When I started this blog I used to share monthly reflections on the past month and intention setting for the upcoming month. I thought it’d be nice to try that again as I find sharing these things publicly helps me to think about them more concretely (whereas if I don’t share it I’ll just half-heartedly think about it).
My three big goals for October were to write every day, to cook dinner three times a week, and to do pilates three times a week.
I wanted to write every day because I’ve been struggling since I heard back from my editor more than three months ago. I’ve been trying to outline a new draft, trying really hard to shore up all the big plot and character issues she identified in my last draft, and I thought just five minutes a day might get me through the outline.
Reader, it did not.
I only worked on my novel on a handful of days this past month. Frankly, I’ve spent most of the month questioning if I’m even creative or imaginative enough to write a novel at all, let alone a fantasy novel. I’ve got the first quarter or so of my novel reasonably well outlined, but after that I just have a lot of things I know my protagonists need to learn, but no ideas for how that comes about, and that’s where I’ve been stuck for a month: on trying to come up with potential actions and events rather than the characters sitting and thinking and magically stumbling upon the answers.
Which brings me to my first intention for November, in which I’ll be embarking on something of a modified NaNoWriMo. I have zero expectation of reaching 50,000 words in 30 days, but I do have a good idea of where the first 30k words or so of my novel are going, so I’m planning on starting in on drafting.
My intention for this is twofold. First of all, I’m hoping that by figuring things out in the drafting stage, it will give me ideas for the actions and events that need to happen later in the book. Secondly, I’m hoping that drafting will help me get back into the world of the story and the characters. I sent this last draft to my editor in April, which means that the outline is the only work I’ve been doing on it in over six months, and outlining, for me at least, just isn’t as immersive as drafting. My hope is that by drafting I’ll more easily be able to immerse myself in the story and that might help me sort the rest of the outline.
So, yes, my first intention this month is the same as one of my intentions last month: write every day. But I’m taking a different approach this month that will, with any luck, make me a little more successful.
My second intention in October was to cook dinner three times a week. I chose this one because over the last few months I’ve fallen out of the habit of cooking, and I find myself more often snacking or heating up a ready meal in the oven, which inevitably leads to me eating fewer vegetables and nutrients than I otherwise would. I think it’s because I’m working from home and don’t have any commitments in the evening, so it’s easy for me to just go from one screen to the other in the evening, trading my computer for my television. I chose three days a week because it felt like an achievable amount and left plenty of evenings for leftovers.
I’ve had more success with this one, managing it eleven times in the last month. However, it’s been quite variable, with me cooking five evenings one week and none the next.
Ultimately, I think I do better with habits that can be performed daily, or at least every week day, rather than those that are a few days a week. And the real difficulty with making dinner, for me, isn’t the cooking itself so much as that I find when I sit down to watch telly in the evening I’m loath to get up to do anything.
TV is a curious beast. We don’t have any channels, so it’s just subscription services like Netflix, but I find that even the most enjoyable and engaging shows have a negative effect on my depression if I watch for too long. Strangely, watching a good movie doesn’t have this effect, but watching three 40-minute episodes of a TV show does.
I did an experiment in no telly at all for a month a while back, and while I did find it immensely helpful, it’s not something that really works long-term because the fact is that there are a lot of shows I really do like. I’m not interested in never watching anything on TV again in order to encourage my creativity, but I do need to be careful to avoid the days where I do nothing but watch Netflix after work.
And so I’m implementing an old habit that I’ve trialled before, which is no television until after dinner. This is enough to allow me a couple of episodes of a TV show or a film night with my husband, without allowing me to get sucked in to something that I know has a negative impact on my mood.
Along with this, I’m also setting an intention to read for half an hour every day. I posted on Instagram months ago that I was in a reading slump, and honestly it feels like 2020 has been one long reading slump.
The obvious explanation is, well, everything that’s going on in the world is making it harder to focus. Compound this with the fact that when I read these days I’m also struggling with comparing my own work to what I read and trying to analyse the plot of the book I’m reading and I’m finding it much harder to get stuck into a book. This is part of why I find myself turning to television rather than books when I want to relax, because I’m just finding it harder to relax at all with a book.
I tend to find, as well, that if it takes me more than a week or so to read a book then it’s harder for me to maintain interest. This is the case even with much-loved books where I know the story well enough that it’s not a case of forgetting what’s going on when time passes in between reading sessions.
This is why my goal is to read for half an hour each day. That can be just ten minutes at lunch time, after work, and before bed, but three-and-a-half hours a week is enough for me to read an 80,000 word novel.
My third habit last month was to do pilates three times a week. Core strength is a major weakness of mine in terms of fitness, so I wanted to focus on that in particular. I did all right with this for the first two weeks of the month, and then rather fell off the strength training bandwagon entirely.
Again, I think this partly fell victim to my general difficulties with non-daily habits. For November, I’ve developed a strength training schedule for myself that involves training both upper and lower body twice a week, and core training thrice a week, so that I’m lifting after work Monday to Friday, with weekends off.
That said, lifting isn’t a primary intention of mine for November. The way I like to set intentions is that my intentions are the things I focus on the most, so while I also have a new lifting schedule and am experimenting with a meal planning routine, if I don’t have the time or energy for everything one day the writing and reading will come first.
Ultimately, this month I’m focussing on the things that give me time and energy. These are the bones, if you will, for what may be cooking or exercising intentions in December.
So there you have it, my three intentions for the month of November and some thoughts on the intentions I set in October. I’m curious, have you set any intentions for the next month?