Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Upside of Being Unproductive

I tend to use my weekends to play catch-up on work. For better or worse, this tends to happen when your office is inside your house. When you see your work staring at you, it's kinda hard to ignore it.

However, I spent yesterday being completely unproductive. No writing, no paying bills, no answering e-mails or blogging. Instead, a big chunk of time was devoted to watching a "best of" series of clips of Conan O'Brien's Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. If you want to see the clips, there are a bunch you can find online by searching "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog." Or you can check this page--with some of the best Triumph segments--in this article from MSNBC:

One Last Treat From Conan's Dirty Dog, Triumph.

Laughed my head off watching these (especially the clip with the Hawaii American Idol auditions.)

After the Triumph-fest, I went to see It's Complicated and laughed some more. HYSTERICAL flick.

I've spent most of this morning in a writing frenzy, probably because I let myself have a completely brainless day of entertainment. Proof that being unproductive is, every so often, a very good thing.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Helping Haiti

Most of the books I write are about teenagers. They explore certain themes common to teenagers around the world. These themes might include discovering that right and wrong isn't always as simple as black and white. Or the push-pull of feeling like an adult, yet being treated like a kid. The frustration of knowing what to do in a given situation, yet not being trusted to do it--or being unable to act due to restrictions placed on teens.

When I was a teen, contributing to a cause often meant a reliance on adults. Sure, my friends and I could raise money to help people in need, but cutting a check or making a credit card payment required an adult's signature. Even then, once we raised money, it took time to get to its destination. Instant online payments didn't exist.

Today, that's not the case. When catastrophe strikes, as it struck in Haiti this week, you can make a difference, all on your own, and your contribution can be used immediately.

Have a cell phone? You can text "Haiti" to 90999 and $10 will be added to your cell phone bill. If you pay that bill yourself, you're covered. If not, hand the person who pays it a $10 bill.

Have an iTunes account? You can donate there, too. There's currently a link to the iTunes donation page on the Apple homepage, or you can sign in to your iTunes account and search "Haiti."

Have a job? Ask your employer if they'll match any donations you make, or if they're taking up a collection and adding their own contributions. Having an employer contribute makes your donation go further.

I made my own donation through the Clinton Foundation's Haiti page. Former President Bill Clinton is a US Special Envoy to Haiti (he was appointed to this position prior to the earthquake) and is working to coordinate efforts to distribute food and medical supplies on the ground.

Haiti needs our help. Let's give it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Funky Writer

Apparently, I am a funky writer. Who knew?

This week, I'll be the guest of honor on The Funky Writer radio show. (I assume, since the radio show is called "Funky Writer", that being hailed as a funky writer is a good thing!)

To check out the show's blog and get a sense of what's in store, go right here. There's a contact e-mail for the show's host, Rob Batista, listed on the right side of the blog. If there's a question you're dying to have answered, send it along to him.

The interview airs live on January 7, at 8:30PM ET. If you'd like to listen to the show (or download it to iTunes for free), click on this link to access The Funky Writer Radio Show.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Goals (Not Resolutions)

Happy New Year! For many, this is a day of sleeping late and making New Year's resolutions. In my house, it's a day for singing Happy Birthday (to my father-in-law), taking down Christmas decorations, and New Year's goal-setting.

Yep, I differentiate between resolutions and goals.

A resolution, in my mind, is an aspiration. Something you'd like to accomplish, but that isn't within your control. For me, aspirations include being a contestant on The Amazing Race, having a movie made of one of my books, and watching a no-hitter at Fenway Park. I can make progress toward accomplishing those things, but ultimate success lies in someone else's hands.

On the other hand, accomplishing a goal is entirely within your control. As nice as it is to make a list of your aspirations, regularly setting goals is better. I sit down with one of my writing buddies at least once a year (and sometimes more frequently) to set goals. Not only is it fun to talk over our goals on a regular basis, it's paid off for us both.

Over the years, we've come to the conclusion that proper goal-setting has a few requirements:

1) Accomplishing the goal must be entirely within your control;
2) You must think through the steps necessary to reach your goal and write them down (be specific!);
3) You must set deadlines for accomplishing each step and for the ultimate goal;
4) You must re-read your goals frequently, and as things in your life/career change, update your goals accordingly; and
5) When you do accomplish your goal(s), celebrate!

For instance, though "have a movie made of one of my books" isn't within my control (as I do not control Hollywood), other aspects of my writing career are within my control. I can determine what kind of books I want to write, when I want to finish them, when I want to submit to publishers, etc. When setting my goals, I might write down something like this:

• Write two books this year (Write proposal for book #1 by February 15, finish book #1 by June 15. Submit by June 30. Write proposal for book #2 by August 15, finish book #2 by December 15, submit by December 31.)

It's within my control, it's specific, it has reasonable deadlines for both the ultimate goal (December 31) and for the steps needed to accomplish the goal.

I give a copy of my goals to Elizabeth, and she gives me a copy of hers. I keep the list on my computer desktop where I can see it as I work.

As the year progresses, we'll call or e-mail each other to say, "Hey, it's February 1. Where are you on that first proposal?" As things change--say, I get a contract that says I need to write a third proposal during the year--I'll revisit the goals, change them as needed, and give the updated goals to Elizabeth. She does the same. When one of us accomplishes a goal, we both celebrate. (By the way...this week is also a celebration week, because Elizabeth's newest book, How I Met My Countess, hits the shelves. Book releases are always cause for celebration!)

Goals don't have to be limited to finishing projects. Mine aren't! My writing goals also include improving my writing (by reading certain books or taking specific writing classes and workshops), communicating with readers (through my message board/Facebook/Twitter), and getting notes/outlines started for future projects.

If you're a writer, you can move forward by leaps and bounds if you set proper goals, and what better day to get started than January 1st?