How do you make your life what you want it to be?

So I DID get over 600 words done on TalysMana done Sunday night. Posted the chapter, which will go out on schedule.

I’m not doing fiction tonight, because the holidays ate my deadlines alive, and I’m pedalling insanely trying to catch back up.

But I wanted to tell you this, which relates to my New Year’s Resolution, and which I want to make available to everyone:

Here’s how you turn your dreams into reality.

  • Decide that what you want is valuable because YOU value it, and because it matters to you.
  • Figure out WHY it matters to you. If it matters to you because someone else told you it’s important, it matters to THEM. If you feel guilty because you aren’t doing it, the reason you aren’t doing it is because it doesn’t matter to you. Walk away. You can break you life on thing you don’t care about because you think you should care about them.

    What you want, what you love, what you want to build your life into, what you want to leave behind when when you’re dead and gone…These are what you build. If you look at some action you could take and you don’t care about the work and the inevitable failures that you are going to have to get through before you can even hope to succeed—you’re going to do it, create it, build it anyway because it’s what you love—you’re on the right track.

  • Figure out the steps you’ll have to take, the changes you will have to make, and the price you will have to pay to create your dream in the real world.
    Cut out TV? Probably. Spend time teaching yourself everything you can about how others successfully accomplished what you hope to accomplish? Certainly. Sleep a little less? Maybe.
  • Take action KNOWING that you will fail initially, and do everything you can to learn from each mistake so that you shorten the cycles of failure, and determine that you will commit to action—even when that action results in failure—until you succeed.
  • Commit to improving on your successes, and learning how to do what you do well even better, so that success becomes easier and more certain over time.
  • As you master each dream and make it a reality, add a new dream.

These are the steps I’ve taken in my own life.

I hope the help you find the joy and fulfillment in your own life they have given to mine.

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31 responses to “How do you make your life what you want it to be?”

  1. Rohi Avatar

    Thanks Holly.
    This is very inspiring.
    my resolution this year is to FOCUS on my writing.

  2. Lee Avatar

    Thank you very very much, Holly.

    Without going into details, I am at a very very bad space in my life.
    Things are just beginning to look up (despite that old joke about the best thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s nowhere else to go *but* up)

    But in spite of all this drama going on, I am particularly focused on my writing and the process of getting this monster together iis actually fun and rewarding for its own sake as well as nurturing the knowledge that it is the process I am doing to get to where I finally want to be.

    And quitting is not an option. Already burnt way too many years even getting to the point of deciding this is what I really want to do for a living.

  3. tambo Avatar

    What if there are no dreams? No wants beyond immediate needs like ‘I think I want a sandwich for lunch today’? No goals? No burning desires?

    What about when life is merely a list of musts? Must clean this, must go there, must make this phone call, must post an update, must get this other task done?

    How does one locate a dream when all that appears to be left are clots of frustration, boredom, anger, floundering, resentment, fatigue, and ‘why should I care?’?

    How does one locate a dream when none seem to be found?

  4. Aaron C Avatar
    Aaron C

    What do you do if you love nothing and everything seems a disappointment. Do you just spend your life experiementing until you stumble across the thing that floats your boat. I have had things in the past I have enjoyed doing but had not talent or could not obtain a level of skill to say I felt success, so I ended up not enjoying it anymore. A big thing is my career or lack of one, I have a job it pays ok but everyday I am here I feel like a die a little more, but the bills have to be paid. Is it possible that this is it for me and the feeling of success or passion is just not written into my future.

