Monday, January 19, 2009

The Biggest Loser...not me!

I have to admit, I'm not much of a reality television fan. In fact, I abhor the whole idea of following people around, watching their every move, listening to inane dialogue about the "reality" of their lives.


But last week the only opportunity for quality time with my teenage daughter was to sit and watch television with her. Jennifer is a reality television aficionado. Among other important facts, she knows the name of, and can recognize, each of John and Kate's eight, threatens to turn me in to the fashion police on What Not to Wear, and was devastated when Hulk and Linda divorced, leading to the cancellation of Hogan Knows Best.

So I'm sitting there trying to have a decent conversation with her during commercial breaks of E! when I overhear that one of the winners of The Biggest Loser television show had regained over half the weight he'd lost and decided to start on the weight-loss program once again, hoping he'd be able to lose the weight he'd gained back.

I don't know about you, but whenever I hear or see the words "weight loss" paired with a triple-digit number, my ears perk up like a Yorkie on Ritalin and my presbyopia mysteriously disappears. This guy lost over 200 pounds—say, the equivalent of a middle linebacker—and gained back about 130—me at my dream weight!

Since turning forty either my metabolism has slowed to a lethargic pace or the cells around my belly, hips and butt have found a way of capturing calories, converting them into fat globules that they hold onto with the tenacity of a pitt bull. Seriously, I could survive off one butt cheek for a month. Since then, I've been on the search for the perfect diet--one that allows me to eat food and still shed unwanted pounds (see, I've even picked up the lingo.)

My attention zeroed in on the video clip, which showed Mr. Loser being whipped into shape by a team of personal trainers who, along with the viewers, watched every single morsel of food he ate and ran him ragged on a treadmill and bicycle. If you’ve never seen the show (and I hadn’t) picture the ultimate Boot Camp—Sergeant Carter chewing on Gomer Pyle, USMC (okay, I’m dating myself here)—and ratchet it up a few notches.

Sha-zam! That’s what I need, I thought—a Boot Camp for writers!

Right after the first of the year, I purchased Margie Lawson’s online course packet, Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors—Allow Writing Productivity and Creativity to Soar, as one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’d read through the introduction and promised myself I’d start the course right after I finished the synopsis for my second “Stroke of...” books for The Wild Rose Press.

The synopsis is done, so what better time, right? I frantically searched my hard drive and found the downloaded documents. I opened lesson one and the third chapter in the lesson guessed it... BOOT-CAMP: ALL THE GUTS AND ALL THE GLORY.

I’ve worked my way through the first lesson and the similarities between The Biggest Loser and Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors are frightening. My responses to Margie’s questions helped me see that I need to push myself in the right direction (or have a good coach to push me) in order to meet my goals. I love to write, but I want to be published...multi, multi-published, in fact. And that won’t happen if I don’t discipline myself and do the things necessary to attain that goal, just like The Biggest Loser must in order to meet his goal.

For me, it means setting up a writing schedule that doesn’t get pushed aside because the dishes need washing or it’s inconvenient. I need to be more organized so I can better manage my time to include action items that push me toward my goal—query letters to agents and editors, self-promotion, taking courses that hone my writing skills. I need to set realistic goals and meet them.

Writers dream stories and then give them life by shaping words into a structure that transcends their humble beginnings. It’s hard work, this writing gig—damned hard work. So I guess the saying “nothing worth having comes easy” definitely applies—to losing weight...and to writing.


Devon Gray said...

Ana, you are so funny! I enjoyed your blog immensely. Isn't Margie great?! I had to analyze my writing behaviors recently, and realized I needed to become more stringent with my schedule. Dirty dishes? My entire house is a mess...but I'm extremely prolific. I just dust the kids off really well before I send them out the door ;-)

Amber said...

So how many words equals a pound, and what's your specific goal? How many words equal the right number of pounds per week? Don't you need specific, quantifiable goals?

verification word: fatbole

Ana Aragón said...

Exactly, Amber!

The problem I've had in the past is not identifying, or holding myself accountable for, daily goals. So some weeks my goal isn't attainable by the end of the week, and the week gets away from me...yada, yada, yada. Pretty soon I'm facing a deadline and have to crank out 30,000 words in three weeks. Let me tell you, from experience, that isn't very fun.

