New Year's Resolution No. 2

This year I plan to complete the manuscript for my YA debut novel and also get two short stories published.  Ambitious?  Very.  Crazy?  Definitely.  Achievable?  That all depends on how much planning, hard work, and pure guts I'm willing to put into this year and beyond, all while holding down a full-time job and spending time with family and friends. 

To some of you this might seem altogether impossible.  The first thing that comes to mind is where one would find the time to achieve the amount of work involved in completing a manuscript and getting two short stories published.  You know what?  The problem is not finding the time.  I think my problem, and something a lot of us share and can relate to, is using the time we do have efficiently and not wasting it doing inane things such as online browsing for no real purpose or traipsing off for another cup of tea or coffee.

If you need to do some online shopping, go ahead but find what you're looking for pronto and submit your order - just get it done.  The same goes with updating yourself on news and other current affairs.  I am a bit of a news junkie so I understand this particular weakness very well.  Again, use a portion of your day to get some news in and then return to work.  I have started to get a little better with this by dedicating a small portion of my morning and evening time to catching up on the news but using the greater part of my day for actual work.

Perhaps I am in the midst of a positive hangover from the start of the new year but I look back on my life and, honestly, there have been so many times the difference between success and mediocrity/failure has been because I didn't put in the time and love into what I wanted to achieve.  It's not just simply about luck or timing or pre-existing circumstances.  A lot of it is really on you.  Your attitude and your state of mind first and foremost.

Everything starts with a dream or desire but we can solidify our goals by making plans and putting in the time and effort to get there. 

What you need to do now:

(1) Find your goals/dreams;

(2) Make your plans; and

(3) Start taking steps and put in the work to get there.

It's that simple but most of us don't get past step (1), let alone step (2).

Dare to dream, set your goals, make your plans, and start now.  Don't wait.


New Year's Resolution No. 1

Christmas is over, with some indulgences regretted, but I have already decided on my first New Year's resolution for 2016.  I would like to markedly improve on my half-marathon time from 2015 by at least 10-15 minutes.  It's going to be a lot of hard work and, to be honest, I am not looking forward to the additional strength training, hill repeats, and speed work but it's all about outlining my short and long term goals, finding and sticking to an appropriate training schedule, and improving and maintaining a healthy nutrition plan. 

Maybe in 2017, I will then shoot for my first marathon.  Running a marathon is definitely a future goal of mine and I have even entertained doing an ultra distance one day but it's one goal at a time.  It's all down to reading Christopher McDougall's Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen and Scott Jurek's Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, which are a couple of must-read books for any runner.

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

Another fun thing I enjoy at the start of another running year is the thought of buying new running shoes.  It's a great time to buy with all of the end of year sales so I will be making a trip to town shortly to drop by one of the running stores and start laying the groundwork for my next half-marathon in 2016.

Good luck to you all in achieving your running goals for 2016!

Tips for Achieving your New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year again where you think over what you have accomplished, or not, during the past few months.  For most of us, you probably set yourself some New Year's resolutions late 2014 or early 2015 with the aim of ticking something off the list and, perhaps, rewarding yourself.

Of course, most of the time, the list is abandoned or simply forgotten come the start of the new year.  Why bother, right?  Well, you should, for yourself most of all.  It helps you avoid getting or at least wasting time being in the doldrums and more time doing things other than being in a total funk or a permanently bad mood!

Where To Begin? 

Start off with two lists - yes, two, one for short term and the other for long term goals.

Now, take your list for long term goals for the new year and write down only three goals.  Why only three?  No real reason but, think about it, one goal doesn't seem like enough and five sounds like torture so three sounds about right.  Ask yourself where you would like to be or what you would like to be doing this time next year.  What's your overall focus for the new year?  Improving your health and wellbeing?  Changing jobs or upskilling?  Starting or returning to a creative pursuit?  For myself, I focused on health and wellbeing and my hobbies.  I had been neglecting both for a while as evidenced by my increasing inability to fit into any of my works clothes and the dust collecting on my drawing supplies and half finished writing pieces.

My long term goals for 2015 were:

(1) Run a half-marathon

(2) Become confident enough to display my drawings or show family and friends

(3) Get some of my writing published

Don't worry if your goals don't seem lofty enough or, on the flip, overly ambitious.  This list of resolutions is for you and you shouldn't feel the need to justify your goals to anybody.  You have the whole new year to plan the next steps out.  That's where your list of short term goals will come in handy.

Next Steps

Set your list of long term goals aside and go to your list of short term goals.  Think of what you can do in the next one to three months that can get you on the way to achieving goals (1) through (3).

Here is what my short term list of goals looked like:

(1) Register for a half-marathon at least six months out

(2) Sign up for drawing classes, in person or online

(3) Contact publications, websites, etc I would like to write for

With goal (1), I signed up for the Run Melbourne half-marathon held yearly in July.  That's rights folks - I registered for a running event for the middle of the Australian winter.  Luckily winters are relatively mild in the southern hemisphere so, really, there was no excuse not to. 

The next step was to create or find a training schedule for a half-marathon.  You can find training schedules for all sorts of running distances online or in running magazines or books for free.  I actually used the training schedule provided in a special lift out in The Age newspaper for a promotion on Run Melbourne and it worked out great, well, maybe except for the parts where the schedule asks you to do hill repeats...

For goal (2), I signed up for drawing courses on Craftsy (see, as I didn't have time during the work day or after work to attend actual classes.  Craftsy courses are very affordable and your access to the courses you've purchased never expires.  Definitely something worth checking out if you want something more structured, with regular classes or sessions you can return to time and again.  You are also encouraged to post your art projects on the Craftsy website to share with your classmates.

With the third short term goal, I looked around for websites, rather than publications, that were looking for reviews and general content or filler.  Some websites will pay you per piece, while others will pay you a portion of their advertising revenue, and then there are some which provide you no compensation at all but will give you exposure via a contributor or writer profile or bio.  I tried the third option to begin with to get a feel for what sort of work was out there but I soon transitioned to publishing on websites that give you a portion of their advertising revenue.  Working for free is okay for a little while but, personally, I believe you should be compensated something for your time and effort.

Now I hope you go out there and set yourself some goals for 2016.  Remember your lists of short and long term goals are for you.  You will learn you are more than what you think.  Be it being able to get past that pain barrier when you are running or getting past your reluctance with showing your artwork to a friend or family member.  You can do it!

Best Book I Have Read in 2015

If you want a book that is inspiring and about beating the odds, read Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.  Anyone that has grown up without privilege or social advantage will recognise and appreciate how adversity can shape a person's character, the development of coping skills, and their drive to succeed and overcome commonly perceived disadvantages.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants

Recalling my family's immigrant past, after reading this book, I have learned to appreciate my parents even more and how far my family has come since making a new life in a different country and culture.

I look back now and wish this book had been around when I was 16 years old and questioning my place in the world and where I fit in.

Hats off to Malcolm Gladwell for this great and very profound book.  I hope my children will read it one day also and will learn to appreciate that the best stories may sometimes be sad at the beginning but can end well if we believe enough and put in the work to achieve success.

What Makes You a Better Writer?

My Morning Run

There is nothing better than my morning run to get me in the writing mood.  It can turn out good, where I feel I can keep running forever, or bad, where I can't wait to get back home but it's a habit I believe makes me a better writer.

I don't think about anything in particular most mornings but it's a chance to take in the morning light and the quiet before a busy day ensues.  Or sometimes, my run turns out to be a good way to mull over new writing or stories even when I'm struggling to finish or one of my old injuries is threatening to derail getting through a short run.

What makes you a better writer?