    1. Littlesister Avatar

      Hi Aaron,
      I’ve been on the same “flatline” course for years an found out I couldn’t get passionate about things because I had *unlearned* to know what I wanted. I think this happened because I had to cater for my parents’ wishes from my tenderest age (‘cos it was life threatening NOT to do so). It became such a habit to do whatever everyone else wanted and needed that I clean forgot how to want or need anything for myself. I only noticed this in my late thirties… It took a lot of time and effort to find things (even small things) that I loved (It was so bad I had to make complicated priority tables to find out which film I wanted to go see.)
      Well, I’m not saying my case is also your case, but you might want to look into your past for reasons of giving up on your own dreams (f.i. a parent or caretaker or teacher telling you your dream was stupid, or you were, or your idea could never make it, or because someone important to you kept giving the message that *their* needs were the only important ones). Such things to kids are enough to make them subconsciously repress what they want for themselves. Maybe you should go talk to the little kid inside you (and tell your inner parents to buckle it for a while), and tell him it’s ok now to have these dreams, and that you will help him realise them if he will share them with you.
      Well, I’m don’t know. The only thing I’m sure of is the answer is somewhere inside you. I wish you all the courage and good luck in the world to go find it…

      1. Kathryn Avatar

        Wow, I could really relate to this.I too learned to please parents to make the chaos around me with an alcoholic father seem less. I find it hard to know what I really want. Writing is a dream for me and yet i don’t do it. So it’s hard to know if like Holly says, I don’t really want to write or whetyher it’s just that I am afraid to go for what I want instead. I do know that my English teacher in high school making fun of my writing in front of the whole class so they all laughed at me, has had a deep effect on me.

  5. Phil Avatar

    Great post Holly, I’m going to print it out and tape it to the inside cover of my writing log.


  6. KJ Avatar

    Thanks, Holly, for this; it’s important stuff. Since I became a mother last year, and gave up full time work, it’s been a struggle to remember what I’m doing for my family, what I’m doing for me, and keep it all balance. (To be honest, remembering where I lived was a struggle in the first few weeks…) But my daughter (another Holly, actually) turns one this month, and I am taking steps to reclaim some parts of my life just for me. This post will really help to clarify that for me.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Ouch. Judging by my parents’ experience, Hollys are a huge pain and a real challenge to raise. Talk all the time, demand to know why, never can sit still, always have to be making something, building something, reading something, climbing something…

      They are not happy desk-sitters, colorers-inside-the-lines, or think-inside-the-box kids. They challenge authority.

      This does not change when they grow up…

      😀 Seriously, though. I’ve always been grateful for my name. Hope your Holly likes it as well.

      Pursue your great passions, create the life you love for yourself and for the people you love. You matter because you’re you—not because of what you give or do for others, but simply because you are and you will yourself to matter.

      I’ve found that the more I passionately pursue the things I love, the better my own life gets…but the better the lives of the people I connect with also get. My family especially, and in lesser degrees my friends, my students, and even the occasional random stranger.

  7. Greg Avatar

    Tuesday’s words:
    KavI: 677
    D&DII: 1028 (I forgot I wasn’t writing OFL and over-shot my 750 word target!)
    OFL: 1019, and I reckon I’m about 6k from the end. I’ve started the structural revision this week, thumbing through early scenes and picking out keepers and marking others for deletion, smooshing with other scenes or just pinching key details from and including them elsewhere.
    RFW: 1261

  8. Writing Nerd Avatar
    Writing Nerd

    Hey everyone. I’ve been following WABWM for ages. I love reading everyone’s progress and Holly’s posts. Everyone is such a great source of inspiration for me.

    I’ve always wanted to write novels. Ever since I was a kid. And it just really hit me some months ago that I would like to do this as a living someday. I made a false start.

    This year, I say that’s going to be different. I am resolved to finally write and finish my first novel. I have goals, dates, everything posted on the wall in front of me as I type at my desk.

    I officially started around Christmas and am still in the planning stages. I plan to start the first draft of WOA in February. I am soooo excited. Can’t wait to spend the year writing and reading how everyone else reaches their dreams as well.

    Thanks Holly for WABWM. Couldn’t have done it without you. Love your clinics. Take care everyone.

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’ll be cheering for you. 😀 Kick ass on the planning and the writing.

  9. Cayleigh Avatar

    Thank you Holly. This post reminded me (once again) why I write. BECAUSE I LOVE TO. .

