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January 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

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Carrot Ranch Flash FictionIf your vision excites you and your goals have your feet fitted in the boots of your choice for the journey, then you are ready for action.

It’s when we don’t act on our goals that we feel overwhelmed or underachieved. Sometimes we think the goals are overwhelming us, but goals can be flexible. Often the cause is a lack of a clear plan for the action we take to meet those goals to live our vision.

Some of you might think, “Holy wild horses, she’s going to never stop talking about planning.” I promise; I’m not on a big New Year’s coffee-induced planning binge. It’s just that there are three phases and this is the third:

  1. Vision (your north star that guides your journey).
  2. Goals (FAST: flexible, actionable, sound and timely).
  3. Action (the steps that will get you closer to your goals).

An action plan is a timeline that shows what to do by when. It can be laid-back for the pansters or all out list-nerdy for the planners. My suggestion is to use Excel to create a simple chart for weekly activities or download a free calendar template. I use both and will explain the practical application of each.

Keep in mind I’m actually self-identified as a pantser, but my career path taught me the benefits of planning. I plan once a year and monitor progress periodically or at the end of the next year. If you do not plan in January, bookmark this post for when you do plan.

Calendar Timeline is useful for large projects with multiple parties involved. For example, I manage a client’s newsletter and coordinate with the client, contract writers, designer, print-house and distribution. It’s important that all involved understand the deadlines and who does what by when. Apply these steps:

  1. Start with your end date (this can be a book launch or a reoccurring publication date).
  2. Work backwards to identify the steps for success (if you are launching a book in three months, what happens between then and now).
  3. Include all involved (helpers, reviewers and others you will work with).
  4. Mark all the steps on your calendar (this is your action plan).
  5. Refer to the plan periodically and communicate with others involved.

Weekly Chart is useful for tracking multiple goals and activities. Blogger-slash-freelancer-slash author, this is you. This is me. I have an Excel spreadsheet on my desktop with three tabs representing the next three weeks. I’ll admit that I don’t refer to this schedule often because the plan is in my head. Creating it, helps me frame that head-plan, though and if goals or deadlines clash, it is my best tool for figuring out how to adjust.Weekly ChartAs you can see, I list multiple ongoing projects, processes and even personal goals.This chart is a snapshot of the action that keeps me in motion.

Last week I mentioned making flexible goals. If you are like me and in the midst of a major learning curve (such as, the book industry) you need to be flexible. If you work a day job, take clients or parent, you need to be flexible.

However, it is important that you be consistent. If you want to write a novel, you have to write page by page. If you want to blog, you have to manage a schedule that fits the time you have for it. Think of consistency as the fuel for your action. If you want to walk every day, you have to walk. That’s consistency.

Consider this essay by Gregory Ciotti about The Under-appreciated Benefits of Creative Consistency.

If you start to feel overwhelmed or like you are not getting where you want to go, check up on your action. Does what you do every day (or week) align with what you want to accomplish? If not, figure out why, adjust your action or your goals to fit your circumstance and then get at it! Action is motion. Do.

But don’t forget to be.

Writers need imagination time; play dates for creativity and a chance to look at art or birds or waterfalls. Live life in the present moment. Be inspired. Be open to new ideas. Be aware of others. Be who you are.

This week we are going to let our stories be. January 7, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that describes a moment of being. It can be practical, such as what it’s like to be a traveler on a crowded plane or a working parent trying to get breakfast served. It can be reflective, such as what it’s like to experience prejudice or a pilgrimage. It can be silly, scary or surreal.

Respond by January 13, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here.

***

Being at the Creek by Charli Mills

Winnie left her pants on a granite bolder at the creek’s edge. She left her shirt, underclothes and shoes, too. Water streamed past her ankles, cold and clear as summer ale. Grainy sand and walnut-sized pebbles pressed into the soles of her feet. At thigh deep, Winnie faced the rapids that poured into this deep hole. Churning water dominated the evergreen forest like surround sound. Without going deeper she simply sank to her knees and bobbed on the balls of her feet. Cold squeezed her chest, lapped at her neck. She balanced. Arms spread wide, she watched the current.

