Covey on Goal Execution

Covey 4 Disciplines of Execution YouTube screen shot
Covey “4 Disciplines of Execution” on YouTube
Sometimes I run around, chasing urgent matters, forgetting my life’s most important goals and priorities. You would think I’d be immune: Stephen R. Covey was a college professor of mine. I was learning and applying the 7 Habits before they were numbered. So maybe that’s why seeing Dr. Covey again brings me back to my senses. Or maybe he does that for everyone. Here, he’s focusing on what it takes for teams to execute their goals. I can also apply these points to my team of one.
Writing goals are easy to postpone. (That’s why I’m an expert!)  Unless you have a publishing contract or a class deadline, nobody notices if you bump that project to the end of the bottomless To Do list again. Dr. Covey would call our writing goals the Important but not Urgent; he teaches us to schedule time for those projects and keep them high on the list, because that’s where the best things in life are found.
How do you do that? What works for you?

© Gwyn Nichols, Writers’ Resort LLC. All rights reserved.

“Just Put One Foot on the Ground”

About a month ago, Mimi Meredith shared her mother’s advice for cold Montana mornings: “Darlin’ girl, just put one foot on the ground.” I’ve been smiling over that ever since.

And I’ve begun noticing how often I begin projects that feel huge, day after day: creating a proposal for a workshop, reading a book manuscript for a consultation, grading a flood of student papers. (I’m sure you have your own version of this.) Once I’m in the flow, I don’t want to stop. But there’s that moment that can feel like a winter draft: do I really know how to do this? do I have enough time set aside? Am I up to this one? Will I know what to do with whatever I’m in for?

I’ve been noticing those moments and thanking Mimi as I just put one foot on the ground and realize I’m up and running.

If you want to write a book, maybe you could put one word on a page.

Feel the draft and do it anyway.

Here’s Mimi’s post: “Just put one foot on the ground”


© Gwyn Nichols 2011. All rights reserved.


Tempted to Quit Writing?

 “Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it’s nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.” Lemony Snicket

My favorite feature of the NaNoWriMo site is its collection of pep talks. You could spend the whole month there escaping from writing altogether. I printed out one of those pep talks so the master of Unfortunate Events could send me screaming back to my work whenever I need that. He calls those sinister doubts my brain dreams up and smashes them, eloquently. Maybe he will work that magic for you as well. Here’s another passage:

“So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours–not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they’d never understand it. Perhaps it’s not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you’ll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.”

Here’s where to find it:


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All rights reserved.

Friday Flick: The Key to Writing a Great Book

"What Do I Most Want to Say? William Kenower Author Magazine YouTube Screenshot
William Kenower Author Magazine YouTube Screenshot

William Kenower reminds us that the “great books,” the ones that change our lives, are not merely works of craft, but of love.  He says, “What it takes to write the book you want to write is the same thing it takes to live the life you want to live.” 


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All rights reserved.

Image: screen shot from YouTube


Publishing as Independence

“Are you published?” It’s the first question an industry outsider will ask, while a fellow writer will get to it eventually, however tactfully. “So tell me about your work!”

But being unpublished in a free land is not the same as being unpublishable in a not-so-free one. On my nation’s Independence Day, I’m thinking of an international social media “friend” who once shared her anguish with us: as a woman, she’s not allowed to publish in her own country, so she courageously posted her story online.

I’m counting my blessings. And I’m also counting hers. Here online, borders don’t hold long. “Let freedom ring.”


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Thanks, I Needed That!

WordPress showcased “10 Prolific Post a Day/Week Participants,” and I’m one of them!

Shall I tell you what this meant to me?

I realized today how burned out I’ve become in the last few weeks. New quarter, new classes, new students, new preps, new circadian schedule, forecast of 116 degrees and no rain, no summer vacation. When students whined, I felt their pain all too well, and my short fuse required amends. Already, life had been warning me so strongly of impending burnout that three of the four classroom projectors I had touched in the past week had refused to shine, and today, the fifth worked barely long enough before burning out. Colleagues comforted me, assuring me that vulnerability is wonderful for my growth as a teacher, and my students received me better in that vulnerability. The spill gates had opened and I came home weepy.

My son is writing a musical, Invincible, in which he explores vulnerability. (He’s wise beyond his years. And we were discussing it way too late last night.) So maybe I can receive the message now?

So here is the unvarnished truth: I came home, looked at my computer, and resented my blog for the sixth blogging day in a row. I hadn’t even been here in a week. I wasn’t being consistent anymore, felt I’d lost my stride, and had nothing I wanted to say in public. Vulnerability schmulnerability. (There, Drew, we’ve finally rhymed it.)

Here I’ve been writing all year to encourage your writing fluency and confidence–and my own had fizzled out.

I did check e-mail this evening, where I found several congratulating comments on this recognition. It could not have been better timed. This challenge itself has been a blessing in my life, and today, when I hit that wall and wondered whether I should quit, there you were, handing me a cup of water and cheering me on. Bless you all!

I look forward to visiting the other nine. Maybe one of them is as thirsty as I was today.

WordPress Daily Post
WordPress Daily Post


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Scheduling Improv

Listening to Krista Tippetts’ interview with musician Bobby McFerrin, it first surprised me that he ever considered joining a monastic order, and that the main attraction was the silence! He also loved the scheduled cycles of each day, the listening for God. Then it made sense.

He describes himself as a “conveyer of song. I think of myself as a catcher of songs . . . . to grab it, and pull it down, and have it come out of my mouth.” He distinguishes this process from an attitude of performing, which he recommends avoiding, even if you’re “catching song” from a stage.

He’s known for his improvisational freedom, but did you know he practices it? He recommends setting a timer for ten minutes. Then open your mouth and sing, and don’t stop, even when your body screams to stop.

That works for writing, too. Set a timer for a little longer than usual, and keep going even when everything in you screams to stop. You can work up to longer sessions and greater improvisational freedom.

(I watched the unedited version, and I plan to listen to the edited version as well–not to miss the things that will be trimmed for radio length, but for the music they’ll add. There’s another great way to look at revision!)

Bobby McFerrin Catching Song


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All Rights Reserved.