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Hit the Beach or Hit the Books

How to Stay Motivated When it is HotHotHot

Hey girl! You can have it all!

How many of you have heard this one? Has it been true in your life? For me, the answer has a big caveat attached. The answer is yes, but there is a cost.

I am a beach baby. I suspect I always will be. Right now, as I write this, I am dressed in shorts and a tank top, but I am wearing my swim suit underneath. I'd intended to go for a swim at 10 this morning then come back and get to work, but plans changed. So, I've been looking out my window on and off all day, telling myself, just get this done, then that done, then you can go and then come back and finish the rest later.

Now, I don't want you to get me wrong -- I love writing. Adore it. Hope to keep doing it until I'm too senile to remember words or how to turn on the computer. It's just, I like some other things, too. The beach is one of them, and I always know winter is coming. Unless I retire to Mexico, summertime is a finite quality. I hate to see it wasted!

To me, having it all means I get to pay my bills, have enough left over, have time for the family and the leisure I love, and still pursue my dreams, aka writing novels. Right now, I am checking off every one of those boxes. I have to say though, there is a cost. I work hard for it. I put in long hours; I prioritize; I limit social engagements; I didn't buy that shirt I wanted yesterday.

There are strategies I have which help me stay at the computer when I'd rather be at the beach. First, I set weekly goals. These are targets, really, and often look like daily word counts or maybe write a newsletter today, launch a blog today. I try to set them at the beginning of the week, even though sometimes life gets in the way, and the goals don't get met. I find that having them set for a week keeps me on track, lets me know how to pace myself, but doesn't overwhelm me and make me feel like 'this target can't be met -- I should quit and go work on my tan.' I write the weekly targets on a calendar and the daily ones on a wipe board. When I've met them, I cross them off. It is amazing how motivating those small accomplishments are when pursuing a big goal.

Another key strategy I have for success when it comes to writing is flexibility. Yeah, I have targets, but they are my targets. If I don't reach them in full, the world doesn't end. There is also more than one part to the job of being a writer. Some days, if I really want to go swim, I simply print off what I've written and bring a red pen with me -- and edit from the comfort of my beach towel. I am also flexible on the time of day I write. Generally speaking, I'm happier on the computer at night, but I can write first thing in the morning if that is the time which is free. I also, when I know I am going to be busy or too tired to write my word count later, have Google Docs downloaded on my phone. There have been days when I have spent my lunch hour at my day job writing.

Another part of successfully writing a book for me involves accountability. If possible, it is great to have someone actually ask if you met your targets and how the book is going. That is one reason writers love writer's conferences and enjoy their friendships with other writers. I mean, my mom will call me and ask me how many words I wrote that day if I ask her to, but she doesn't feel it like another writer. I also keep myself accountable by posting my launch schedule in advance on my website. If I know I've said the book I'm working on will be launched in six months, that keeps me working. It can also stress me out sometimes -- but that is a different blog!

I do find that maintaining a regular schedule works best for me. I mean, sometimes it isn't possible. Maybe I'm on holidays or someone is sick. When that happens, I try to remind myself that a little goes a long way. Even if I only add a few hundred words a day instead of a few thousand, that is still progress. I stay focused on the bigger picture -- the outcome -- instead of the days where I produce less than I hoped. I break writing targets down into manageable bite-sized chunks and force myself (yes, somedays I have to force it) to take regular breaks. Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint, and I need to remind myself of this occasionally.

When all else fails, some days I just ditch. Days off are important. They keep my mind, my eyes, and the rest of me rejuvenated and happy. If I absolutely have to play hardball to get a project done, I focus on all the detractors about going to the beach -- skin cancer, crowds of tourists, other people's screaming children. You name it. On the days when I'm not fully feeling the writing bug, I can sometimes still talk myself into writing, by talking myself out of everything else.

And that is how you get a book written and still get to have it all!

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