Winter Break road trip episode 3: Roswell, NM

2019-12-28 14.58.32_cropped.jpgAt the end of the second episode, Winter Break road trip episode 2: Alamogordo to Carlsbad Caverns, your intrepid blogger had survived a trip 800 feet beneath the surface of the earth. Your intrepid blogger emerged like Persephone in the spring to continue her desert odyssey with a search for alien life forms. Translated from pompous-ese (the native tongue of academics like me), hubs and I drove from Carlsbad to Roswell.

For those of you who don’t watch cheesy shows about UFOs, Roswell is the site of a rather famous crash. What crashed, you ask? According to the US Air Force, a weather balloon. But spoiler alert: you don’t see little statues of weather balloons in Roswell. Instead, you see these:

Bonus points if you can pick out which one of those beings is the alien.

Whether or not they actually crash landed outside Roswell back in 1947, those little green men have been mighty good for the Roswellian economy. You can’t walk ten feet in downtown Roswell without tripping over at least one of ‘em.

Hard to get in your daily word count when the tourists won’t stop staring at you.
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If Baby Yoda were made from old tires…
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Payday! Time to get some parts to fix the hyperdrive…
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And… I got nuthin’. Someone wanna caption this?

Even the city itself has embraced the town’s extraterrestrial legacy. Behold the lamp posts, complete with Santa hats for Christmas:

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So did aliens really crash land outside Roswell back in the 1940s? No clue. But if they did, they could make a fortune taking selfies with tourists.

IWSG: My love-hate relationship with writing

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThe January question for the Insecure Writers Support Group Blog Hop is:

What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher/coach/spouse/friend/parent? Did you just “know” suddenly you wanted to write?

I’ve always written, and I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with writing. I hated writing assignments in school. Hated. Them. I’d whine and complain and fuss and struggle and whine and complain some more. Then I’d suck it up, write the stupid paper, and get an A on it.

At the same time that I was being a huge whiny baby about writing assignments, I was journaling. I started a diary when I was about 10, which expanded into a journal by the time I was in middle school. My journals then were either spiral notebooks or stacks of binder paper held together with ancient report binders I inherited from my grandmother. Yes, I inherited office supplies from my grandmother. I still have a few of ‘em too. Did I mention my grandmother died in 1979? Anyone wanna buy a vintage porcelain stamp licker?

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But I digress.

So I’d sit in my room writing, copying down song lyrics, or jotting down the weekly top 40 from Casey Kasem for posterity. Yes, the entire top 40. All 4 hours of it, just about every Saturday morning. I was a nerd with no life, OK?

But I digress.

In my journal I collected ideas and pop culture and random written crap the way a magpie collects shiny things. And I wrote. Sometimes pages at a time. Sometimes I felt compelled to write. Sometimes I still do. But if someone told me I had to write a particular kind of paper about a particular kind of thing, well, that was an epic tragedy that required large amounts of whining.

After I became a librarian, I started writing academic pieces for publication: book reviews, journal articles, and book chapters. The whining continued, usually some version of the famous Frank Norris quote:

Don’t like to write, but like having written.

2+ decades on, that’s still an accurate summary of my feelings unless I’m journaling or doing some other kind of low-effort writing.

So why, then do I write anything more challenging than a summary of my day? I suppose the answer is the writer’s version of the bit about the mountain-climber climbing mountains because they’re there: I write because I have something to say.

But there’s another part to my writing journey, the part that started a bit over 5 years ago, when I started writing fiction at the ripe old age of 47. I told some of that story in an earlier post, Talent is Overrated, so I won’t repeat it here, but the gist of that post is that though I’d dreamed of being an author since I was a kid, I never tried, because I thought I had no talent.

The process of overcoming that negative bit of self-image was gradual, and I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but I do remember three key incidents:

  1. A former intern and friend gave me a copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, with a lovely inscription encouraging me to take up creative writing.
  2. I read Diana Gabaldon’s account in the Outlandish Companion of how she came to write Outlander. Tl;dr: she decided to learn to write a novel by actually writing one. That got me to thinking that maybe the same method could work for me, even if I had less spectacular results than she did.
  3. I realized that ~2/3 of my life was over (probably, if one believes the actuarial tables), so if I had any unfulfilled dreams, I’d best get busy. There’s nothing like an awareness of one’s mortality to give one a solid kick in the keister.

So one afternoon, I Googled “how to write a novel,” found the website for the snowflake method, and got started.

I still have a love-hate relationship with writing. I still prefer to have written. And I still whine and carry on when I have to put my butt in my office chair and type some damn words already. I do not, however, copy down the top 40 every week, because today’s music sucks. Now get off my lawn.

But I digress.


Want to see some other great IWSG posts? Check out the list of participants here. (Powered by Linky Tools).

Skip the resolutions – set goals instead

I don’t make New Years resolutions, and for the most part I never have. You can’t fail if you don’t try, right? Yeah, there’s your inspirational quote for 2020.

