Get Set for Success!

by Vanessa Preston

Whether you have been writing for years or weeks, if you’re looking to take your writing to the next level there are 3 things you can do to set yourself up for success:


It’s fun exploring all of the possibilities in writing (endless, exciting, inspiring possibilities) but there is also a time to commit to seeing a particular project through to completion.  And there IS a way to set a goal that maximises your chances of succeeding.

Make sure your goal is SMART … Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-sensitive.
Kacie Berghoef explains the concept beautifully here, or you may like to read here about the origins of the SMART goal-setting technique.

For example, during this challenge my SMART goal is to:

  •  Write a particular new non-fiction ebook (Specific).
  •  Finish the first draft (Measurable) by the end of January (Time-sensitive).
  •  I have written the outline and don’t need to do much research on this topic, so I believe it is possible to achieve my goal within the timeframe (Realistic).
  •  I am the person who will be doing the writing for this book … I have a plan of action and I know what I need to do each time I sit down to write (Assignable).

Step 2:  BELIEVE

If your goal is SMART, it’s time to believe you can achieve it!

It’s possible to replace your limiting beliefs with quiet confidence.  Believe you can do it, then act accordingly.  It’s that hard, and that easy.

If believing in your ability to reach your writing goals is hard for you, you’re not alone.  I used to struggle with crippling self-doubt.  I thought that to pursue my dreams with confidence was prideful and vain.  Now I believe that it’s ok to embrace who I am, share what I’ve learned and do my best to make a difference in whatever humble ways I can (one of those ways is through writing, yay!)

If you can relate to this, stay tuned … one day soon I’ll be sharing links to some resources and mentors that have helped transform my mindset in ways that are authentic and perfectly aligned with my values, personality and passions.

Step 3:  CREATE and COMMIT

Create the conditions you need to succeed.  Do the simple things, like making sure you have plenty of pens and paper, and that your laptop is charged.  Then take a moment to brainstorm what else you need, and how you can get as close to that as possible.

For example, at the moment what I need in order to succeed is:

  •  Self discipline around time – I need to act like the prolific, published author I aspire to be, planning ahead and choosing wisely how I use my writing time each day, taking care not to spend too much time writing at the expense of my other priorities.
  •  Space – I can easily organise my desk and I’ve already prepared a bag with essential supplies for writing when I am away from home.
  •  Energy – it’s time to put my good intentions into action with nourishing food and adequate sleep;  self-discipline seems to be a theme for me!

Create the conditions you think will give you the best chance of achieving your goal, then make the most of the days when things go according to plan.

And because life isn’t perfect  …

Commit to doing whatever you can when things don’t go according to plan.  My contingency plan for busy days is to squeeze in two 5 minute writing sessions and a 7 minute sprint.  I have also made a list of the biggest challenges I am likely to face and possible ways to deal with them.  Perhaps I’ll share more about that another day.

Set yourself up for success, then dive into your writing project!


I wrote this pep talk for the “17 in 17 Writing Challenge” I am running on Facebook.  The purpose of the challenge is to establish a more consistent writing habit by writing on a specific project, for at least 17 minutes, every day for 17 consecutive days.  Not too daunting, but a pivotal step in creating a sustainable writing practice.   If you like the sound of the challenge and want to join in just follow the link to the Facebook group, and click ‘join’.


Back from the Wilderness

by Vanessa Preston

In the survival story I was writing for NaNoWriMo last November, my characters were stranded in the wilderness … an imaginary and extremely remote area somewhere near  Barrington Tops in NSW, Australia, to be precise.  When I last saw them, Indi and her friends were only just discovering the depth of their predicament.

That was several months ago, and my characters are still there.  I didn’t finishing the story, and I left the children stranded there, in the bush, fending for themselves through flooding rain and searing heat.  Poor darlings!

Fortunately, I escaped … did I even deserve to survive after abandoning a bunch of children in such horrifying circumstances?

Ahem.  Normally at this point I would still be stuck there, drowning in despair and procrastination, frying in the heat of self-criticism … but this time something was different, and thankfully I wasn’t lost for too long.

I’d better rescue those kids sometime soon … in the meantime, I have SO much to tell you!

For the last six months I’ve been buzzing with learning, experimenting, and implementing strategies in my daily life which have changed the way I work as a writer and artist.  I wish I was better at recording the process as it occurred, so that I could present you with a foolproof rescue remedy.  Instead of keeping a detailed journal I was busy making up for lost time, and I just shared snapshots and snippets on Facebook.