    I’m caught in that awkward middle part of my novel, which hasn’t been worked on in a week or two. Normally that would make me really mad at myself, but I haven’t stopped writing. I finished a short story which–once revised–I hope to ship off and I’m elbows deep in a novella.

    So I’m still getting at least a thousand words a day and all is well.

  10. mpe Avatar

    Mihla – Don’t waste time on regrets. Everything you do, and hence everything you’ve done, has a purpose and a use. (That’s my philosophy, and it works for me.)

    Re: cutting back on sleep – Don’t go under 3 hours a night. Speaking from personal experience, here.

    1. Danzier Avatar

      …less than 3 hours a night?!? What in the world could have made you do that? Sounds like a story…

  11. Lisa R Avatar
    Lisa R

    I chuckled at the “cut out TV” comment. Since about July, I haven’t watched TV at all except with the kids from time to time and if I am sick. And I know that I won’t be adding it anytime soon:-)

    Since the first draft of the novel is finished, I won’t be writing as much. But I love this sight, so I am going to add the little accomplishments/goals that I hit for not just writing but also revising. I will keep it very vague. In the last two days, I have read two chapters. My goal is one chapter a day until I am finished with the first reading. I hope this works for the site. Holly, if it causes a problem, just let me know.

  12. Littlesister Avatar

    Great post, Holly!
    Perusing your HTTS project notebook in lesson 24, and realising it looks A LOT like my own project notebooks, I wondered why you come through on your projects, and I don’t.
    Well, reading your steps it becomes quite clear; I’m not prepared for failure, I’m scared to death of it, whereas it is actually the best tool for improving things. For me “taking action knowing you will fail initially” is a completely novel approach, and one I am badly in need of.
    Usually I just get demotivated at my (initial) failures and give up.
    This is going to change. And yes, that’s a commiment.
    Thanks for continuing to share all the good stuff…

  13. Mihla Avatar

    I wish I would have read this when I was 24 instead of 64. Perhaps then I would not have wasted so much time on the things I thought I was supposed to care about and spent more time pursuing my dreams. Regrets are more poisonous than failures.

    1. Holly Avatar

      And yet, you have now. What do you love now, and what are you doing to make that love your reality now?

      Yesterday is gone. Learn from it, then let it go. Don’t waste another minute hurting yourself with regret. Make today the life you want to live.

  14. Sonya Avatar

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. I while away the hours in the office, keep thinking about all the things I’d rather do and when I get back, I’m so exhausted that I don’t enjoy doing what I wanted to do all day. It’s time for a change.

    Thanks, Holly.

  15. Christy Avatar

    Thanks for this post. I needed it. It’s where I was trending with my end of the year thoughts…

    There was a time management class I took once that started me finally writing. They asked the questions, “Where were you ten years ago? Where do you want to be in ten years?”

    So, my question for the year is, “Who do you want to be– Today? Tomorrow? In ten years?”

    And this year, I’m going to work on the baby steps to get there.

  16. Jessica Avatar

    I’m back. Failed my goal for finishing WIP and scarecely added a couple hundred words here and there. I didn’t bother to actually count it up. It’s at a point where I’m falling back into old habbits and wondering where I went wrong because it’s no longer motivating me. Yet every night it’s the last thing I think about. *sigh*

    On the other hand, I made a lot of progress into my family history on my grandmother project: SNSS. I didn’t realize how many original records of immigration, passports, etc my mom kept. There was even a newspaper article about my grandfather’s brothers finally meeting again after 38 years – and the original handwritten letter from my grandfather to Prime Minister Trudeau requesting help in granting the visas with Russia!
    For me this was the equivalent of Anne Frank’s father finding her diary. There were a lot of tears and some laughter between me and my mom.

    One thing mom always told me was to ask questions because “once they’re gone, they’re gone” and so is their story.