###

Next week, look for a few cosmetic changes and additions to Carrot Ranch. Surprises are coming for the Rough Writers and time to put on your thinking caps, dream bonnets or lucky pajamas because we are going to collaborate. On what? That is for the group to decide!


85 Comments

  1. susanzutautas says:

    What a great way to plan your weeks Charli! I have daily lists but I like the idea of having a weekly one. Maybe I’d get more written if I set up and excel sheet and planned my weeks day by day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      Weekly seems to work for me in three week increments, although I only update it when I need changes due to a new project or deadline. If you try it, let me know if you like weekly!

      Like

  2. That is a good lesson in planning Charli. I use a gantt chart but like you after doing it I really don’t look at it as it is all in my head. I do have a whiteboard which I do a weekly list of things that have to get done. I do it not so much because I need to plan but because I love crossing off what I have got done. You have me itching to know the changes and what collaborative work we may do but I shall patiently wait and put on the thinking cap for a moment of being. I shall return.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeanne Lombardo says:

    Another timely post with solid, applicable advice! Appreciate seeing your own calendar. . . And now that I am here, I have to let you know that I crafted a response to your lovely Christmas missive but then got interrupted before sending it (and my vision for 2015), so allow me to say it here.
    Charli, you have been one of my prime inspirations this year. Your honesty, courage, energy and dedication to the craft provide a blueprint for me as grapple with the realities of a writing life, and struggle to find the courage to turn whatever skills I possess to my own stories, fictional or otherwise. Looking forward to engaging more with you and your Rough Writers in 2015! Starting with being more regular at taking on your weekly challenges.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Jeanne, I’m touched by your words and encouraged! I’m glad you returned to share this. It seems that writing evolves us, and as writers we can’t help but notice. I hope you continue to develop your path in a way that is fulfilling and that our reward is to read the results. I’d be so honored to have you ride with us! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jeanne Lombardo says:

        Thanks Charli. The honor would be mine to be a RW. I share your posts with my small writing circle here–just three of us. We are all doing your “Being” challenge as a kick-starter to our January meeting. Happy Trails 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. rllafg says:

    Charli, you should be a management professor.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. paulamoyer says:

    Lost in the Linens

    By Paula Moyer

    Jean saw it often in Bed & Bath. Usually late January, after Christmas, after inventory. Always an off-sale day. A lone customer – always a woman. She would slow her pace, stare at display beds, towels, all the sun-drenched colors – and stop. Lost-in-time wonder on her face. Eyes wide, jaw slack.

    “May I help you?” Jean almost felt embarrassed to interrupt. A manager would question why she hadn’t greeted her “guest.”

    “Oh.” The woman would then look up, a little embarrassed herself. Then a shy smile emerged.

    “I’m, well … I’m just looking for inspiration.”

    Jean’s silent response: I know.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Pete says:

    Balanced

    It was an odd arrangement. The tree, with its sprawling roots and quest for sunlight, had taken to the rock as a seedling. The old rock found a purpose.

    Many saw their relationship as unnatural and unsustainable. But the rock and the tree thrived on their differences. The rock enjoyed the warmth harnessed in the tree’s roots, while the tree thrived on the strength in the rock’s foundation. The tree grew tall and thick, seemingly balanced on the old rock’s back, and over time the roots overtook the rock, who found a new purpose…as the heart of the tree.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Pat Cummings says:

    Charli, this was a great prompt for the week New Years Resolutions die! I used to chart everything I did and had yet to do at work; now that I’m retired, it is internalized. It whirls around in my head.