Tomorrow I will share the first instalment in my “Survival Guide for Stranded Writers” series.  I am excited to share what I’ve learned, and hope it will be super helpful!

NaNoPrepMo Pep Talk

by Vanessa Preston


Note to self, and anyone else who needs a little encouragement …

20 days ago you decided to do this crazy thing called NaNoWriMo, and bursting with excitement you started planning your brand new story.  Ideas flew and characters queued up to join the ride.  20 days in though, you have more questions than answers.  Plotting now feels like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle that’s missing half the pieces (mostly just the middle, a few corners and the edges you like to place first as a reassuring frame).  It’s hard to see the big picture, and the start of NaNoWriMo is approaching like the ticking crocodile in Peter Pan … immensely thrilling and terrifying.

Take heart.  Millions have gone before you on this perilous and wonderful journey.  You’re not alone in your quest to plot a novel worth reading, crafted from wishes and dreams.  Thousands of writers walk beside you at this very moment, gathering the materials needed for their masterpieces, just as you now search for yours.

You can do this.  The choices you make are not set in stone.  This is your story and you can let it change direction as you go.  Once you have something on the page you can play with it and try on different ideas until you find ‘the one’ which makes your heart sing.  The trick right now is to keep searching.  Brainstorm.  Ask why, and what if, where, when and why not?

Stay playful.  There is no need for pressure and perfectionism just now.  Remember, you sent your inner perfectionist on holiday … if she calls tell her you are managing quite well without her.  Her job as editor is secure, she’ll be welcome to return when the time is right.

Make a glorious mess!  Trust your creative instincts and let your pen dance across the page.  You’ll have time to beautify your plot ready for the grand ball later, but this week, shop around for ideas, try on concepts and themes and motives.  Take some time to get to know your story from the inside out.  Admire her twists and turns.  How?  Play with your ideas.  Let them ALL in and see what they have to say.  When the moment comes, you’ll know which ones to invite to the ball.

Be brave!   There is no wrong or right way to navigate the maze of possibilities.  Explore.  All paths lead to adventure, and behind every door there waits a prize … a world waiting to be discovered, or a character ready to trust you with her true self.  Climb those trees.  Crawl into the caves.  Search far and wide for the elements that make your story come to life in your mind.  If it fascinates you, it will interest your readers.

Draw upon the wisdom of the ages, your faith, the spirit within you, the inspiration gathered from the wonderful stories you have read, the experience of authors who have gone before you.  Let them be your guide and friend.  Your quest is a noble one.  You are fit for the journey.  You have all that you need.  Go forth with courage and seize the day!

I hope you have enjoyed my whimsical pep talk … if you’d like to follow my novel planning process, check out my daily NaNoPrepMo diary at InkyWings on Facebook.  If you’re planning a novel let me know how that’s going!

Break and Back

by Vanessa Preston

I’m back after a break from my normal life.  A week away from writing too, as it happens.  I thought surely I could squeeze in a little writing and painting here and there.  I worried that a break from my new routine might be painful and possibly dangerous.

What if I became lazy and disillusioned, or lost interest in my book?

As it turns out, I didn’t have time to miss writing!
And I didn’t end up despising my book.

My family spent almost a week at Kid’s Camp, and my main role was assistant activity leader.  No internet or computer.  Falling into my dormitory bunk at night exhausted.  Up at dawn to help cook breakfast.  Barely enough time to send a text message.  Any breaks were dedicated to having a shower or nap (not a tranquil nap, more a collapse-amidst-the-chaos kind of nap).

It was fun working with friends and being surrounded by happy (boisterous) children.  New sights and sounds and things to talk about.  Most meals (delicious and healthy) cooked for me!  And I am relieved to report that none of my fears about the demise of my writing dreams materialised.  By the time I got home and had a shower and a nap, I felt excited, confident and ready to press on.  Whew!

Back in the saddle …

I finished my first, handwritten draft of ‘Writer’s Apprenticeship’ before packing for camp, so that was the first goal achieved.  Yay!  Now it’s time to type it into Scrivener and start polishing:  editing, adding links, quotes and anecdotes, checking references and so on.  I am still planning to have it ready for sale on Kindle by 1st November this year.

A new spark … 

Coming home, I also started to feel a glimmer of enthusiasm for NaNoWriMo 2016, which I had (quite decisively) planned to skip.  Fiction-writing and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship, and I had intended to stick with simply writing and publishing my non-fiction book.


