Scarlett Cole and I talk every month or so, when it’s coffee time for me, and tea or G&T time for her, and this time, we recorded one of our conversations about looking back over the past 10 years, and looking ahead to the next ten. So in this episode, we’re talking about setting goals for the new year, the new decade, and “figuring out the cadence that works for you.” Where do you want to be, and who do you want to be in ten years?
Basically, we want to invite you into one of our mutually encouraging conversations to talk about what’s next for all of us.
TW/CW: discussion of mental health and depression intermittently and specifically at 21:30
Questions we ask:
What has worked for me?
What is missing in my life?
What do I want to become?
Where do I want to be in ten years?
What are you willing to do?
What are you willing to release?
Questions for you!
What’d you do that you’re proud of in the past 10 years?
What do you want to do in the next decade? Tell me! I wanna know!
How do you celebrate success?
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Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
You can hear more from Scarlett in Episode 327. Give Yourself Permission to be Successful: Productivity and Self Honesty with Scarlett Cole.
We also discussed:
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Sarah Wendell: Hi there, and welcome to episode number 386 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. With me today is Scarlett Cole. Now, Scarlett Cole and I talk every month or so when it’s coffee time for me and it’s tea or possibly gin and tonic time for her, and this time we recorded one of our conversations about looking back over the past ten years and looking ahead to the next ten. So if you’ve been thinking about your New Year’s resolutions or what you want to do in the next ten years, maybe this conversation will be of interest and will help you solidify some of your goals.
I do want to issue a trigger warning or content warning: we discuss mental health and depression intermittently through this episode, and specifically at twenty-one minutes and thirty seconds [21:30], so you might want to skip ahead about a minute at that part.
If you’d like copies of the questions that we’re asking, they’ll be in the show notes at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast.
But I would very much like to know what you did in the past ten years that you’re really proud of. What do you want to do in the next decade? I’m super nosy, and I really want to know: how do you celebrate your success? You can email me at email@example.com, or you can leave a message at 201-371-3272. I would love to hear from you if you have questions or answers to some of the questions we’re asking in this episode.
This episode is brought to you in part by Lola, a modern approach to feminine care. Lola is a female-founded company offering a line of organic cotton tampons, pads, liners, and all natural cleansing wipes. Because the FDA doesn’t require brands to disclose a list of ingredients in feminine care products, many companies do not do so, but Lola offers complete transparency about the ingredients found in their tampons, pads, liners, and wipes. They are one hundred percent organic cotton with no added chemicals, fragrances, synthetics, or dyes. And Lola can make your month a little easier. Their subscription is fully customizable, so you can choose your mix of products, your mix of absorbency, number of boxes, and frequency of delivery. I like knowing the ingredients, but I love having a personalized assortment delivered when I need it, and as someone whose needs can be variable, I really like that part. You can get thirty percent off your first month’s subscription at mylola.com and enter SMARTPOD when you subscribe. That’s thirty percent off your first month at mylola.com with code SMARTPOD.
Big, effusive, heaping thank-yous to our Patreon community, who keep the show going and make every episode accessible. If you would like to join our community, monthly pledges start at one dollar and help keep the show coming every week! You can have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
And I do have a compliment this week, which is so awesome!
To Martin: Martin, you are the human embodiment of warm fires in a fireplace, fluffy blankets, toasty socks, and really, really perfect hot beverages, and I hope that you know that.
Coming up after this episode, a preview of what’s coming up on Smart Bitches and a terrible joke, also submitted by Martin, who got this week’s compliment. I love your submitted jokes! They’re so great. I will have links to everything we talk about and the books that we mention in this episode in the show notes.
But for now, let’s get started. Let’s look ahead to 2030 – ah! – with me and Scarlett Cole.
Scarlett Cole: Hi, my name is Scarlett Cole, and I am an author of romance and romantic suspense.
Sarah: And you and I talk every so often, usually about once a month, and lately we’ve been talking about the next ten years, because, you know, the, the year is about to turn with a big old zero on the end.
Scarlett: Yeah, and it’s, it’s one of those crazy things where it’s easy to get swept up in the clock ticking over from, you know, midnight, just a minute before midnight on the last day of 2019, onto the first day of, you know, 2020, and we’ve all got all this energy to tackle all these new things. But are we going to tackle things in the short term, which is, you know, the next year, or are we planning for the future, which is, you know, another ten years from now, and what does that look like?
Sarah: And it’s weird because there’s a tendency, I think – at least, I have this tendency – to zoom way, way out and look at ten years, and then to zoom way, way in and be like, okay, what am I doing next week?