    Fortunately, i got reminded of one solution: In the Warm Moment is a quick look at that engine of peace. ( http://goo.gl/JOwsd5 )

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jeanne Lombardo says:

      Left a comment for this on your blog Pat. Loved that post. A friend with whom I shared this post of Charlie’s said her goal for the future was not to have a goal. I deeply resonated with that. I doubt that cats have goals other than to settle into that next warm place, as you observed.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I wonder if having learned to chart and plan that the mind adapts easier to internal whirring? I’m fascinated by your profession in mine engineering, having grown up a rock hound in the west where mining has a strong footprint on the land and history. Nevada with it’s microscopic gold and Comstock wit its silver still buried behind a wall of hot mud in the Sutro tunnel and all the ghost towns I’ve poked through–I imagine you’ve seen much more all around the world!But I digress, distracted by rocks…off to read about your engine of peace!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ooh! Changes at the Ranch! Can’t wait. Can’t decide between my thinking cap, my dream bonnet, or my lucky pajamas so it’s possible I’ll show up in all three.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. rllafg says:

    The Receiver by Larry LaForge

    Todd ran the route just as the coach designed it. A quick fake and cut to the right had him sprinting down the sidelines free of the defender.

    The quarterback lofted the pass to the spot Todd was expected to be. Todd left his feet with arms fully extended.

    For an instant he felt suspended in mid air, parallel to the ground. Calmness and joy enveloped him. The many obstacles he had overcome to be in this glorious moment flashed before him: illness, injuries, rehab.

    The ball fell just beyond his reach.

    Todd got up, both disappointed and exhilarated.

    *****
    The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine. http://flashfictionmagazine.com/larrylaforge100words/2015/01/11/the-receiver/

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Annecdotist says:

    I admire your organisation Charli. I’ve tended to do my via a paper diary and headspace but, with book reviewing on top of my general blogging and writing commitments (in the sense of commitments to myself) it is getting rather complicated, especially when I’m attempting to publish reviews around publication day. So will have a think about whether I could/should borrow your strategy.
    Your flash is beautiful, can really visualise her in the water. I don’t think I’ve stuck so well to the prompt in mine, but here it is anyway:
    http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal/-an-african-odyssey-a-man-of-good-hope-by-jonny-steinberg
    As usual, it follows a review, which puts it in context, but for those who don’t have time to read the whole thing it’s at the bottom of the page.
    Looking forward to the unveiling of the next Carrot Ranch development.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Minimal ways to track multiple projects can be helpful. I’m not a fan of lists or organizing per say, but I’m big on creating efficiencies and most do live in the head realm. However, a plan, schedule or even a hand-written flow chart gets me there and I see how to maximize my efforts without overdoing the work.

      Really enjoyed your short story (the one you shared with your comment to Paula). My flash felt therapeutic, but I’m reading so many different variations on ways to be and that makes it all the more expansive. It’s a pleasure getting to read your reviews before the flash. I learn so much about stories, process and new books from you!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. rogershipp says:

    I sat there anxiously as I watched him call in my plate numbers.

    Reaching across, I opened the glove compartment and removed the vehicle identification papers and my insurance documents. He would examine those next.

    Blue and red strobes were rhythmically reflecting in my mirrors and in the two awkwardly parked cars on either side of me waiting to be towed.

    I wanted to get away… to reverse life’s choices… to hand the keys to my brother like he had asked me to at the party.

    Too late now.

    At least no one was hurt.

    What a great birthday.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. TanGental says:

    http://geofflepard.com/2015/01/11/a-state-of-being/
    It will be fun to see what you come up with. Though don’t expect much planning from me.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Jeanne Lombardo says:

    Some evocative flash posts here. In honor of Charli’s ranch theme, here is mine (with apologies to those who might not recognize The Big Valley reference):

    Being in the Saddle

    The horse towered against the sky. Great russet belly, planted hooves, snorting muzzle. “His name’s Tomohawk,” the ranch hand said. “But I wanted a pony, Dad,” she wailed, again. It was too late. Her feet left the ground. Small rump plunked into the slippery saddle. Feet found the stirrups and rattled there. One hand grappled for the horn. Clung to it. The other fingered and fisted the looped leather ribbon. Tomohawk’s cropped mane rose before her, a stiff brushy ridge. She exhaled. Sat tall. She was Linda Evans in The Big Valley. Gave a little kick and was off.