My goal is one new page of writing per day. That's it. Two-hundred fifty words, give or take a few. If I go over that goal, great. But tomorrow, I'll still have my goal of one page. No saving up points, here!

A few years ago, my son, Mark, wanted to go to his favorite Mexican buffet and asked my sister to take them. She didn't want to go because she didn't have enough "points" left (she's big into Weight Watchers.) Mark turned to her and said, "No problem, Auntie. You can borrow some from my mom."

Well, there's no borrowing allowed, either!

I've also put my writing tasks on my calendar, and then backed into them the number of days it'll take for me to meet that deadline. My work goals are in front of me every time I open my calendar.

What are your goals, Amber? And what do you do to keep yourself on track?

Amber Green said...

I need to do 5000 words per week on Turnabout. Tracy Sprayberry (WHO NEEDS A WEBSITE!) helped me do the calculations day before yesterday, and I have to report to her every week via an announcement on our local RWA chapter loop. Yeah--just like Weight Watchers.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Thanks, Ana. Keep motivating us. Shed pounds, but add pages!

Debbie Kaufman said...

Hey Ana:
Cute Analogy! Both are hard goals to meet. I read once where a famous writer once said if you can't do one page a day, you shouldn't be writing! Ouch! I prefer to think that at 5 pages a week I have a book in a year.
Debbie K.

Ana Aragón said...

Margie suggests having a Change Coach, someone you report to on a regular basis, much like Weight Watchers. So, Amber, you're on the right track. Keep that Change Coach even after you finish Turnabout!

Ever wonder why the women who work for Weight Watchers always stay at their goal weight? They are reminded of their goal every day they walk into work, and have to weigh in weekly TO KEEP THEIR JOB.

They have some leeway before being kicked out, but who wants to show up and announce to everyone you haven't pulled your weight, pardon the pun, this week?

Isn't it similar with us? If we don't meet our goals, we won't keep our job as writers, because we can't deliver.

So find that Change Coach who will keep you on track...and delve into Margie Lawson's course to help you Defeat those Self-Defeating Behaviors that are keeping you from attaining your lofty goals!

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Anna,

I really enjoyed your piece today. My goal is weekly, so "life" can creep up one day without making me feel guilty that I didn't meet the mark. I shoot for a min. of 500 words a week, but so far I haven't done less than 1,000.

I once sent 3 chapters to a publisher when I only had about 13,000 words written and eight days later they asked for the whole thing. Yikes!
I wrote another 40,000 words in the next week, edited it and mailed it nine days later. I don't recommend crash diets...they're painful!

April Vine said...

Ana, fantastic blog!!!
I use to write all over the place, sometimes not for days and others going from morning to night to morning, stopping only to feed the family while I pointedly ignored the dishes. But this year I decided I needed to get organized, be more consistent and write in an orderly fashion. So I made a goal of just 1 polished chapter a week. Sadly, it isn’t going very well.
I’m thinking all I need is a butt meets kick intervention, seeing as how I’m the queen of excuses.

Ana Aragón said...

Sandy, you sound like me! Frankly, I love the buzz I get when the adrenaline starts pumping and the words churn out like beef from a meat grinder! But just like binge dieting, it isn't healthy for you.

And April, what you need is someone to give you that swift kick in the be-hind! So from this day forward, I'm your Change Coach and you're sending me that polished chapter, once a week, on Saturday.

No excuses!

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Ana,

I love this post. I never thought of the two ideas together, but you really made them work and you made them really hit home.

Great job and it will definitely be something in the back of my mind when I think of either of these goals...


Susan said...

I like the concept but I sure do like food, I just need to like writing more.

CiCi Barnes said...

I like goals too, even if they're private. It gets me moving. I do keep journal, just like some people do with what they eat each day. I find as I look back over the week, specifically at what I've accomplished (or not), it either motivates me to keep going or shames me to get back on track.

Great movtivating post, Ana.


Linsey Lanier said...

What a great post, Ana. Your writing style is so entertaining. I hope all your dreams come true.