I also have a strange cultural perspective where the Jewish New Year is typically in the fall in North America, or in the northern hemisphere it’s in the fall –
Sarah: – in the southern hemisphere in the spring. So I have a cultural New Year, I have a Jewish New Year in September or October, and then I have the secular New Year on January 1st, and I’ve started dividing them so that the, the Jewish New Year is when I choose to work on something internal, to –
Scarlett: Oh, I like –
Sarah: – focus on my – yeah! I, I like it too. It, it, gives me something to think about, because, I’ll be honest with you, sometimes services can be a very little bit long?
Sarah: On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur they go for a while, so it, it gives me something to think about, like what are the things that I want to feel more content with in the new year? And then on January 1st I focus on the things that we often talk about, like habits and goals and structures and things that are external. Of course they’re interlinked; like, I can’t change an external thing without also changing an internal thing, but I look at that, those two holidays, with a dual perspective. There’s the stuff that’s just for me, and then there’s the stuff that, for my forward momentum in the world.
Scarlett: I love that; I love that way of thinking about it. And I think, you know, there are some people for whom, you know, the notion that January 1st brings a new set of rules? I don’t tend to think of New Year’s resolutions as rules, I tend to think of them as intentions, but if you’re the kind of person whose back goes up against a wall as soon as you hear New Year’s resolutions, it’s a new thing that you’ve got to do in the, in the future, finding a different date and put, and taking that pressure away so it, it doesn’t feel quite so draconian to you is a good thing too. So, I mean, some people pick a solstice; some people do it with the school year. I know one of my close writing partners that I know, she focuses on what the school year looks like, so she sets her goals and intentions, you know, September 1st for going back to school?
Scarlett: So I think really just figuring out a cadence that works for you is the most important thing.
Sarah: Oh, I completely agree. Now, one of the things you and I were talking about was how much shit we got done in ten years!
Scarlett: [Laughs] Yeah.
Sarah: Like, damn!
Scarlett: It is frightening when you actually just take a piece of paper and, you know, especially if you keep a digital calendar, and I know how, you know, you speak so often about how to use your Google Calendar –
Sarah: I do love it so.
Scarlett: – with intention –
Scarlett: – but if you go back and look at it, it’s actually quite frightening, and, you know, Bill Gates once said that most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in ten, and I think if you look back to 2010 and you say, okay, this is where I was standing on January 1st, 2010 –
Scarlett: – and you look at where you are now, it’s really, first of all, it’s quite eye-opening. It’s a really –
Sarah: Oh gosh, yes.
Scarlett: – eye-opening experience. It’s a great moment to pause and have tremendous gratitude, because I know that, you know, you can keep thinking, oh, my life hasn’t changed; I’m not where I want to be; I haven’t done what I want to do; I haven’t gotten to where I want to be; but actually, there’s a tremendous amount to be grateful for in the last ten years that you’ve been able to achieve, and it’s, it’s really a good moment to look at yourself and, and think, wow, do you know, I really am more capable than I think I give myself credit for.
Sarah: Oh gosh, yes. For me, 2010 was the year that I quit my full-time job to run Smart Bitches as my, my full-time entrepreneurship. That was when I, in June of 2010 I left my job and the, the relative comfort of having a salary that was magically appearing in my bank account every two weeks –
Sarah: – and we switched to my husband’s benefits, and we changed a whole bunch of things, and my husband and I talk about that a lot. In fact, when we moved to DC, we moved in December of 2015, so in the past year we’ve changed a lot about, you know, our lives as a family and my life as a, as a person and as a professional. When he came home with the job opportunity in DC and he was like, I, I kind of want to apply for that, but if, if I get it we, we move, I remember thinking and saying out loud, okay, it’s your turn.
Sarah: In 2010 I quit because I remember driving to a ski vacation in, I want to say late February, early March, and being really stressed out about getting email from my job when I was supposed to be on vacation, and I mean, I was an administrative assistant; there were really no administrative emergencies, but I was, I was expected to be at least somewhat vigilant about things that I couldn’t do anything about, ‘cause I was in a car –
Sarah: – on the highway. And I remember saying, I want to, I want to run the site full-time. I don’t want to do this anymore, and, you know, we had like a seven-hour drive, so we worked out the math, and when I came back I began to put in place a plan to leave that job, which was not making me happy, and start running the site, which has made me gloriously happy. So what, my husband came home with this job opportunity, I said okay! We’re going to make a change to improve your life, and so much of our lives has leveled up because we made a change to put our happiness ahead of, of, of everything else for, for a moment; to say, okay, I don’t want to do this anymore; I want to do this instead. And it’s scary to say, I’m choosing me. Let’s, let’s, let’s work this out. And it helps to have supportive family and supportive partners, and eventually my older son forgave us for moving –
Sarah: – but – he, he was ten; he was not enjoying that – but at the same time, because we had to take stock and we had to look at where we were and what changes we want to make, looking back now at 2010 and 2015 I can say, wow, we really leveled up so many areas of our lives because we were aware of where we were and where we wanted to be.