    Check out this flash piece in a larger context at:
    http://memoir-crafter.blogspot.com/

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, the wonder of conquering the fear of horse-heights to be able to sit tall in the saddle like Linda Evans! Big Valley was an awesome show! A great western to give a nod to. Great writing, Jeanne!

      Like

      • Jeanne Lombardo says:

        The real event didn’t end well 🙂 Ten minutes later Tomohawk turned and ran back down the trail to the stable. I let go of the reins completely and screamed my head off. But I always remember, now, my father making me get back up afterwards and go out again. Ha! Linda Evans I was NOT.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        Oh, no! The old adage, “get back in the saddle” can be traumatizing! We once had a horse that would test his rider and try to get his head and run. I remember one girl who rode him, let go of the reins and gripped that saddle horn for dear life–he ran up a steep hill and ran the length of a barb-wire fence. Either direction, had she fallen off it could have resulted in dire injuries. Not easy to be Audra Barkley! 😉

        Like

  14. ruchira says:

    Loved your advise on planning weekly…cause its the baby steps that actually take us to the actual goal. Will ponder over it 🙂

    Loved the link to the article, and the prompt!
    As I will wear my fav cap, and my fav pj’s I will look fwd to the new changes *super excited*

    My take:
    http://abracabadra.blogspot.com/2015/01/home-alone.html

    Liked by 1 person

  15. […] Which is all very timely with the current flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch who talks about actions that we take to reach our goals and challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that describes a moment of being. […]

    Like

  16. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I thought I had already commented on this post, but I must have read it and liked it on my iPad. I like your suggestion of having a flexible plan for steps that can be actioned in reaching a goal. I think flexibility is essential for the journey, but I also think that the goal needs to be quite strongly visioned. You do need to know where you are going but the path you take and the duration of the journey may be characterized by flexibility.
    Thank you for sharing your three week cycle action plan and for acknowledging that I may have assisted a little in the making of your image. 🙂
    This type of planning is not new to me as a teacher and I have endeavoured a few times, now that I am working on my own projects, to set up a similar plan. I have a strong vision of my long-term goal but I am taking a rather circuitous route getting there. That probably wouldn’t matter so much if I was thirty years younger; but then if I was thirty years younger I wouldn’t have the opportunity so I just have to go with the mountains and valleys, twists and turns, enjoying when I can and trying to not stress when I can’t, mostly unsuccessfully.
    I was interested to see that you use Excel. I usually set up tables in Word. I don’t find Excel as easy to use, but that is probably because I have never really persisted with learning it. We do use it for a few things at work, but I tend to think they would be better done in Word. I guess having options is a good thing. Being able to easily move through different pages or sheets in Excel is definitely an advantage.
    I had thought, that since you had shared your goals, I may have shared a table I have set up to track comments that are made on my blog and that I make on other blogs in order to assist me in making decisions about time and comments etc. However I have decided to leave that for another time.
    I enjoyed responding to this challenge about being. Here is a link to the post with the response, as usual, at the end. http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-nQ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      I definitely agree about having a strong vision and flexible goals that are a part of it. I’ve also discovered that I start to see the vision more clearly as I take time to reflect on goals and recalculate. Carrot Ranch came to me in a day dream and I knew it signaled a vital piece of my vision for leading a writer’s life. I had come to several blows in life and was at a crossroads had to ask myself, what was it that I really wanted to be doing? How did I want my life to be? Today, while working on some of my upcoming additions, I got a chill in realizing this was what I had envisioned, though back then I couldn’t have told you these details. Ruchira mentioned baby steps, and we often dream big, but start at infancy (not literally, but at the infancy of a journey or a project or a dream). No matter our age, I think the goals are there to point the way. Fascinating about how you are looking at the data you’ve gathered. It can help make decisions. I’d like to learn more of how you are using that. As for Excel, I had a boss who preferred the program. I prefer working in Word, but one feature of Excel that I love is the ability to use tabs. I’ve built projects for clients such as PR campaigns and can use multiple tabs in Excel whereas each tab would have to be individual documents in Word. I’m not strong in math so the calculations are not really something I use, but I used to build my budget in Excel and then my boss would add the formulas. I’m off to read your response!

