I have at least seven 'To Do' lists going at any one time.
First there are the big goals for the year. I personally have nine. Seven are writing related, one is to enjoy/improve the house, and the last is to go do something new and exciting once a month.
Each month I check into those goals. I figure out how my progress has been so far and if the goal still seems relevant and achievable. For 2016 I canceled one of my writing goals that then seemed irrelevant to my bigger goal of becoming an inspirational published writer. I replaced it with a similar goal, learn about the craft of writing, using Brandon Sanderson's class recordings.
I then determine what I should be doing in each goal for the upcoming month. That's the mini goal list. If I look at the big goal too often it feels unachievable. Breaking it up really helps focus.
After that I break it up again, this time into the next step of each goal. Whether it's to buy a plane ticket to go to a new state for a cultural activity, or sit my butt down on the chair and edit the next page, it gets written down on the list.
After that I get to work.
That list becomes the 'number one' important list, but it doesn't hold all of the things that need to get done in every interest in an everyday life. I keep a list of mini goals for author visibility, one for helping out with this LLC, one for the classes I'm taking, one for house upkeep which includes anything from vacuuming to patching the roof, and one for helping out writer friends. They're there, and they get done when I have time, but I know that the 'number one' list is the one I have to spend my time on if I want to succeed in big year long accomplishments.
When you win at something (contest, goal, agent, publication, etc.) it adds a twist or a turn in your path that changes, at least for a while, your equilibrium. It may be unexpected, or at long last, but your next steps will feel different; maybe they are dreamy or scary, unfamiliar territory or full of relief. So what is next? How do we celebrate our achievements without getting derailed, letting success go to our head, or set expectations so high we fear ever trying again?
Re-establishing your balance is your next hurdle. Even before figuring out about contract law, or at least how to download your winner swag, you need to allow yourself the helium-like high of the win and then gently reconnect with the ground. You still have your friends and family, who count on you for an infinite variety of things. You still have your body to care for, your bills to pay, and your life to maintain (lawn, pets, vehicle, job). These will all help you stay grounded. You can only not feed the dog so long before you are once again scooping kibble. You may know someone who let their success turn them into a 'new' person you didn't like. You may feel intimidated by the successful people you have met. You may have never felt that kind of euphoric achievement before, its unfamiliarity leaving you feeling bulldozed. With that frisson of fear, it can be hard, but it is critical to remain grounded in your reality. Keep in touch with your friends, call your parents or whomever has been supportive of you all these years. Talk about memories and make plans. Share with them your feelings, and listen to their feelings about your new and marvelous reality. This is harmonizing, bringing you closer, giving you perspective.
If you're afraid of this success because it sets a new, hard to reach bar for you, keep in mind that you get to set your goals, they are yours alone. Set new, realistic goals that acknowledge your abilities and your fears. Talk them out with people you trust. Sometimes seeking out a mentor is helpful. Another local area writer, teacher, or professional in the field can be very helpful. To garner the information you need to move forward, think carefully (and ask others) about what questions you really need answered: do you need to get a lawyer? When do you need to deal with taxes for new income streams? Thinking things through with someone should help keep you connected without deflating your new success. How to handle life changes like this are very individual.
What we all hope for, that million dollar deal, may be as rare as the Hope Diamond, but there are lots of successes that you will experience. There is nothing worse than turning into a bad winner, except being so afraid of winning you don't take the chance.
I love flash fiction. Those burst of words that entertain and take only minutes to read. There are many forms, but generally, flash fiction is under 2,000 words. There is the twitterature which is limited to 140 words. The drabble with 100 words, and the sudden fiction coming in under 750 words. No matter your taste, each story, if written well, can insinuate something bigger happening in the background.
Here’s a flash fiction I wrote in celebration of winter. Enjoy.
The footsteps headed north. Large evenly spaced depressions in the snow piqued my curiosity, and I needed to know who intruded into my isolation. There were no roads here. No towns. The sun didn’t even show itself this time of year.
It had been two decades since I came to this God forsaken place to seek solitude. Sometimes I questioned myself if I made the right decision. But where would I go? There was nothing for me in civilization.
Millions of stars and the aurora borealis lit up the sky. Once I thought their faint illumination reflecting off the snow was beautiful. Now they were just a source of light in the vast darkness. I studied the booted footsteps. The person wasn’t wearing snow shoes. Foolish. Someone else didn’t prepare and where were they now? Dead.
The biting air burned my lungs and ice built up on my beard, but I continued to stare at the footsteps. I couldn’t save the person. I was too old to help. And what could I do if I found them? I lived a meager existence. My little cabin was warm and had the bare essentials for survival. But there wasn’t enough for two until spring.
Sweat beaded on my forehead, and a shiver ran through me. I had to get back inside. I hadn’t been feeling well, and I needed to lie down. The person will be okay. They wouldn’t be here otherwise.
Dreams of endless footsteps plagued me. I worried about the lost soul. Were they okay? Did they reach shelter? I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do something. It didn't matter if I was sick.
Sitting up and swinging my legs over the edge of my bed, I paused. A sound approached. Footsteps. Snow crunching in quick succession. Snorts and grunts followed by the jingling of bells blasted the other side of my door.
At that moment, I realized I didn't want to be alone. I wanted, no needed contact with others. The wooden door shook. Bursts of snow seeped through the spaces between the boards. My hand hesitated on the latch. What was I afraid of? It was only a person that needed me as much as I needed them.
A deep rumbling voice met my ears and filled me with joy. I wasn't alone anymore.