Scarlett: And I would take it a step further, because you and I have talked a lot, and I know you’re very astute about this: it, it wasn’t just necessarily where you want to be.
Scarlett: It’s who you wanted to be; what you wanted to become.
Sarah: Oh, you’re so right!
Scarlett: That decision to choose, you know, joy and happiness in your work, and I know you and I have talked about this moment, because, you know, from what you explained to me, your, your boss kind of tested that a little bit and was upset with your decision to leave, you know –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Scarlett: – I honestly believe that’s just the universe testing how committed you are to your goal. Right? Like –
Scarlett: – this is just the universe saying, are you sure? Like, we’re just going to –
Sarah: You sure now?
Scarlett: – apply a little bit of pressure here to say, look, this, you know, have this person, this is probably not the smartest decision; look at what you’re walking away from; you know, this makes no sense to me. That, that kind of tension just makes you stop and go, you know what, actually? This is what I want to do, and this is who I want to become, and this is where I want to be in my life.
Sarah: Yeah! Absolutely! It’s shocking to look back at where you were and see how far you’ve come.
Scarlett: And it’s shocking sometimes if you, if you aren’t thinking about long-term goals, if you’re literally only going year to year to year, what you were able to achieve on the fly in ten years?
Sarah: [Laughs] Yes!
Scarlett: It’s a fraction of what you could actually achieve if, instead of going, you know, short-term goal to short-term goal to short-term goal. You know, where do I want to be in ten years, and how do I make sure everything I’m doing, everything I’m thinking about for my New Year’s resolutions this year lines up –
Scarlett: – with this longer journey of the kind of person I want to become and the kind of life I have to, you know, the kind of life I want to live.
Sarah: Yes, I often joke that I have frequent flyer miles on Seat of Your Pants Airlines?
Sarah: I have a lot of miles on that airline, and part of it is because in the job that I’m in, I have made this job up. Like, I am in the middle of a field with a scythe going, okay, going this way now. Up, there’s a rock; let’s try this direction. Like, I’m making this up as I go. There aren’t a lot of models for me to follow, and I’m very much driven by my, my instinct and my intuition and my goal, and the overall goal that I have is already in place. Like, the, the mission place, the mission statement for, for Smart Bitches is, to connect romance readers with one another from around the world and to connect them with the books they want to read. So that’s my, that’s my goal. What can I do to facilitate that goal and maintain a successful business and keep going? And that’s the hard part, ‘cause I don’t know if you know this, but sustaining a website is hard as fuck. Like, that is not an easy job.
Scarlett: I am married to a tech guy –
Sarah: It is quite a challenge.
Scarlett: – who does that for a living –
Scarlett: – so yeah, I, I understand the stresses involved with that.
Sarah: You know all the words to that song!
Scarlett: [Laughs] Well, and I think if you think of your mission statement as your destination – right?
Scarlett: This is where you want to be – there are a thousand paths you could take –
Scarlett: – to, to join those dots, and it could be through a medium like this, a podcast – like, did you think ten years ago you’d be recording on a weekly basis, talking to all these different people you talk to about all these different topics as a, a means to connect readers with authors? Right, there’s all these different things that you’ve done and grown and built, but your destination has remained the same. It’s this kind of long-term goal about remaining in business, living up to your mission statement, but all these paths are all leading there. And so –
Scarlett: – whilst I hear on the Fly by the Seat of the Pants Airline, which I am totally stealing from you –
Sarah: Feel free! [Laughs]
Scarlett: – you know, I, I think that you don’t give yourself enough credit.
Sarah: What?! No!
Scarlett: You’re always keeping that clear destination in mind.
Scarlett: I mean, you and I talk a lot about this, but, you know, I think we all underestimate ourselves, and, you know, you’ve never lost sight of that goal, and I think that’s why you’re still doing this, because you’re constantly rethinking, what are the different means and vehicles and ways I can live up to that mission statement?
