Doorways to the Future: Planning for 2013 Goals


Each goal is wish that you have clarified and are committed to making real in this world. Each goal can be a doorway to the future. The next part of the work is finding or creating the doorway by creating your plan.

Once you have goals

Before you begin planning, review your list of goals to ensure each one is:

  • Stated in terms of what you want (not what you don’t want)
  • Stated in present tense
  • Stated to include what you will experience (see/hear/feel) when you achieve it.
  • Stated to include the evidence that you have achieved it

Most of the time my goal list, the one I print out and paste in the back of my agenda, and in my journal; the one I look at every day and each week when I do my journal entry for the week, is more of a point form reminder and doesn’t have the detail I need to create a plan. It’s like the title. The plan provides chapter headings, and weekly and daily actions provide the substance of the story.

Pick one goal to work with first

Choose the goal that relates to your focus for this year; the one that will have the most impact. Sometimes the focus is a role, sometimes a feeling, sometimes an area of your life such as livelihood or relationships. Here’s how I’ve built a plan for my  focus area, creativity, and my focus role, writer. Once you’ve done one goal, do the others in order of priority.

My Core Desired Feeling in the area of Creativity is Joyful. Underneath there are three goals:

  • Finish the first draft of the novel
  • Write 52 Blog posts
  • Play with paints, collage, fabric

After my review I restated them:

  • First draft of novel 80-100K words completed; excited to begin revisions
  • Post each week is beautiful, edgy(for me), useful(for readers), and is shared
  • Journal weekly using paint, collage, visual play in weekly summaries

The goal and resources

The next step is understanding how I can use my resources (time, money, network) to achieve the goal.

The productivity software I used to use came with my first laptop computer—a program based on Stephen Covey’s First Things First, an older book with a ton of good ideas in it. In both the software and the book, Covey used the analogy of filling a jar with sand and rocks. If you fill the jar with the sand first and then try to put in the rocks you won’t manage it, but if you put the rocks in first and then pour in the sand you can fit them all into the jar. He tells you to put your most important life commitments in first and then let the sand of all the other commitments fill up the space that’s left. It is great advice, and I’ve used it for years.

It works when I am self-disciplined enough to do it. Part of the challenge for me is determining what’s a big rock, what’s sand, and then there’s the dilemma of recognizing when I see someone else’s big rock (or sand) as mine.

Big Rocks

Big rocks are your most important tasks. How do you figure out what’s important? Another tool from First Things First has been a big help. Four Quadrant Thinking. Divide a square into four boxes, and label as follows:

  • Q1 Urgent & Important, top row left
  • Q2 Not Urgent & Important, top row right
  • Q3 Urgent, Not Important, bottom row left
  • Q4 Not Urgent, Not Important, bottom row right

Then take your list of things to do (action items from goal planning and other items from your list) and sort tasks into the appropriate box. Most of us start with a pile of things in Q1, not so much in Q2 and a bunch of stuff in Q3 and Q4. To be productive and less reactive, you want to carve out more time for Q2 items like planning, creating, editing, researching, learning, and key action steps for your goals. This is what moves you forward and begins to make more space. Your urgent and important list, often firefighting, begins to disappear as the the results of planning and more long-term thinking are felt.

Daily Practice

The other gem that’s stayed with me and helped me work in a way that’s congruent with my values and feelings, is recognizing that:

What you do every day is your life. What you do every day, whether or not you are aware of it, whether or not you intend it, becomes your life.

Staying aware of what you do every day, even just logging it and seeing where the time goes, can be sobering. Logging has been helpful for my writing. Last year I kept track of what I wrote each day, and though my intention was to write some on the novel everyday, there were too many days when I only wrote Morning Pages (thank goodness for Morning Pages).

The first chapter in Priscilla Long’s book The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life  is called Daily Writing. It begins like this:

Writing every day is the key to becoming a writer. It is the only secret, the only trick. Don’t despise the fifteen-minute write. Don’t despise writing in your journal. Don’t despise writing down your complaints for fifteen minutes before going to work. Any writing counts.

Taking heart from this advice, I am honouring my Morning Pages, the other writing I have done, and recommitting to writing more than Morning Pages every day.

The the discipline of daily practice is good for those with writing goals and for meditators, musicians, fitness enthusiasts, and a host of others whose goals benefit from daily work.

Creating the plan: begin with the end in mind

Another Covey quote

Begin with the end in mind,

has become an operating principle. It’s habit 2 from Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The first step in creating the plan is creating a more specific and concrete vision of what it will be like when the goal is achieved.

  • How will I feel?
  • How will I celebrate?
  • What will I see, hear or notice?

Goal: First draft of novel 80-100K words completed; excited to begin revisions

As soon as I include how I want to feel I realize that I need to pace myself and build energy toward the end of the process so I’ll be eager to begin revising. This tells me more about how to approach writing the first draft differently. I think I’ve been allowing myself to revise too much along the way. Time to just get it down!