Seriously, I don’t make New Years resolutions, because I can only make major life changes successfully when I am truly ready, not when the calendar says it’s time for self-improvement. What I do set at the beginning of each year, though, are goals.

What’s the difference between a resolution and a goal? Glad you asked!

Resolutions vs. goals

A resolution is a commitment, usually broken by MLK Day, to start or stop a habit or make some other big change: start exercising, stop smoking, lose 10 pounds, start meditating, stop killing teenagers… (OK, who let Jason and Freddy into this party? Someone can’t read the, “No Slasher Movie Villains Allowed,” sign.)

A goal, on the other hand, is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (see, OHSU HR Department? I did pay attention in that workshop on goal-setting!). A resolution is a wish. A goal is the first step in a plan. How about some (slasher-villain-free) examples?

Examples of resolutions vs. Goals

Example 1

Resolution: Write more short stories.
Goal: Write 4 short stories and submit them for publication by the end of 2020.
Difference: The resolution is not specific, measurable, or time-bound.

Example 2

Resolution: Finish my novel.
Goal: Finish the first draft of Delta Dawn by February 1. Finish the first round of revisions (fixing plot holes, reordering scenes, cutting out unnecessary scenes, filling in transitions between scenes) by June 1. Finish the second round of revisions (scene edits) by August 1. Finish line edits by November 1. Send to at least 2 beta readers by December 31.
Difference: The resolution is not specific (Which novel? And when is a novel really finished? When it wins the Pulitzer?), measurable (How will you know when you’re “finished?”), or time-bound (When are you going to do what?). I would also argue that it isn’t achievable, or at least will be much more difficult to achieve, because it isn’t specific and doesn’t break the process down into anything specific.

Anatomy of a SMART goal

Let’s take a closer look at the elements of a SMART goal:

  • Specific – I’m pretty clear in my goal about what, exactly, I hope to complete in 2020. The more specific you can be, the more likely it is you’ll actually achieve what you set out to do.
  • Measurable – It’s measurable if you can tell whether or not you’ve achieved it. Some goals have numeric measures (like write 50,000 words in November. Hmm… where have I heard that before?). Others, like mine above, are measurable in that you can tell whether or not the thing is done.
  • Achievable – or at least I hope so. It’s a bit ambitious, what HR types call a “stretch goal,” but it’s doable if I can reign in my addiction to r/amitheasshole on Reddit. A good goal is one that you can achieve with a bit of effort. If it’s too easy, you’ve sold yourself short (but you’ll have plenty of time for messing around on Reddit). If it’s too hard, you’ll probably fall short, and that can be really discouraging. So be honest with yourself but push yourself a little.
  • Relevant – I want the damn thing done, so it’s relevant to me. Make your goal something you care about.
  • Time-bound – For a goal this large, I need subgoals and deadlines for it to be truly time-bound. I mean, who doesn’t love deadlines? But seriously, a project the size of a novel needs to be broken down into manageable chunks. That’s the cornerstone of what the business types call, Project Management. I’m planning a future post on that topic, so don’t touch that browser!

I highly recommend SMART goals, at the beginning of the year or anytime, to help you clarify what, exactly, you want to achieve. They make it so much more likely that you’ll actually be successful.

My writing goals for 2020

And just in case you care (C’mon, pretend you do. It’s lonely back here behind this keyboard), here are my 2020 writing goals. Note: I’m not just having an ego-fest here. Sharing your goals with someone else is what the self-help types call “practicing accountability.” Telling someone else what you plan to do is supposed to make it more likely that you’ll actually do it, because it makes you accountable to whomever you told. So I guess some of y’all are supposed to come over here and break my legs if I don’t get these goals done. (Narrator: Don’t do that.)

Anyway, here’s what I hope to accomplish in 2020:

  • Goal 1: Finish the first draft of Delta Dawn by February 1. Finish the first round of revisions (fixing plot holes, reordering scenes, cutting out unnecessary scenes, filling in transitions between scenes) by June 1. Finish the second round of revisions (scene edits) by August 1. Finish line edits by November 1. Send to at least 2 beta readers by December 31. (This one should look really familiar. If it doesn’t, you’re probably one of those monsters who skips to the end of mysteries to see whodunit. Shame!)
  • Goal 2: Submit 4 short stories to contests or for publication: revise Collateral Damage and submit it to the Arizona Authors Association annual literary contest; submit Proof Text for publication; write 2 new stories and submit those.
  • Goal 3: Polish Vanishing, Inc.: Continue submitting chapters to my critique group and revising based on their feedback (throughout the year as the group meets); send the entire manuscript to at least 3 beta readers by May 1 and revise based on their feedback by November 1.
  • Goal 4: Write a flash or short creative nonfiction piece about my mother’s dementia and submit to a contest or for publication by December 31.

How about you, dear reader? What are your goals for 2020?