Sarah: Yes. What about you? What have you looked back on in the past ten years and gone, holy shit!?
Scarlett: Well, ten years ago, I was a mom of a one- and a four-year-old, and I had just returned to work as Senior Vice President of Corporate Development for a forty-two-billion dollar business, and –
Sarah: That’s a really long title. How long were your business cards? Were they, like, a meter long?
Scarlett: Do you know what, I had some that were even longer.
Scarlett: Yeah. There was one, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Marketing, Pricing, and Promotions, so, you know.
Sarah: Good Lord!
Scarlett: Sometimes I held titles for such a short period of time I didn’t bother getting new cards between the, the titles, just ‘cause I knew it would change again in four months.
Scarlett: But, you know, I, we had all of the challenges of being a new mom going back to work. I was starting to fall out of love a little bit with the corporate world, but –
Scarlett: – I felt this huge sense of responsibility as a woman having got to a certain place in an organization to continue being an example? And, you know, we still owed money for things; we owed money for houses and cars and babies, ‘cause they cost a lot of money – [laughs] – and so –
Sarah: Oh my gosh, they so do! What is with that?
Scarlett: And so I’ve always been a fan of ten-year goals, and so, you know, when I entered 2010, I reflected, well, you know, I wanted to be married to a good man; I wanted to be a mom; I wanted to have a good job with a good salary. So, you know, many of my kind of 2000 to 2000 goal, 2010 goals were like, check, check, check, but I still felt there was a whole bunch of stuff missing, and I felt that, you know, there was more I wanted to do, and so I kind of set out back then this series of goals that I had no idea how I was going to achieve them. You know, one of them was to create a mobile occupation, and I didn’t even know what the mobile occupation was!
Scarlett: But I just, I knew I wanted to be able to move, and I’ve always been a bit restless. I’ve lived in a bunch of different countries. I like moving countries; I like the challenge of it. I like living in different places, and I felt that, you know, my corporate job was holding me in one place.
Scarlett: And I was like, okay, I, you know, I need to find a, a mobile occupation. I wanted to be out of debt. I didn’t want to owe anybody anything in the world. I wanted that sense of financial independence that I didn’t owe anybody anything.
Scarlett: I wanted to still be married, and that felt important to me because, you know, me and my husband are very lucky: both of our parents are still married to each other, but we know how rare that is, and we have friends who’ve already divorced, family members who’ve already divorced, and it was something that was just really important to Tim and I, that we, you know, we’re still married ten years from now, and so, you know, sitting back there and thinking, well, heck, I have this corporate job; I didn’t really have time for hobbies; I have these two young children; and I, I, I literally was getting air miles on Fly by the Seat of your Pants Airlines – see, second time today I’ve stolen that! –
Scarlett: – you know, I, we were just, we were just winging it in terms of how we managed our day-to-day life and daycare pickup and all of those kinds of things, and so in the last ten years, well, I mean, 2013, we moved to England, and I became a writer! And in 2015 my first book was published, and I’ve now published thirteen? And I’m, you know, writing –
Scarlett: And those are all in romance and romantic suspense. I’ve just about finished my first nonfiction book. I’ve been a finalist in the RITAs four times. You know, I’ve been published in multiple languages. I’m still married! All of those things, you know, moving house, renovating houses, moving countries, bringing two young children with me, learning how to become a writer, integrating in that industry; those are all things that have happened in the last ten years, which I, I don’t know that I could have said I knew how it was going to come into being ten years ago –
Scarlett: – but it was quite definite that that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted a mobile career, I wanted to be able to move and see more of the world, I wanted to travel, and I wanted to stay married and be a good mom.
Sarah: When you look back at 2010, does that also make you, like it does me, want to look ahead to 2030?
Scarlett: Yes. Most definitely!
Scarlett: I, I –
Sarah: I just, I can just hear people listening to this going, oh my God, stop!
Scarlett: Yeah! I honestly do, and it comes back to what Bill Gates once said, that people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate –
Scarlett: – what they can do in ten. And when we try to cram things into ten year, into one year’s resolution, it’s because there’s a yearning, there’s, there’s a voice inside us telling us we want to be this thing. We want to become this thing –
Scarlett: – that’s going to take longer than a year. Right?
Scarlett: We’re going to become –
Sarah: Becoming yourself –
Sarah: – takes your lifetime.