  • When I’ve completed those 80-100K words I feel like I just finished a delicious appetizer and am hungry for the main course of revision.
  • I am going to celebrate with a dinner out and a five-day holiday on work on the novel (to create some space before I begin revising).
  • I see a double-spaced hard copy ready for a first read through beginning to end, and a fresh pad of lined paper ready to take notes. I have a red pen and a yellow highlighter handy and a pad of 3 x 3 sticky notes.I notice how real the novel feels and how much actual space it takes.

I’ve got a big smile on my face just writing this description, so I’ll be ready to dance and shout when it’s really there.

Creating the plan: consider the context

The goal lives in a context of

  • feelings
  • values
  • forces that support achievement
  • forces that oppose achievement
  • the current status of the goal, and
  • other commitments.

If you understand the context you’ll have a better chance of making a plan that will help you achieve your goal.

  • Feelings: I want to feel joy at having brought it to completion and energized by the story being ready for work.
  • Values: I want to complete the first draft having learned more about writing, and I want to have created something of beauty and meaning, something that speaks to my community, something that explores the importance of kindness, and something that demonstrates the importance of presence.
  • Forces that oppose or hinder the goal: self-doubt, lack of focus, not being in the world of the novel enough to stay attuned to it, fear of the dark parts, pushing instead of discovering.
  • Forces that support the goal: life-long desire to write, clarity of the dream that launched the story, daily writing, appropriate breaks, connection to other writers, attunement to my soul’s longing to see it finished, just enough reading about craft and practice, right effort.
  • Current status: 35,000 words of first draft done, approximately 65K to go, 5500 words per month, 1300 week per week.

Breaking it down makes it feels much more manageable. Hey, I might even get it done early. I’ve been working about forty-five minutes a day on the draft so far this year and the time seems to be about right, so I’ll continue. When I tried to go for an hour I gave up early, and when I tried for several hours a day, I didn’t do it at all. I am looking for  my sweet spot, the one that lets me sustain the work.

  • Other commitments on your calendar: For most of us, there will always be other claims on our time and resources.

Before you can make a realistic plan for new goals you need to review current commitments. You will probably have to find things to say no to before you can say yes to the time and resources needed for your new goal.

I start by figuring out how much time I’ve already committed elsewhere: work, family, courses, vacations, and then count the days that are left. For example, in January,for me  7 days were gone right away, along with two evenings, and 20 other hours. I have roughly 166 waking hours to play with in January over 24 days. To allow for unforeseen events, I’ll give myself an hour per day for Sera. I now have 142 hours left. Even though these calculations are fiddly, for me, it’s really helped me understand the urgency behind using that hour each day. It helps me cherish the time.

I need to do enough time calculations to create commitment and a realistic perspective without getting so caught up in the time the issue that I lose sight of the writing. I know that an hour for the book is a Quadrant 2 activity and clearing email is usually Quadrant 3, so at the very least I can learn to do the hour on the book before I tackle email.

Committing to time and keeping an eye on the word count works best for me. I also know I need to build in activity that will nourish the writing, and space for connecting with other writers so I don’t go too far down my own rabbit hole.

Steps for creating a plan:

  1. Review goal statements
  2. Plan your most important goal first; the one that will make the most difference
  3. Review the resources (time, money, network) you will need to achieve the goal
  4. Understand how big rocks, daily practice and a four quadrant approach can be used with this goal
  5. Begin with the end in mind
  6. Consider the context

May you have fun creating your plan; may the process bring you new insights and help you achieve your goals for 2013.

Join the discussion: What kind of planning process works for you?


12 Tips for Creating in 2013

For me, 2012 was a year of finding out how to stay focused and what to focus on as a self-employed writer/consultant. Here are my top tips from this year’s journey.

1. Everything counts; it helps not to freak out.

It’s true. You decide what’s important. You lay out the plan. You find the money and make the money. It can be paralyzing and make you flirt with the idea of applying for any sort of job. When anxiety and overwhelm threaten to take you off track it helps to have a list of small projects that you can do while you get your breathing back to normal. Build your contact list. Work on ideas from your story/article notebook. Find a mentor; decide what you have to offer and what you hope for from the relationship. Develop a list of places/people you can be of service to at no charge. Once you are back to a less paranoid version of yourself focus on the one thing you can do right away to help your business/help your writing.

2. Small steps realize the vision.

What’s the one thing you want to get done next year? What do you need to do each quarter to make this dream come true? What do you need to do now to meet your first quarter milestone? Planning small steps and blocking them into your diary each week can take you where you want to go. Write for 15 minutes every day? For an hour? For three?