Margie Lawson's courses are fantastic. I'll have to try this one out.

Thanks for the kick in the butt. :)


Ana Aragón said...

Tami, thanks for your comment and for stopping by.

And Susan, I hear you, girl! I know I'm addicted to carbs. Love my carbs.

Private goals do work for some, CiCi, and it looks like you have it covered by your journal writing. I've never been much of a journal writer. I learned to type on an old manual typewriter and I type almost as fast as I can think, so keeping my goals electronically works for me.

Linsey, thank you so much for your kind words, because I do think of my writing as entertainment. And I'm glad I could provide the proverbial kick in the behind for you! So many of my writer friends have done that for me, too!

Tammy said...

Ana, great post. It's definitely motivational.

Coaches play a key role in helping keep you on track with your goals. There is nothing like having to confess to your coach that you didn't measure up this week or last week. Then you have to go through the process of figuring out what happened.

One thing I think people should remember is that if they set a goal and it isn't working, it is ok to readjust and start fresh. Don't wallow in the bad feelings associated with not achieving what may have been an unattainable goal in the first place. Many of us (me included) get caught up in the excitement at the beginning of the year and set our goals a little too high.

Margie Lawson said...

Ana --

Good for you! You're creating your own BOOT CAMP. Glad you are diving into Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors. In a later lecture you'll read about my DUH Plan. You should have seen me grinning when it jumped into my brain.
Margie's DUH Plan:
D -- Do It First
U -- Understand it will be difficult or inconvenient, and do it anyway.
H -- Hooray! You did it! Celebrate!

My DUH Plan, it's simple, and it works.

Thanks for mentioning me. :-))

I wish you amazing success with your writing career -- and with taking charge of your world.

All smiles...........Margie

Ana Aragón said...


So true! Competitive athletes have a leg up on the rest of us because they're used to having to juggle several things at once, and they're tested each and every time they step on the field.

Great catch, by the way, on readjusting if it's not working. How many times do we just give up when we don't meet our weight (or page) goal? They need to be written in sand, not concrete, to take into account the ebb and flow of our lives.

Ana Aragón said...

Hi, Margie,

Thanks for stopping by! I hope I did your work justice, because it's making a world of difference in my own writing career.

The D U H plan? Sounds right up my acronym I can identify with!

Thanks again for inspiring writers to reach their goals.


Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

I just completed my own personal word count boot camp and it was excrutiating! I kept a tally of word count and updated my estimated weekly requirements.

Of course it fluctuated as I got closer to deadline, and I had to sprint the last hundred yards, but I made it.

If only I could apply the same techniques to exercise.

Cinthia Hamer said...

Ana, boy did your post hit home for me!! I've been trying and trying to not only lose a vast amount of weight that's crept up on me over the years, but to stop procrastinating with my writing.

I think the idea of a change coach is terrific--but then again, Margie is full of the most brilliant ideas.

So, who's going to volunteer to be MY change coach? Anyone brave enough to take on the task? I'd like to commit to a page a day. ;)

Cyrano said...

You're right, goals are tough. In fact the goals which are hardest to reach are usually the very ones worth the most to us. Weight loss is hard enough, but pouring your soul onto the page with hopes that others will love your words as much as you do is downright terrifying.
Keep up the good work,
Keep writing!

Mary Marvella said...

I can so relate, Ana. I remember when my dress size was in single digits, even after I gave birth at age 29. Sometime in my 50's my body shifted into fat clinging mode and my size scared me. Not enough it seems.

I wrote pages and pages each night on little sleep and didn't care. Hmmm. Pounds added, pages slowing, enthusiasm lagging.

Gotta change that! Thanks for the reminder.

Ana Aragón said...

Okay, Cinthia, you're on! I'll be happy to be your Change Coach. I expect 4 pages by Saturday (are you including Saturday and Sunday, too?)

Tamara, I think the fear factor is the most crippling when it comes to writing. It's right up there with public speaking, maybe even more so.

And Marvella, I know exactly what you mean. I was this little thing when I gave birth to my first at 29. I'm embarrassed to say that I'd give my right arm to be at that pregnancy weight again!

Thanks for popping in, guys! You made my day!