Scarlett: Yeah! You know, you want to become debt-free. Well, depending on how much in debt you are, that’s not going to happen overnight. You might want to return to school and retrain or something; that’s going to take three, four years. Right, so I think when we try to think of New Year’s resolutions as this thing that we have to box into twelve months –
Scarlett: – we end up putting too much in it. We put too much pressure –
Scarlett: – on ourselves because what we’re actually trying to do is get ourself on that five-, ten-year journey, but we’re just trying to squash it into twelve months to see what we can do. And that works if you’re one of those people who gets really psyched by big, massive goals and you’re – I mean, this has always been me – set the goal as big as you can, right? If you miss it –
Scarlett: – you’re still going to get further than if you’d set a series of small goals. That really doesn’t work for some people! For some people that’s highly demotivating. You know –
Scarlett: – when you miss them, it is really disappointing. You, you know, you feel less about yourself because you missed them.
Scarlett: Neither of these is right or wrong. Overstretching yourself and constantly pursuit of goals can be unhealthy. You know, self, your, your own views of yourself and, and what it means to miss a goal, that can be unhealthy, but they’re just different ways of approaching it. But if we just think about what we’re going to do in the next twelve months, we may –
Scarlett: – set ourselves up for failure. So yes, I am in it to constantly keep looking much further ahead, to think about who I want to become and what life holds for me and what I’m missing in my life –
Scarlett: – and set intentions for how those things are going to come into being rather than worrying about what date the new, the resolution starts on and whether it fits in a twelve-month window.
Sarah: Now, I want to back up a second, because I also think that you may not give yourself enough credit for what you’ve accomplished between 2010 and 2020.
Scarlett: Possible! [Laughs]
Sarah: Possible –
Sarah: – maybe.
Scarlett: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s, it’s no secret, and I’ve share this on social media: so in the last decade I’ve had perimenopausal depression, which –
Sarah: Which sucks, by the way.
Scarlett: – which completely sucks. I am doing much better; nobody needs to worry. I have lots of support, and it’s all good. But it took me a really long time – and my therapist might suggest too long if they were actually allowed to say that out loud – to –
Scarlett: – to give myself, or to allow myself to take the time to just get better from that. You know, for me –
Scarlett: – there’s this flaky eighteen-month window in my last ten years where I’m like, yeah, I didn’t get so much done, but the truth is I wrote my first narrative nonfiction book at a hundred and twenty thousand words, so I hear you when you say I might not be giving myself credit.
Sarah: Just a bit!
Sarah: So when you look ahead to 2030 – we identified the four questions that we – four, four potential questions to ask as we look ahead.
Sarah: And I think it’s also important to incorporate the idea of giving ourselves credit for what we’ve done before we start the next ten. Like –
Sarah: – damn!
Sarah: Damn, that’s amazing!
Scarlett: Give yourself a pat –
Sarah: Holy crap!
Scarlett: – on the back.
Sarah: You, you did some shit. You did some real shit. Like, really good stuff!
Scarlett: [Laughs] And so did you!
Scarlett: And I think if we spoke to so many of your listeners, at the start of this conversation they may have thought, eh, well, maybe I didn’t do so much, but I guarantee that all of them, to a one –
Sarah: Oh yes.
Scarlett: – if they put –
Scarlett: – pen to paper at the end of this podcast and just started to write down where they were ten years ago and how much their life has changed, they’ve all done a ton of shit –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Scarlett: – that deserves, like, high fives all round.
Sarah: And even if, like, what you and I both did in, in the past ten years is realizing, like you said, you were falling out of love with what you were doing, and realizing, I don’t want to do this anymore; I want to do something else. I want to make a hard, different choice. That’s a big fucking deal. Like, that’s a really, really big deal!
One of the questions that you and I identified that we’re asking ourselves is, what has worked for me? And I’ve been writing down over the past few weeks the things that I’ve learned this year and over the past ten years, and one thing I learned this year is how much time I have spent telling myself in one way or another that I was doing it wrong. Whatever it was, I was doing it wrong.
Scarlett: I feel –
Sarah: I wasn’t doing it –
Scarlett: – I feel like I may have heard you say that a few times and called you on it.
Sarah: Yeah! Yeah! Oh yeah! More than a few! You’re doing it wrong; you’re doing it wrong. And I have unpacked and done a ton of work to identify why my brain defaults to that assumption, and at one point this year I was standing in my bathroom, probably straightening a rug that the cat had knocked askew and said to myself, you’re doing everything right. You are doing just fine. You’re doing fucking brilliant, in fact, so enough of this you’re not doing it right. You’re doing everything right. You’re doing it well. You are doing okay. And I think what works for me, starting from that moment, one of the things that I want to carry forward into the next year and the next decade is to remind myself, you’re doing okay. You’re doing all right. You’ve done great; you’re going to do great things; you’re going to be okay. You are not doing it wrong. You are doing it right.
