Progress Report: February 2014 Goals

I find tracking my progress important. It’s all too easy to look at your end goal and think, “I’m so far away” without realizing how much progress you’ve actually made.

Which is to say, I’ve accomplished more this month than I thought.

Finish self-editing book 1 [IN PROGRESS]

I’m coming up against a dilemma here: stick to my self-imposed deadlines and into the hands of beta readers or keep going to make sure it’s in the best shape possible before handing it off.

Actually, that’s not really much of a dilemma. I’m not going to hem and haw over the draft’s perfection (or lack thereof), but the amount of rewriting I’m doing requires more self-editing to make sure my changes work. The ultimate goal is to put out the best book possible—it does nothing for my brand to rush it.

I should get through my rewrite by the end of February, though, so there’s that.

•  Name writing event [COMPLETED]

And no, I’m not ready to tell anyone what it is yet. Soooooon.

• Write March business posts (3/4) [IN PROGRESS]

Now that my editing process series is over, it’s back to the content creation grind. I have a lot of ideas, but I need to sit down and get them all out. I can do this! Plus, I’ll need to step this up so I have extra time during my writing event in April.



February 2014 Goals

Now that the craziness of the holidays is over and I’m finally settling back into my routine, it’s time to start up with the goals again.

Finish self-editing book 1

I over-estimated my ability to accomplish this in January and found myself rewriting instead of cleaning up, so it’s back on this month’s list. I gave myself a month for each stage of the process, so I’m shooting for being finished by February 13th, but I’d take the end of the month too.

•  Name writing event

I’m hosting an event in April and it needs a name. I’ve started a naming chart, but I need to settle on a name and start working on promotional copy.

• Write March business posts (4)

Because I like to stay ahead. Who doesn’t?

What are your goals this month?

Limiting Labels: Judge Less, Understand More

As humans, we’re driven to categorize and label ourselves and others to understand how we fit together and how we differ from each other.

Labels aren’t inherently bad—just like comparison isn’t bad either. But we’re also quick to place negative value judgments with labels and that’s where labels become limiting and stifling.

One of the biggest lessons I learned while teaching ESL was the following:

Reserve judgment and don’t take things personally

In American classrooms, for example, students show they’re paying attention to the teacher by making eye contact. When an American teacher (e.g., me) has Chinese students who aren’t making eye contact, her first gut reaction is “these students aren’t paying attention to me.”

And her first judgment would be WRONG.

In China, attentive students don’t make eye contact with teachers. By slapping the label “inattentive” on a student because they’re not making eye contact, we unfairly categorize the student as something they’re not—and reveal a lack of understanding or foresight that not everyone acts the same way we do.

I quickly learned to stick to the facts (students aren’t making eye contact) and strove to seek the reasoning behind people’s actions (that’s THEIR culture) rather than automatically labeling the students (they’re inattentive). It allowed me to deal with my students positively (no accusations of being distracted) and provide them the tools to be successful as they moved onto college classes (“In university classes, make eye contact with the professor to show you’re paying attention”).

We’re quick to judge people’s actions by how we would act—and it leads to misunderstandings and frustration

Many ESL students become frustrated when they’re unfairly labeled as inattentive or misbehaving when they do something that’s perfectly acceptable in their culture. They’re frustrated because they don’t know or understand why they’re “bad” and no one’s explained what the “proper” way of behaving is.

And frustrated students lead to a tense and unproductive classroom environment.

Slapping labels on people doesn’t lead to quality, understanding relationships unless you use those labels to help you understand why a person acts the way she does.

I like attaching the label “HSP” to myself because it gives me insight to how I react and how I can work to minimize my anxieties surrounding social situations. I’m not aloof at social events; I’m struggling against overwhelm by all the stimulation. I’m not quiet because I dislike the people I’m with; I’m quiet because I’m not quite sure how to break into the conversation or I’m waiting for someone to draw me in.

But I also get really frustrated when I see people withdraw from me because they don’t understand my silence. And if I get frustrated enough, I give up. I lose out on relationships and those people lose out on knowing me—because I have plenty of thoughts, opinions, and favorite discussion topics I’m happy to share with the people I know will appreciate them.