I started to play with new ideas, and let my pen do the talking, and before I knew it a new story had been born!  I am journaling the prewriting phase (aka NaNoPrepMo) on  InkyWings Facebook.  I have no idea what to call this story for now, but the temporary working title is ‘BeWILDering’.

Onwards …

After my week away from writing I have a fresh perspective and a new appreciation for the creative time my lifestyle allows.  The learning curve I’m on is steep but exhilarating.  October will be spent preparing one book for publication, planning a new novel, and playing with pencils, paint and pastels to bring some visual ideas to life.

Authentic Voice

by Vanessa Preston


Articles about authors and artists finding their authentic voice always grab my attention.  Being authentic is one of my top priorities in life and creativity, and my interest is piqued by opportunities to learn what authenticity means to different people.

In a quick video posted between sessions at Tribe Conference last week, Jennifer Blanchard mentioned authentic voice, then asked this question:  “What frustrates you?”

It seemed like a strange question to relate to the subject of finding your authentic voice.  But according to Emily P. Freeman, your frustration is the key to understanding what your voice is all about and what you want to share with the world.  Jennifer told us what her frustration is and how that influences her key message.

Usually a simple prompt like this gets me thinking, and a journal page or blog post will flow quite naturally. Not this time.  But I couldn’t let it go.  Fortunately my pen works more efficiently than my brain sometimes … I started to write a response, and this is what emerged.

What frustrates me?

  • Frustration:  Not doing things I KNOW will help me be healthier, brighter, happier etc.  Self-sabotage, defeatist thinking, an idealist avoiding action.
  • Solution:  Change MINDSET – opt in, step up, take action


  • Frustration:  Being a martyr.  Silly thoughts, like, ‘To keep you happy I won’t do what makes me happy, then I’ll be miserable and that’ll make you miserable’
  • Solution:  Adjust FRAME of REFERENCE – I often find scriptures to replace the lies I tell myself with bigger truths.  I can think of many which apply here!


  • Frustration:  Focusing on scarcity, thinking I don’t have enough time, space, skill etc.
  • Solution:  Shift PERSPECTIVE – be grateful for what I DO have, focus on the abundance of possibilities and opportunities presently available.


  • Frustration:  Multiple interests and priorities competing for my attention and time.
  • Solution:  Rethink REALITY – it’s wonderful to be a multipotentialite!  My interests can complement each other instead of competing.  My faith gives depth and light to my writing and art.  Writerly thought adds complexity and narrative to my art. Art gives me a playful outlet for ideas, and a way to express my faith.


So … what does all that say about my authentic voice?

I guess this exercise reminds me to allow ALL the parts of me to connect and intersect, to help in pursuit of my overarching goal (GLOW:  inspire, empower and encourage).  

My authentic voice seems to flow best when I write by hand.  This is why I handwrite my blog posts in my journal.  I did the same for the entire first draft of my new ebook (due for release in November), “Writer’s Apprenticeship:  21 days of Exponential Growth.”

Here’s what Jeff Goins has to say about finding your authentic voice:

10 Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice
You Have a Voice
Your Voice is Louder than Words:  Interview with Todd Henry

Here’s an article Jennifer Blanchard wrote about How to Find Your Writing Voice.

Grab a pen and a journal and figure out what authentic voice means to you.  I’d love o hear about it!

Confessions of a Bookworm

by Vanessa Preston

  • I have been a bookworm for about 40 years … yes, that means I was hooked on books by the age of 1.
  • I read for a zillion reasons … escape, entertainment, adventure, inspiration and to live vicariously.
  • I often read 10+ books per week … library books and Kindle books on my iPad.  These usually include a stack of quick adventures, YA fiction or romance novels, how-to-write, alternative education & home education theory, maybe an autobiography, one of the free classics for Kindle, or a longer book (e.g. Mao’s Last Dancer).  I also read aloud to my children regularly, even though they are awesome, preteen bookworms.
  • I sometimes experience depression, and the worse the depression, the more I read.  I guess it’s because the alternative is overthinking.  When logic fails and everything is hard, escapism helps.  Reading a lot does not mean I am depressed though.
  • I often abandon books … if it’s not captivating or challenging, I’m done.  Life’s too short, and all that.  Do you agree, or are you a committed book finisher?
  • I like books more than parties, shopping and restaurants.
  • I once QUIT reading fiction for a year!  Can you believe it?!  I made that radical, impulsive decision because I was getting lost in historical fictional worlds a little too deeply, and I wanted to get back to my priorities (faith, work, family and friends).  I survived, and it was actually a good experience.  When I returned to voracious reading, my habits and tastes had actually changed for the better.
  • I stay up late almost every night because I ‘have to’ read, and once I start I never want to stop.
  • I read compulsively … labels in the shower, ingredient lists, book spines on shelves everywhere, open diaries.  No word is safe, but I have taught my eyes to ‘bounce’ if something is obviously private or unsavoury.
  • I actually don’t love the smell of old books, and I find most used book stores claustrophobic and sneeze-inducing (some of my dearest friends might disown me over this).
This post was inspired by Kristen A. Kieffer’s ‘My Top 10 Bookish Confessions’.
I would love to hear from you … do you dare to share your bookish confessions?