Scarlett: Well, and, you know, I think we all read The Secret when it did the rounds, right? Rhonda Byrne’s book? But you know, if, if you are your thoughts, right, and if you are, you know, the universe conspires with you to bring you what you need, the more you tell the universe that you’re doing things wrong, the more the universe will prove to you that you are.
Sarah: And you also, I think there’s an enormous amount of power and intention and, and – what’s the word for – impetus. When you actually say out loud what it is that you want and you say out loud what it is that you would like to happen –
Sarah: – hearing, hearing yourself say a thing that you want is very motivating and very powerful, I think. I read a lot of nonfiction this year about mindfulness, meditation, self-centering, and also dealing with a brain that is often a – do you remember Jiffy Pop popcorn?
Sarah: Because you’re –
Scarlett: ‘Cause I’m English! [Laughs]
Sarah: Okay. Well maybe you saw it in Canada.
Scarlett: No, no.
Sarah: Okay, so Jiffy Pop, Jiffy Pop was this thing that was like, oh, when I was really little, so this was like the ‘70s. It was a pre-packaged foil pan with a little handle, and you would put the pan in, on the stovetop, and it would make popcorn. There was popcorn kernels and oil in there, and the top was foil, and it would expand, and it would keep growing and growing and growing and growing as the popcorn expanded, and then pop! You know, then you had popcorn!
Sarah: And it was, it was basically a self-contained popcorn machine. Sometimes I feel like that’s how my brain is, and sometimes it’s like, boop, boop, boop, boop, and then sometimes it’s like, brr-rr-rr-rr-rr! And I’m like, oh my gosh, make it stop! So when I have Jiffy Pop brain in a bad way, it helps me to stop and think, okay, what are you doing? What are you doing right? What are you doing right now? What is it that you want? And that can, just identifying that, like, what do you want right now? What’s going to help? That can cut through, for me, so much of the Jiffy Pop brain.
Scarlett: Yeah. I call that my brain’s on tilt. Like, when my brain is just like a –
Scarlett: – you know, a merry-go-round.
Sarah: A pinball machine!
Scarlett: And you just can’t stop it.
Scarlett: Yeah, I use the Calm app, so I literally just turn on one of the, the Calm app meditations. If, if I’ve not done the, the meditation of the day I’ll do that one.
Scarlett: Or I’ll just, the, you can, you know, Favorite ones you like best, but, and they actually have a whole bunch of, you know, ones on procrastination or self-doubt or, you know, all kinds of different topics. So I find just that ten minutes of just stopping, listening –
Sarah: Mm-hmm. Yes!
Scarlett: – it just helps chill everything down, but to come back to something you said about the power of saying what you want out loud? I think that’s really helpful, and I think if you can get into the habit of saying what that is before you allow the limiting parts of your-, yourself to decide what, whether it’s actually possible or not –
Scarlett: – that’s even more powerful, because so many people set the goals based around the limitations. You know, that kind of, don’t limit your challenges; challenge your limits, thinking. So –
Scarlett: – you know, if you set the goal based on, this is as much as I can do, rather than saying, okay –
Scarlett: – this is where I want to get to. How am I going to stretch those boundaries to get further? That’s even more powerful.
Sarah: While you were talking, I – and right before you said stop and listen, I wrote down, stop and listen to yourself.
Sarah: It’s like, oh yes, we are in the same headspace.
Sarah: So I’ve talked about this before, but I didn’t actually say them, so the four questions that we’ve sort of identified here:
What has worked for me?
What is missing in my life?
What do I want to become?
And where do I want to be in ten years?
Some scary-ass questions. We’re so mean!
Scarlett: They are. They seemed very innocuous –
Scarlett: – when I, when we, when we first –
Scarlett: – narrowed it down to those four. I was like, oh, this looks quite interesting, until I started to really do it for myself.
Sarah: Yes! It’s really hard!
Sarah: And I can identify, one thing that has worked for me is helping other people reach for their goals and working with them on what they want, especially if the people with whom I’m working don’t have access to some of the assets and resources that I do? I did not know this about myself, but I love connecting people with other people. Like, you need to know so-and-so. You guys need to know each other. You vibrate on the same wavelength and you can really help each other. Okay, go! Be fruitful!