Sticking people in boxes limits your interactions with them and places unfounded and wrong expectations on them. People are quick to believe the negative things people say about them. If you tell a student he’s inattentive enough, eventually he’ll live up to your expectations. I grew up thinking that I’m deficient for being introverted and quiet. No one gave me the tools to compete in a world that’s biased toward outgoing people; they just wrote me off.

“You’re quiet” someone once told me, in the kind of tone that said, “You’re weird.” All it did was drive me back into my shell. Is quiet what happens when you don’t talk? Thanks for clarifying the obvious.

When I told students to make eye contact in American university classes because it shows the professor they’re paying attention, I also avoided discussions of what’s right or wrong. There’s no right or wrong in this situation, only how students need to behave to achieve success.

Because my students don’t need to be told whether they’re paying attention or not—they know that. They need the tools and information necessary to adjust their behavior for success in a college context.

People don’t need to be told what they are or why it’s bad or wrong or more difficult to succeed. They need to be understood for who they are and why they act the way they do—and how to leverage that for success.

Seek to understand and assist, not judge and pigeonhole.

The Beginnings of My Authorial Pursuits

I’ve committed to publishing two fiction books in 2014 and even though I don’t plan to release anything until May, that doesn’t mean I’m sitting back and twiddling my thumbs now.

If I’ve learned anything about building and launching a business, it’s that a serious amount of planning and executing needs to happen behind the scenes before anything official happens. And since I’m primarily using this space to track my progress (and rant about whatever catches my eye) (and because I didn’t talk about January’s goals), here’s what’s I’m in the middle of:

Setting up my author spaces

I’d originally planned to self-publish fiction books under a pen name, but the benefits to keeping everything under Amanda Shofner are too good to pass up. My Twitter account is established, but I set up a Facebook page for Amanda Shofner (while gleefully saying, “They really like me!” every time someone likes the page) and I’m working on claiming my author page on Goodreads.

Which, note, is the most convoluted process ever. Goodreads asks, “Are you Amanda Shofner, author of the below books? To apply, please leave us a message.” Goodreads got a, “Yes, I am Amanda Shofner, author of those books” response. I have no idea what happens next.

This website will also see some changes. Nothing drastic, but a move to self-hosting will mean a design change. I’ll shift the focus to include book pages, but it’ll likely remain a lot like it is now: a place where I post what I feel like whenever I feel like it.

Getting a handle on that editing thing

Between the holidays and Bout of Books, I’ve gotten behind on editing. My goal is to have book one (currently without a title) self-edited by the end of the month. But self-editing turning into rewriting (which I find highly amusing; imagine me madly cackling over the power of using the delete key) and a string of tension headaches this week have left me on page five of 188, when I need about 15 pages per day to hit my goal.

Editing never turns out like you imagine, I suppose. But going through the process myself will allow me to better help my The Path of Least Revision clients. So there’s that.

Finding time to write

Scratch that. That’s an excuse. I have time. It’s more like finding the motivation to sit myself down in the chair and write. NaNoWriMo in November left me with a draft zero of my first book (first draft seems too nice considering I’m rewriting the majority of it) and a head start on book two.

But I burnt myself out in December writing more and this month has been about figuring out how to get myself back in the mindset without having the community spirit of NaNo.

Kelly Apple and I hosted a #onedaywrite, which would have worked a lot better if I hadn’t had a headache for half the day. And, really, my own physical issues are my biggest hurdle at this point, so self-care gets pushed up the list of things I need to stop avoiding. (See also: putting real clothes on.)

It’s a good start, eh?

A Lesson in Being Positive: Less Bitching, More Doing

I seem to have gotten the label of positive, which rather amuses me, because negativity is a frequent companion of mine.

But it brings something important to the forefront: being positive isn’t about never having negative thoughts.

Rather, being positive is all about how you deal with negative thoughts

Negative people give in and complain.

Positive people acknowledge what’s negative, but change what they can and learn to accept the rest.

Social media seems to have made the situation worse. Many have fallen into the idea that no filter between their brain and their social media accounts is necessary. People become complainers because suddenly they have a forum that gives them a place to vent and gain sympathy from others.

And while I’ll never deny the value of venting, sympathy doesn’t solve the underlying problem—and may actually make it worse as people reply and keep it in the front of your mind. You spread what you update. If you complain, you spread negativity.