What is your ‘Writing Why’?

by Vanessa Preston

“Your WHY is the internal fire, passion, motivation,
inspiration and drive for your creative work”

–  Jennifer Blanchard

My WRITING WHY can be summed up in one word:  GLOW

“GLOW” brings to mind my faith, creativity, love and desire to grow and shine.  It encompasses who I am, who I want to be and how I want to live.

Some of the reasons I write (and paint) are:

* to capture and share inspiration, ideas and beautiful memories
* to give light and love and express faith
* to inspire, empower and encourage
* the flow of creative work energises me and makes my true self glow


I want to GLOW … be my best & brightest self and
I want to help people GLOW … by encouraging, inspiring and empowering.

I created GLOW: Heart, Mind & Soul and the GLOW Facebook as a way to achieve my goal:

Growing … in joy, kindness, love, faith, gratitude, wisdom, energy
Loving, Living, Learning … passionate, authentic, wholehearted, limitless, lifelong
Outreaching … pay it forward, shine your way, acts of kindness, be your true self for the benefit of many, smile
Wellbeing … physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, environmental

Align Your Writing Habits To Success: From procrastinating writer to productive writer in 30 days (or less) by Jennifer Blanchard is one of the most remarkable writer’s resources I have come across!  Finding my writing why was one of the hardest, and most rewarding, writing exercises I have done.  This book has played a huge role in rekindling the spark in my creative life.

What is your ‘Writing Why’?  


P.S.  Have you discovered Inky Wings on Facebook yet?  That’s where I share links most days to inspire your creative life … I hope you can join me there sometime!

Pivot Point

by Vanessa Preston

Do you feel like something about your writing needs to change, but you’re not sure what?  Or you have an idea of what, but you wonder how?

A month ago I felt exactly like that.  After a pivotal point in my personal life, I wrote in my journal to figure out what I actually wanted to do in life.  Writing and Art stayed on the list.  Phew!

So, I knew I wanted to write … but the novel I was working on was full of plot holes.  Big plot holes, like lack of conflict, and an absent antagonist.  I didn’t want that to stop me so I decided my first goal would simply be to ‘Rekindle the Spark’ in my writing.

Whilst searching resources to learn the skills to overcome those obstacles, I discovered some new websites, worksheets, ecourses and a stack of ebooks by Kristen Kieffer and Jennifer Blanchard.  They were either free or very affordable (like $1), and they transformed my mindset and inspired daily, positive action.  I printed, signed up, bought, read, and basically soaked up the lessons and did the exercises as if my life depended on it!

Within two weeks I established new habits and worked out what I really wanted to do, writing wise.  I was still struggling with my fiction writing, so having ticked the boxes in my ‘Rekindle the Spark’ plan, I set myself two new goals:

‘Revisit Prewriting my Novel’, and
‘Publish my first non-fiction ebook’

My non-fiction ebook grew wings and took off.  All I had to do each day was show up and let my pen spill ideas onto the page.  Two weeks in, I am almost finished the first draft, and I plan to have the book ready for Kindle by the end of October.  I have promised readers on my Inky Wings Facebook page that I will announce the title this week.

One of my pivot points was simply deciding to take action to make my writing dreams come true.  Another was realising that writing non-fiction comes more naturally to me than fiction writing.  I LOVE the spark of new ideas, crafting a plot and creating characters, but non-fiction is another legitimate way to be a writer.  I accepted that publishing my non-fiction is a more achievable goal right now than finishing my novels.   Their time will come.  While I learn what I need to progress in fiction writing, I can make other parts of my writing dreams come true.

Katy at Elsie Road Magazine asked a great question today:
“I’d love to hear your stories of pivoting–what worked?
What didn’t? How did you know the time was right?”  

You’ve read my expanded answer.  I’d love to read yours!