      Like

    • Charli Mills says:

      Wonderful! I’m off to read…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jeanne Lombardo says:

      How I miss those days when my children were small, when there seemed no bounds on silliness and romping and the pure exhilaration of that unparalleled connection to other human beings, to my children. Always miraculous. Nice post Rebecca, and I like your website too.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you very much for taking the time to drop by and have a read. People are always telling us to cherish every moment because they grow up so fast, but as a parent, it never feels like you’re doing enough! They are amazing, full of wonder and love, I adore how much confidence they are developing in themselves.

        Like

  17. Sherri says:

    Now see, you knew just what I meant when I quoted my son’s old scoutmaster, ha!! You are so organised and a great planner Charli, but I get that your are really a pantser in your heart. You have the perfect combination 🙂 I love your chart, what a great idea. I need to do this and pin it up in front of me in my summerhouse and stick to it…yet, you are right, goals can be flexible! I hate it when I feel I’ve failed if I don’t achieve what I set to do that day, but things come along and they can’t be helped. So, yes, great to think of what was achieved. I love your ‘moment in time’ story Charli, I really felt the freedom of it, beautiful descriptive flash. I need to do that…metaphorically of course! So I’ll see you here tomorrow…and looking forward to Wednesday 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, yes, Sherri, I am a pantser at heart! I learned from some truly great planners and can adapt to straddle the best of both. Have you ever heard of “working your A’s off”? It was a technique I learned to prioritize daily goals into A’s, B’s, or C’s with A’s being the must-do goals. Supposedly we all tend to do the easy or unnecessary C’s first. This gets you to do the A’s first. I know writers who get up and write for an hour before anything else. I used to do that when I worked, but truth is I didn’t like it! We keep trying until we find a process that works for each of us. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sherri says:

        I’ve not heard of that but it sounds like a great plan. I need to work my A’s off, that’s for sure. As you say, once we find the process that works for us, we are half way there…it’s just finding it that’s the hard part 🙄

        Like

      • Charli Mills says:

        As you try out different ways, apply the Goldilocks metric to finally find what is “just right”! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  18. […] January 7th Prompt: Being (Write a story that describes a moment of being) Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]

    Like

  19. Here’s the link to the post: http://wp.me/p4rcRJ-nA

    And here’s the flash …

    The Supreme Moment of Pure Being

    The staff that Francesco had just given me was in my hand–my mascot for this mission, he had said. It’s two dragons forever locked together in their intricately entwined carvings, proud heads level with mine as I opened my arms wide, breathed deeply and engaged with Mother Moon in those last seconds to her fullest point. I focused on the time, place and substance of my mission and smiled.

    It’s time to be the best that I can be; the moment to be the first link in a chain that will make the ultimate difference is right now …

    Brightest Blessings to ALL, as always,
    Tally 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Phil Guida says:

    The Passing by Phil Guida
    Alone in a strangers home, a stranger that died right in that chair. The 2 bedroom apartment is cluttered with years of saved bills, writings, books and magazines. Closets full of old clothes and collected stories in progress, yet nothing left behind as to the closest kin. The apartment is stained and has a peculiar Oder that moves through each room; perhaps its death that filled this space. Remnants of who she was left behind as her body lies unclaimed and cold in the city morgue. It was at this moment that I felt the loneliness of her soul.

    Like

    • Charli Mills says:

      Welcome back, Phil! Wow, that such a powerful moment, well created in the scene that you unfold. I wonder how many shut-ins are thus tucked away, each an unfinished story. A Sad and lonely thought.