    I can’t really say that SNSS is a “dream” but it’s definitely something that I WANT to do. Even if I don’t finish writing it, I already have the story in my head and the letters and video to pass on to the next generation some day.

    1. Gabby Avatar

      Hi Jessica,
      You’re so close. I hope you can finish!

    2. Holly Avatar

      I’m back. Failed my goal for finishing WIP and scarecely added a couple hundred words here and there. I didn’t bother to actually count it up. It’s at a point where I’m falling back into old habbits and wondering where I went wrong because it’s no longer motivating me. Yet every night it’s the last thing I think about. *sigh*

      This is the guilt I’m talking about. Have you ever considered the possibility that maybe you don’t actually want to write? That you’re in love with the idea of having written a book, but that you don’t like the work much.

      Writing is a lot of work. And if you try to guilt yourself into doing it instead of doing it because you love it, you’ll make yourself miserable, and miss out on finding the thing you truly could love.

      Artwork was my guilt for years, because my dad wanted me to be a famous artist. It was when I finally declared to myself that I DIDN’T want to be a famous artist (after doing all the dog work that art requires, and finding out I hated it) that I found my way to writing, which for me is about seven different kinds of fun rolled up in chocolate.

      There is no virtue in writing. There is virtue in writing because it’s what you love. If it isn’t what you love, go find what will bring YOU joy.

  17. Hanna Belle Avatar

    Wow, I hope you keep this kind of post, I sure will. Thanks for taking on this resolution and being so candid about it.

    I resonate with “if you feel guilty.” I had to look up the word.

    Shew, I don’t feel guilty about the un-met dreams, but I do feel bad. But, what you say really supports something I started two weeks ago. I decided to let go of things around me that I am not doing, so I can focus on writing and health and life and loved ones — and work.

    Like my antique table loom. I had a dream of doing fabric art and weaving. But, I have not done it in years. So, I (we) sold it on eBay. It goes to UPS today.

    I won’t sell my sewing machine because it is practical or my crochet stuff becuase it is good for small projects to give my mind and my muse some distraction.

    About writing, I re-started HTTS and have several really good pages of Sweet Spot maps. The first time through I barely had 5 words per page, now I have multiple pages for some of the spots and keep getting more words to add, even as I fell asleep. I plan to do every step of HTTS. I have a calendar to mark my progress, set aside lunch at work to work on it, and will set aside time on weekends for more focused reading or work on it.

    Sorry for the long post, but I am psyched.

    1. Holly Avatar

      That’s fantastic.

      And I cleared out a ton of things I always planned to do last year when we moved. It was one of the most mentally freeing experiences I’ve ever had.

      I no longer have tokens of guilt for things I am not doing sitting around my office or cluttering my shelves.

      What I have, I use. This step made my life better. Art stuff, various musical instruments I wanted to learn (not my guitar), and a number of other items—all gone.

      Congrats. And cheers on the Sweet Spot maps. Sounds like you’re doing incredible things.

  18. Lenny Avatar

    Thank you.

    That low sound you’re hearing from the other side of the Atlantic? That’s me resonating in a big, deep way with this:

    “what you want is valuable because YOU value it, and because it matters to you.”

    I’ve been having a sort of low-key spiritual crisis for months now, wondering what could matter enough to give my life actual meaning, and I’ve never thought about it from that perspective – that maybe the answer isn’t out there, but in here.

    So thank you for opening my mind to a new direction.

    Best wishes to you and yours

  19. Greg Avatar

    Thanks, Holly.
    May I hijack this for WABWM purposes?
    KavI: 645
    D&DII: 760
    OFL: 1021
    and…RFW is back: 1277.
    I’ve decided to rewrite RFW so that it is told over a much shorter timeframe, with a lot of the historical stuff in flashback. I don’t know if it’ll work, but the story already feels more immediate to me, so fingers crossed.

      1. Greg Avatar

        Thanks 🙂

  20. wordwizard1016 Avatar

    Very Inspirational. Thank You Ron Moore

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