Sarah: Go do the thing. I love that, and one of the things – so there’s a wonderful book that I think I’ve recommended to you called Burnout?
Sarah: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. So Emily and Amelia Nagoski also have a podcast called the Feminist Survival Project 2020, because, much like the shit show that has visited upon you this year, our shit show will be next year! So having had a sneak preview of Shit Show A, we’re preparing for Shit Show US, and, you know, their, their whole podcast is about managing the stress of the coming year from a feminist perspective. And they talk about Human Giver Syndrome and the idea that women are trained to give everything to everyone else and put ourselves last, and the way to combat so much of what’s wrong is to help other people and to give energy and, and assistance to other people, and I’ve realized how much that really does motivate me to also put myself first, because I’m so well trained –
Sarah: – as a female-identifying person, to help other people. Doing so and, in the, in the process, figuring out how to help myself is incredibly gratifying.
Sarah: What else has worked for you?
Scarlett: Well, yours are really noble, and mine now sound really self-serving, but –
Sarah: I have some of those too; don’t worry. [Laughs]
Scarlett: – really the, the two that have, have worked for me is my self-belief and my work ethic. When I look back to ten years ago and I see where I was, and I kind of had this create a mobile occupation, it didn’t occur to me for a millisecond that (a) I wouldn’t, and (b) it wouldn’t be successful. I’m very fortunate that I can rely on that and fall back on that. And then I have a work ethic to back it up. There was the –
Sarah: Oh, just a bit!
Sarah: My gosh!
Scarlett: I have a work ethic to back it up. You know, I worked, I have always worked long and hard.
Scarlett: I actually enjoy it, so it’s, it’s not as, you know, it’s not as tough as it sounds. Even when I was in the corporate world, I really did enjoy the work that I did, and I didn’t mind putting the hours in, and I never have.
Scarlett: But I’m also very, very organized and deliberate, and so –
Scarlett: – I think that combination of, you know, having work ethic but being able to be, you know, focused and deliberate about what I’m actually putting that work ethic to, and then having the confidence that, if I do it, it will work? I’m sorry, Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams wasn’t it, if I build it, they will come, but you know, if I –
Scarlett: – you know, if I put my mind to something and I decide I’m going to do it, I invariably get it done, and so that worked for me.
Sarah: You know, one of the things that I think that, that we have in common is a very similar outlook, like, if X needs to be done, I’m going to go do it! I’m going to get it done. Get out of my way. And that can be both very powerful and also detrimental if I don’t let myself stop.
Sarah: So one of the things that has worked for me is not only identifying, yes, you can do this, but, you don’t have to do this all at once, right now, to the detriment of your health and your sleep.
Scarlett: I concur.
Sarah: [Laughs] Can confirm.
Scarlett: And, and I do a rubbish job of it. I mean, the, the last –
Sarah: [Laughs more]
Scarlett: Well, it’s not – okay, and what’s worse is, it’s not no to other people; it’s no to myself.
Sarah: Right?! It’s so –
Scarlett: I do a really bad job –
Scarlett: – of saying no to me. I have a real issue with, you know the SMART goal, like, be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant – I, I find it so twee, because the whole achievable part and smart part, like, really, just fuck that shit. Make your, if you’re, if you’re going to do something –
Scarlett: – why not aim for the biggest, the highest, the top? Like, why not? And I know we talked about this on another podcast about women especially: we’re scared of setting these big, ballsy goals; we’re scared of verbalizing what it is we really want. You know, we don’t want to –
Scarlett: – sound obnoxious and say, I am going to be the next J. R. Ward, Vi Keeland, whatever, right? We’re, we, we –
Scarlett: – play it down; we play it safe; we rein it in.
Sarah: And we’re conditioned to never say honestly what it is that we want.
Scarlett: Yeah! Just –
Sarah: We’re, we’re taught to equivocate to that question.
Scarlett: – say it! And so my automatic default is, if you’re going to go and do something, aim to be the –
Sarah: Go big or go home!
Scarlett: – freaking best at it! Like, if you’re going to put your life into it, if you’re going to do, you know, put so many of your personal hours, your, you know, your physical blood, sweat, and tears into something, why not aim for the biggest and best you can do?
Sarah: I know that that is not an approach that works for me, but it is clearly an approach that works for you, and it’s kind of amazing!
Scarlett: Well, and you also have to be okay with not getting there.
Sarah: Yes, absolutely.