      Like

  21. Sherri says:

    Hi Charli! Couldn’t get to a post with this one today, still catching up big time, but here is my ‘moment’ flash. I tell you what, I do have fun with flash…but they seem to bring out a dark side in me. Quite delicious, haha 🙂 Hope you like:

    Goodbye Maurice by Sherri Matthews

    Sonya placed immaculately manicured fingers around the stem of her champagne flute and raised it to her lips.

    Against the backdrop of whispered conversations and genteel taps of cutlery on gold-edged plates, Sonya heard the hammering of her heartbeat.

    Maurice was dead. At last.

    Maurice wouldn’t be joining her for dinner that night, nor any other night. Fat bully bastard.

    A waiter silently appeared by Sonya’s side to top up her glass before slipping back into the shadows.

    A mirthful smile grew on Sonya’s tight, unlined face as she raised her glass and swigged.

    Goodbye Maurice and good riddance.

    Like

    • Charli Mills says:

      You are learning a valuable skill–do what you can! Hope you feel caught up soon or at least come to peace with it. Prompts can bring out some interesting shadows. I think some of the darkest moments in flash fiction here have been some of the keenest writing. Maybe because the creativity is able to escape out filters. Give Norah’s post a read, too! She talks about that struggle to be positive. In fiction we can be negative without judging ourselves the way we do when we interact or communicate with others. Something to ponder! Great flash! I can just picture that moment, the woman and her flute of champagne and tight smile.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sherri says:

        Yes, I think that is definitely the thing about fiction, which I am discovering! I am making the rounds and look forward to reading Norah’s post. And yes, I am trying not to beat myself up by doing what I can and knowing that is the best I can do! Thanks so much Charli, as always for your great advice and feedback 🙂

        Like

  22. […] January 7, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that describes a moment of being. It can be practical, such as what it’s like to be a traveler on a crowded plane or a working parent trying to get breakfast served. It can be reflective, such as what it’s like to experience prejudice or a pilgrimage. It can be silly, scary or surreal. […]

    Like

  23. Sarah says:

    I like your weekly chart! I really need to do something like that. I have been trying to put something together, but I like your format.

    I think flash fiction is mostly a moment in time, at least very short flash is. 99 words doesn’t leave me with much room to describe anything big!

    https://fictionaslife.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/a-walk/

    Liked by 1 person

  24. paulamoyer says:

    Such great posts! Thanks for the comments on mine, I’ll try to give some support for yours, too!

    Like

  25. Thanks to Anne, who made sure I got over here to look at your FAST acronym, so that I could have one more bit of alphabet soup to add to my goal-setting lexicon. 😉 http://paulareednancarrow.com/2015/01/12/bhag-or-be-smart-creatives-the-answer-is-yes/

    I’m a big fan of Excel, especially at work, where my agency currently has no functional fundraising database. One of the reasons they bumped me to full time was to get that set up. Still, my proposal calendars have always been in Excel, and the capacity to sort and filter is the only way I have to do reports on what’s been pending, received and to be submitted.

    But I’ve found it indispensable on hashtag days as well; like Norah, I’m trying to find a good balance between reciprocating all those retweets and actually getting to blogs to read them and comment upon them. There are many good blog editorial calendar templates in Excel as well. One of my goals ought to be to get to the point where I am actually planning in advance enough to use one. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      Well, I owe Anne a thank you for getting you here, FAST! I’m redecorating the place so forgive me for not answering the door earlier. 🙂 I’m a big fan of using Excel and I really like the tabs for combining multiple documents into one. Sort and filter is indispensable for for data lists. And yes, I know that situation all to well: catch-up planning!

      Have you ever used Access in Microsoft Office? I used to use it to build mailing lists from co-op membership data base and sales teams use it too for tracking clients.

      See you tomorrow! It’s #MondayBlogs!

      Like

  26. […] January 7th Prompt: Being (Write a story that describes a moment of being) Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]

    Like

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