s on you list?

Follow me on twitter @sk_lamont

 


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Gathering my Writing Goals- Getting Ready for the New Year