I have plenty of complaints and wishes, but I don’t give voice to them because they’d take over my thoughts if I did. They’d have more power over my life than they deserve (which is nothing).

Bout of Books is a good example of this as people start talking about how they’re “failing.” We’re a low pressure read-a-thon (and, in fact, don’t really care how much or what people read as long as they’re reading), so the number of “failures” says more about people and the pressure they place on themselves.

But you can talk on Twitter about how much you’re failing… or you can get off Twitter and read.

I once watched people complain on Twitter about how they never had any time to comment on blogs and how badly that made them feel. They chose to bitch about it on Twitter, but they could have used the same time and energy to go through their RSS reader and comment on posts.

Being positive is all about how you deal with your so-called problems… and understanding that you’re often your own biggest problem

You can complain about the cold weather… or you can dress in layers and do everything you can to stay warm. Because you’re never going to change it. Negative people bitch. Positive people deal and move on. (And after listening to Americans bitch about the weather for the past week, I have a new appreciation for Canadians.)

I can bitch and whine about business being slow, or I can develop a plan that will help me get out in front of people and get more business. And if I choose to bitch, what kind of message does that send to my potential clients?

I can bitch or I can do. Bitching solves nothing and wastes energy—not just my own, but anyone else’s who’s exposed to my bitching.

Being positive (or negative) is deeply embedded in the language we use to talk about our world and ourselves

When you’re faced with the decision between bitch or do, get off social media and do. Complaining won’t solve your problems. And frankly, I’m tired of listening to it.

Goals: the 2014 Edition

My goal this year is pretty simple:

Build my community and email list

I have a reason for doing this (beyond the goal of being successful in business), but that’s a 2015 goal and not something I’m going to share… yet.

But here’s how I’m going to accomplish it:

6 webinars

January, February, March, June, September, and October are webinar months.

January is about the editing process and self-publishing. Other potential topics throughout the year include content creation, writing process, self-editing, blog events, and what I’ve learned about book marketing.

3 writing and editing events centered around NaNoWriMo

April, July, and November are all NaNoWriMo months. Those will be writing support months. May, August, and December will be editing support months.

I’ll have more fun details once I get everything sorted out… including a name.

2 fiction books

Yeah. I’m going to publish two fiction books. I wrote and published two non-fiction books in 2013, so I want to work on fiction books this year. It’s important for me to work through the writing, editing, and self-publishing process myself.

Potential release dates are May and August.

2013 Made Me an Expert Quitter

And despite the phrase “Quitters never win,” here’s what I quit… and why it only benefited me.

1. I quit Language Management, LLC

Best. Decision. Ever. Nothing about that name worked. And by dropping Language Management, LLC and rebranding to The Path of Least Revision, I tapped into my personality to make my business (and me) stand out.

2. I quit #blogbiz

Nikki and I started the Twitter chat because we were both trying to build our expertise in business blogging. And it worked great for the first few months. But at some point, Nikki and I went in different directions and neither of us put the effort into the Twitter chat that it needed.

So while it was fun, eventually we realized it was taking up too much of our time and didn’t further our business. It’s time to move onto other ventures, and it feels good.

3. I quit The Grammar Support Group

I originally started this group on Facebook because I wanted to test the feasibility of starting a grammar course. But I think what I learned most of all is that even though people know they need to improve their grammar skills, it’s not something high on their priority list.

The only interaction I saw in the group was when I posted something, and I never had a strategy for posting, so it was random at best. I either spent too much time on it or ignored it completely. Neither was good. After realizing I’d not put some effort into it for a few months, I decided to close it down for good.

Now I have fewer projects to worry about, which frees me up to go harder on my 2014 plans.

4. I quit letting people bring me down

Well, except for the people I can’t exorcise from my life.

But I think this was the most empowering “quit” this year. I’m extremely susceptible to negativity and pessimism, so learning to turn away from those people rather than continue to engage with them was one of my biggest triumphs. I muted people on Twitter and Facebook, unfollowed people who really drove me crazy, and just generally learned to focus on the people and subjects that made me happy.

I’m responsible for my reactions and emotions. No one can make me feel a certain way unless I give them the power to do so. That means not playing the victim and limiting my complaining.

Sometimes you need to quit to move forward.