This Year’s Goals and Challenges!

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In 2015, my lucky number is going to be 12.

Ever since I took on the challenge of writing 12 books last year and was largely successful in it, I have been obsessed with pro-active goal setting and personal deadlines. It is easy enough to adhere to deadlines when they are set by your boss or when you are obligated to meet them.  I think that is precisely the reason why we have many successful professionals but often unsatisfied and sometimes, downright miserable human beings on earth.

We give great respect and dedication to the deadlines set by others, but not by us. When, actually, it should be the other way around. Or, at the least, equal.

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I will be frank – last year was not easy, to sit each month and churn out a book. And it was not even a novel, but just a chapter book (5k to 15k words), and it was, pardon my French, frickin difficult. It was possible only because I promised myself (and the entire world!) that I’d give it my best shot each month. Only that promise helped me experience a great educational year, one that gave me 12 first drafts – a feat I have never achieved before in my life.

So, I am upping the ante this year. FIVE challenges, instead of one.

  • 12 books to read and 12 books to give away, every month (only way I can think of, to stop the habit of buying new books without reading the old ones)
  • 12 manuscripts to edit (I wrote them last year, now I have to get them ready for editors to read!)
  • 12 kilos to lose by the end of the year (all thanks to Fast Food Nation and a new found love of fitness)
  • 12 short stories to write (as the host of Short Story Challenge 12×12, I am simply going to continue the challenge from last year)
  • 12 artist’s dates (as part of Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way creativity program – I plan to do this every year, I fail to do it every year but NOT this year!)

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Phew! And that’s why this update took so long… because I need all this time to identify my personal and professional goals for this year. I am enamoured with the concept that if you aim for the stars, at the least you may reach the eagle’s nest. I love the thrill of meeting a professional deadline, and let’s accept it, like all others, I love earning money. I really do. But my epiphany from last year – brace yourself for the cliché – is that personal deadlines – the ones that are not dictated by money or obligations – are good for the soul. And this year, I am all about the soul.

Am I chewing more than I could swallow? Perhaps. But there are very practical reasons for these goals, as explained above. All this year, you can expect posts on these topics – health, fitness, creativity, publishing and literature – as I try my darn best to win all five challenges.

If any of you have the same goal(s) as these, please write to me and we will go on this journey together :-). And as you can see, none involve writing one book a month, so I’m very confident 2015 is not going to be tougher than 2014!

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The Year Past and The Year Ahead

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How many of us really evaluate the past and the future?

It’s normal to compare, yes, but I don’t mean that. In fleeting moments of joy or despair, every one tends to compare then and now, but I would like to know how many of us consciously sit down and say, “Okay, this is what I did in 2014. What did I get out of it? Did it change me in any way – if yes, good or bad? Have I learned anything at all? Have I become better, or do I remain the same? Did I do the same stuff in 2014, as I did in 2013? What lessons have I learnt and what am I going to do with that wisdom in this brand new year?”

Let me tell you, I never self-evaluated. Really, who does it? Only self-help gurus, I guess. For most of us, the last few weeks of December are usually spent in festive spirit or holidaying (for me, it was Hong Kong!), as we are excited about the coming new year. And on the Day itself, we are full of optimism and excitement and euphoria, that we completely forget that January 1 soon gets over, and we are once again presented with another year which we can choose to just glide by like a passing speck in a daffodil field, or forge ahead with deliberate focus.

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I wouldn’t do that anymore, I decided mid-flight on Dec 30, when the flight continued to hobble up and down and sideways, and my fellow passengers were trying not to scream. All of us were remembering the “disappeared” Air Asia flight just a few days earlier. And all of us surely remembered that we were currently flying Malaysian, the same airline that still hasn’t found MH370. I chanted to myself, if I make it alive, I will be better, and I will do better. I would spend the next 7 days listing out what 2014 really meant to me, to my career, to my life, to me as a writer and an individual.

So, ever since the flight from Hong Kong safely landed in Chennai, I have been self-evaluating, with a pen and a notepad (and sometimes mobile Evernote). Here’s a small glimpse into the results: In 2014, I semi-won the challenge I had set for myself and, as a surprise bonus, completed 50k words in November, for Nanowrimo. On the non-writing side, I got hooked with Ayurveda, realised I had anger management issues and a book called FAST FOOD NATION totally changed the way I looked at food. And more revelations that I will – for now – keep to myself!

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I think we do not self-evaluate because it forces us to come into the light. We are so used to being blind and ignore the fact that it is us who design our present and future; self evaluations unflinchingly tell you who’s to blame and we are insanely scared of the answer. Mine has shown me a few home truths; some pertain to writing, but most pertain to life; I now have more to share with you all now. Last year, this was a writer’s blog that spoke about writing. But this year, it’s going to be a writer’s blog that will also speak about the stuff she cares deeply about, other than writing.

It’s funny how a somewhat-near-death experience in 2013 influenced me to finally write my novel. And now, another similar experience has forced me to self-evaluate and change (not too wildly, I promise) the focus of this blog – same URL, but a different look and a title. I hope you will stick around for the many exciting e-updates I have planned this year. I will still, quite often, address the trials and tribulations of a children’s writer / budding novelist based in India (somebody has to do it!), but I will also be exploring ways to lead a wholesome, content and creative life.

Stay tuned and here’s to a happy, productive new year for all my readers!

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