3. Learn to say yes to what feeds your soul.

What’s the 20% of what you do that makes it all worth it? Build that into every day and every week. Whether it is a specific activity or interacting with clients or other writers, make sure it happens. It will keep you going through those less than perfect moments.

4. What you do every day counts most; pick the right stuff.

It took an astonishingly long time for me to realize that my life was what I did every day. Even though I might treasure memories of a special trip or high point, it’s really what happens every day that counts. When I finally got it, I felt empowered. By changing what I did each day I could change my life. And I did. So don’t wait. Today is the day. Do what you love now.

5. Value your contribution.

Showing up is most of the gig. Showing up with all of you makes the difference between sleep walking your way through the day and living it. Start by valuing the fact that you are here and ready to work and that you bring your whole incredible self to the party.

6. Learn to say no.

At the beginning of the journey there may be the sense that nobody is going to want you to do anything for them and you may want to fall on the first offer with cries of gratitude even if it has nothing to do with your vision, or maybe you don’t have your vision yet, so everything looks good as long as someone will pay you for it. As you go on you realize there is really no reason to do what someone else could do better and with more joy. Say no.

7. Work with those you want to support; it’s a shared fate

When you take on a client, customer or project it’s a shared fate. If all goes well and your client is happy, it’s a win for both of you. If your client isn’t happy, or you’re not happy, it is a loss for both of you. It’s got to work for both of you.

8. Have fun!

Sometimes it’s bound to be intense. Learn to have fun while you work. Know who makes you smile and what makes you feel like dancing. Never waste a chance to celebrate what’s going on. Find one thing a day to celebrate, even if some days it means you celebrate it being over.

9. Let your soul shine through.

What about what you do satisfies your deep longing? What’s meaningful? Where does your satisfaction come from? Share this. It turns colleagues into friends and clients into fans. It’s what makes life  and your work juicy.

10. Embrace your strengths.

Step one, get to know your strengths. There are lots of ways to go about this, but an easy one that just takes noticing comes from Danielle LaPorte. Notice what people thank you for. In fact, write down what people thank you for (we have a way of forgetting really fast).

11. Find sources of nourishment.

When you are the whole show you need a lot of creative fuel to keep you inspired and putting it out there. Identify the people, activities, blogs, books, films, music, workshops, associations and classes that feed you and keep reminding you of your vision and your strengths.

12. Eat, Workout, Sleep

Sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night works wonders. Forty minutes or more of daily exercise ditto. Eating for both health and pleasure provides balance. They are basics, and neglecting them can cause big problems, if not now, soon.

Join the discussion: What do you do to stay on track and keep creating?

Create More Heart Light

Nurturing the quiet light in your heart can help you see the beauty in yourself and in the world, can boost your eagerness to seek possibility, and bring more zest, more love of life and appreciation for it. It is free and already available to you, but you may not be tending it.

A rudder for your boat in the rough seas of change

We live in a time of great change and the noise of conflicting directions. Every day there is more information, more news, more calls for our money, our time, our attention. Our ability to connect electronically is growing so much faster than our ability to comprehend our interdependence. There is more information available to us everyday than we can sort through, and no time to understand what it means or to use it. The “always changing” and “never ceasing” nature of existence means there’s a kind of background ache to living, especially when circumstances or events have lowered our resistance. Coming back to the quiet light in your heart that never completely goes away, letting yourself rest there, replenishes your strength even when your heart is sore. Remembering to look for the quiet light in the hearts of others transforms a walk or a visit to a cafe and begins to heal the sense of disconnection. When you steer your boat using that quiet light, letting it be your navigator, you have a better chance of smoothing your passage through the choppy waters of change.

“The state of one’s heart inevitably shapes one’s life; it is ultimately the place where everything is decided.”      John O’Donohue

Ways to heal the heart and cultivate your heart light

  • Place your hand over your heart and feel the warmth from your hand permeate your chest. Be aware of your breathing without seeking to change it. Close your eyes and imagine a soft light in your heart. When your heart warms enough that you can feel it without your hand over it, you can take your hand away. Rest in your heart’s light and warmth. Repeat as needed.
  • To work with difficult changes, first evoke your heart’s light, then review the changes from the centre of that light.
  • To build a sense of our interdependence, first evoke your heart’s light, then hold the person or situation in that light until you sense the connection, then wish them well.
  • When your light is low, first evoke your heart’s light, then consider each person, situation, or thing you are grateful for in your life. As you think of each thing, bring it into you heart’s light and acknowledge the way the person, situation or thing has added to that light. When you are done for the moment, thank each one for helping you grow your heart’s light.
  • When your heart is full, first evoke your heart’s light, then send its quiet light, as a blessing to family, friends, those in need, and all beings everywhere.

As you become more aware of your heart’s light you will discover other ways to cultivate it.

