A (writing) contract with myself

Six weeks ago I enlisted the help of a dear friend and fellow writer, Jen, to hold me to the terms of a contract. I drew the contract up myself – no, I am not suddenly a lawyer – so that I would be accountable for working as a writer. I got this idea from Aimee Bender’s article in Oprah, Why the Best Way to Get Creative Is to Make Some Rules, which  you should really check out if you are a writer, or you want to hold yourself to any sort of disciplined pursuit. Around the same time, I also came across this article in Redbook by Sandy M. Fernandez, Join the Accountability Club.

Both articles give great advice:

  • Set a clear, attainable goal
  • Tell others about it
  • Ask them to hold you accountable for attaining your goal
  • Check in regularly
  • Attain goal

Voila!

So, with these two great minds in mind I created my writing contract, phase one of which concludes today. It goes a little something like this:

Dates: September 17th to October 31st 2012 (1 ½ months)

Conditions:

  • Write every day for minimum of one hour
  • Can include: Book proposal; Book revision/new content; Blog post
  • Permitted: 5 ‘vacation’ days
  • Aim for 12 hours per week
  • Check in with Jen every day via text message: “Done” = completed at least one hour; “Vacation” = took the day off
  • Jen replies “Check” for each message

I am happy to report that I took only 3 vacation days, two of which were while I was actually on vacation in Napa Valley, and the last one was on the day I hosted a dinner party for 25 people.

I am also happy to report that I aimed for an hour a day, but averaged 2.5!

I am further happy to report that writing is now something I now do every day, because I am not only accountable to Jen, but more importantly to myself. As a result, I have completed a total overhaul and re-draft of part one of my novel. I started with a travel (auto)biography and now I have a work of fiction. In home renovation terms, I tore done all the internal walls until I was left with just the foundation and some structural support and completely rebuilt, refurbished and redecorated it.

I am additionally happy to report that I am close to having a dynamic, well-crafted book proposal completed. This will then go out to agents and publishers.

I am lastly happy to report that Jen and her hubby Nate welcomed their baby daughter, Ellie, nearly a week ago. And brilliant as she is, Jen was still my accountability bud while in labor and just after Ellie’s birth – a her own insistence.

Many, many thanks to Jen and to the other writers I  have in my life for your unwavering support and encouragement. Thank you to my non-writer friends and family members who have liked my Facebook updates on the progress, and support my endeavor to finish this novel. And thank you to Ben and Lucy for allowing me to lock myself away for hours at a time.

Nearly there…

No excuses

Three months and five days.

That’s how long it has been since I last blogged.

Now, as millions of people world-wide are setting (and already breaking) New Year’s resolutions, I find I have no plausible excuses left.  And so I blog.

Since I last wrote, I started working at Groundspeak, the days have turned dark and cold, and I no longer have to give myself pep talks to get out of bed in the morning.  These are all big changes for me.

Groundspeak has been all that I thought it would be when I went to the first interview back in July.  I walked out knowing that I wanted to work for these people, even if they only wanted me to make coffee and empty trash cans.  Fortunately, they want far more from and for me.

There is an incredible atmosphere at Groundspeak and it comes from the people who work there.  It is a positive, creative, clever, engaging, and supportive atmosphere which makes working there a pleasure.  Every day is different, and my boss, Jenn, frequently asks, “When you signed on to work for us, did you think you’d be doing this?”  The truthful answer is frequently, “No”.

Amongst the administrative tasks and responding to emails, I have worked on a project with the Geological Society of America, I am planning a three-day event for 100 in the UK, I am learning German, and I know how to simulate a generously proportioned chest with two stuffed frogs.

I am truly enjoying my work.

The weather on the other hand…

It is winter again.  I feel like there wasn’t really a summer, so it is sometimes hard for me to see the light at the end of the Winter tunnel.  Summer 2009 consisted of some Spring weather, some Autumn weather, and about a week of Summer when the mercury hit 95+ for 7 days in a row.

Seattle-ites moaned and stores ran out of fans, but I loved it.  And then it was gone.  Before I knew it the days got shorter and the temperature dropped in increments.  I have summer clothes that I never had a chance to wear, and most of them are currently vacationing with a friend in Columbia.  I thought I owed it to them.

I should say, though, that the Winter Solstice was marked with as much celebration at work as Christmas was.  “Hooray!!!  It is the shortest day of the year!  Longer, brighter and warmer from this point on!”  I had to agree that this is something worth noting, if not celebrating.  Especially as Solstice fell during one of the coldest weeks of the year: -8C daily maximums = “Brrrrrrrr”.

The last big change is that I no longer need to have a chat with myself each morning about getting out of bed and facing the day.  In August of last year I feared I was dropping into a deep funk.  I had landed my dream job, but wasn’t able to start.  Red tape was choking me and I feared that my new employers would give up the long wait to secure my work visa.  Two months later, the only thing standing between me and a new place of work was a stamp in my passport.

I should have been thrilled that the company was flying me back to Australia to finalize the paper work.  I would get to see family and friends (and the sun), and I could start working the day after I arrived back in Seattle.

I should have been ecstatic, but I was too terrified to feel anything but all-consuming fear.  “What if they say no and I can’t come back to my home (Seattle)?” became my mantra.  Friends were reassuring, the company was reassuring, Ben was reassuring.  “It will be fine.”  “It is a formality.”  “You’ll be back here and working before you know it.”

I wanted to believe them.

Then I talked to my dad.  “Darling, what will you do if they don’t give you the visa?”  Finally.  Someone actually said it aloud: my greatest fear.  Once he said it, he immediately dismissed the thought, “Don’t even think about that.  It will be fine, Darling.”  He was right, and so was everyone else.  I flew back to Sydney, had a (worry-filled) weekend with my family, attended the visa interview and walked out 15 minutes later with the visa.

Then I was on vacation in one of my favorite cities in the world.

And you know what happened then.  I flew home home to Seattle, started work, and lived out the rest of the year.

We celebrated Ben’s 30th with a huge party at our place.  We had a Thanksgiving dinner with 5 other couples, all close friends of ours, and then took off for a weekend away in a mountain cabin.

We enjoyed my first Seattle Christmas with my mom visiting from Las Vegas, and Ben’s Seattle family, and we saw in the New Year with dear friends, Nicole and Josh.

It was an extraordinary end to 2009, but I am very happy to start 2010.

I am healthy, I have love in my life, I have a great job and even greater friends, and soon we will be traveling to Europe.  I have much to be grateful for.  I can even spin the weather: how nice it is that I get to wear winter clothes, knee-high boots and my new (extremely cute) earmuffs.

So, here they are, my resolutions (it has to be done).

1. I will blog more frequently than once every three months and five days.  In fact, I will spend more time writing for myself than I have in the past few months.

2. I will continue to volunteer my time.

3. I will do flexibility training (yoga, Pilates) once a week.

4. I will learn something new (um, not quite sure what that will be yet).

Happy New Year to you all.  May it be prosperous, filled with adventure and spirited pursuits, and peaceful.