Join the discussion: What helps you stay aware of your heart’s light? How have you healed a bruised heart? What makes your heart’s light shine?

Early Inspiration, Current Inspiration

I spent the spring of 1983 working my way through Gabriele Rico’s Writing the Natural Way: Using Right Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers. When first published by Tarcher it had a typewriter on the cover. A second edition, revised and expanded, was published in 2000. It has a computer on the cover and includes useful updates. It was a big help for me. Here are two poems that came from work with the book.



White teacup, half-full of tea,

does your close kept clay,

long held from earth,

yearn for that time when tea

could penetrate and dissolve it?



The Question

Comes an emptiness in this world,

a silent ringing,

a bright shadow,

that enters, fizzes in the blood,

boils clean the mind,

mirrors infinity,

opens me, quivering,

to ceaseless energy.

What shelter beyond this little house of bone,

soon dust?

What I beyond this question?


Gabrielle Rico’s website has loads of information and resources. She introduced the process of “clustering” which I still use. It’s also something that’s now a regular part of many writing classes.

Current Inspiration

Last July I took a one-day workshop, Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem Making, with John Fox organized by Ray McGinnis, author of Writing the Sacred: A Psalm-Inspired Path to Appreciating and Writing Sacred Poetry. Here are two poems from that day.

John’s website

Ray’s website

You’ll find good resources on both websites.


These Days

What you know keeps changing.

the sea of information floods toward you.

Learn to swim.

Loosen your hold and jump in.

Dive deep into yourself, deep into the sea,

find the pearl,

hidden by irritation,

by surface storms,

by the tumbled debris of old containers.

These days are the beginning of something new.

These days call for the pearl you’ve found.


Not Listening

Her news of chores completed, everyday encounters,

stay words; a recorded message with no response needed.

I am not listening; I am only on the phone.

I don’t hear the pleasure in her voice as she tells me about

her grandson’s request for advice,

the sadness when she mentions a call from an ill friend,

the pleasure in successfully reaching out to a new neighbor.

Her wish for my well-being isn’t felt, I am away somewhere

so unimportant I can’t remember where I’ve gone.

My heart contracts.

I realize what I’ve missed; what I’ve done.


Join the conversation: What was your early creative inspiration and what’s inspiring you now?


4 Steps to Renew Creative Flow


Facing the blank page can induce total amnesia and render even a normally chatty person devastatingly silent. When this continues for awhile we can begin to think we have writer’s block. Nothing to say, nowhere to go, nada, nada, nada . . .

1. Questions can help you unplug the flow

Writing the answers to questions that increase your self-knowledge is particularly helpful.

  • What do you appreciate about your mother and father and why?
  • What do you wish you’d known before your first kiss and how would it have changed things?
  • What advice would you most like to give your younger self and why this advice?
  • Who is your favorite superhero and which characteristics do you admire the most?
  • Where is your favorite place on earth or elsewhere in the universe and why is it your favorite?

2. Read your answers aloud. Then reread silently and pick-out the words that have the most meaning for you.

3. Review what you’ve circled or highlighted and write a paragraph about what you’ve discovered about yourself.

4. Review your answers plus your self-knowledge statement and mine them for elements that connect to your creative work.

No writing in progress? Pick the element that resonates for you most strongly and simply start working with it.

Resources to get your writing flowing again:

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes

On Writer’s Block: A New Approach to Creativity by Victoria Nelson

Finding Your Writer’s Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction by Thaisa Frank & Dorothy Wall

Story Starters: How to Jump-Start Your Imagination, Get Your Creative Juices Flowing, and Start Writing Your Story or Novel by Lou Willett Stanek, Ph.D.

The one that worked for me

Over the years I’ve collected a shelf full of books on writing. In the end the thing that got me writing every day was Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. Those pages led to a small note book were I began collecting story and article ideas. Once the routine of Morning Pages was established, I began to add doing just ten minutes a day on a story prompt, drafting one post for the blog, or adding even 500 words on my current novel.

Everyone is different. I discovered that I need variety to keep writing, and I love essays, stories, novels, and poetry. Once I had enough raw writing, revision became a part of my daily routine too. In the end the advice always seems to be the same.

  • Write.
  • Don’t give up.
  • Writing is revising.
  • Just spill it on the page to start.
  • Get it out. Get it down.
  • You can clean it up later.

Join the conversation: What do you do when you feel blocked?


I am the kind of person that likes to share my discoveries with someone (the sort that reads good bits from the book she’s reading aloud).

For years I was a member of a management team, and got used to being able to chat for a minute or two during a break, or coming back from making copies.

Now I work as an independent consultant so there are no colleagues down the hall, and the break concept doesn’t really translate. You could say the inspiration for this blog was the need for a virtual break room to share news and ideas, ask questions and just find out what’s going on.

Welcome. I hope you find your visit refreshing.