Scarlett: Right, you, you have to be okay with – right? Like, I’m, I’m all for a good pivot. Like, if, you know, if you find a reason to say, hang on a second; I’ve been working towards this thing, and it’s, over here, this other thing is building. It seems to be getting more momentum, and it seems to be having more impact, and it seems to be working better for me, and I’m actually enjoying working on it more. Pivot! That’s okay too! You, you don’t owe it to, to anybody to explain –
Scarlett: – that you’re changing your goal!
Sarah: Yes. That, I think that is so important, because it took me a long time to say, yes, you can pivot; yes, you can change your goal; yes, you can adjust; and yes, you can do something else. And by following the intention of what you’re drawn to by following the thing that you’re interested in, you end up doing the thing that you were interested in, but it might not be the exact form you envisioned. You’re still doing it –
Sarah: – you’re still making forward progress.
Scarlett: Yes. Yeah. I mean, I’ve, like I said, I’ve taken this last year and a half to write a narrative nonfiction book –
Scarlett: – about this group of women in World War II, and, you know, I’ve had to go right back to, like, the depths of The National Archives to pull all of these records out. It doesn’t mean I’m not a romance writer anymore.
Scarlett: And it doesn’t mean that I won’t write more romance in the future! It just means for now I felt very passionately about this project, I learned about these women, and I was like, holy shit, how do I not know about them? You know, and they came from all over the world. This feels like a story that should get told. Of course I’m me, so it also felt like a story that should become a movie –
Scarlett: – and also one of my things in the next ten years is I should be a screenwriter for that movie, but –
Sarah: I was just going to say, have you designed your, your dress for the premiere?
Scarlett: Is this for the Oscars? Yeah, I, I’ve –
Sarah: Yes, obviously!
Scarlett: – I’ve totally got an Oscar dress in mind, yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: Of course. I, I was just making sure, ‘cause, I mean, if you didn’t, I would be alarmed.
Scarlett: Like, I mean, ‘cause that’s how you procrastinate when the idea of actually doing those things becomes a bit scary? You’re like, ah, do you know what? I’m going to need a dress.
Scarlett: But yeah, I mean, it, it doesn’t mean I’m, I’m not going back to romance; it doesn’t mean I’ve changed my goals. It means, you know, that notion of becoming an author means, you know, listening to those voices inside yourself that’s telling me what to write. Like, I, for the longest time I was on the, you’ve got to put out so many books a year, because that’s what you have to do if you’re a romance writer and, you know, don’t lose momentum and keep up with this –
Scarlett: – and keep up with that and go to that conference and, you know, etc., etc., etc., and then there was this voice inside me going, wait, no. You need to go and write this other book.
Scarlett: And that was my eight-till-ten for a little bit, my 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. window at night where I give myself time to just do whatever makes me happy –
Scarlett: – and I was, started to dig into things and reading bits about them, and then before I knew it, that was creeping into my working hours, and then before I knew it I was writing this book. So that, that, that’s not the question, right? What do I want to become?
Sarah: Yes, that is, that is absolutely the third question.
Scarlett: You know, what, what do you want to become in your life? What do you want to become?
Sarah: You know, I, I, I, that answer changes all the time. One of the things I encountered this year that I wrote down and have referred back to is a line from the Mary Oliver poem “Wild Geese.”
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
Scarlett: Oh –
Sarah: And –
Scarlett: – that’s lovely.
Sarah: – isn’t it? – and being able to say, okay, Sarah, you really like watching live streams of narrowboat videos on YouTube. Go watch some.
Sarah: Yeah, right? Thanks a lot for that hobby, by the way. We’re going to be so broke. [Laughs]
Scarlett: I, honestly, I am going to get you to come with me on a canal boat holiday one day.
Sarah: I would flipping love it. There would be so much gin and so much tonic.
Scarlett: I know!
Sarah: Also, my other – I don’t know; do you have ginger beer over there? ‘Cause I’ve been making a lot of Light and Stormys, which is ginger been, gin, and lime, and my life is really good right now.
Sarah: And my gest-, and my stomach is so happy, because the ginger makes my stomach happy, and the gin makes me happy. Life is great. So –
Scarlett: In Thailand it’s called a Gin-Gin, where you have gin, ginger beer with ginger in it. Slices of ginger.
Sarah: Ohhh! Oh!
Sarah: That’s just so beautiful! [Sniffs] I love this idea.
Scarlett: I’ll make you one on my canal boat.
Sarah: Please do! And now, you’ve named your canal boat of course already, right? I mean, I figure.
Scarlett: Right, well, I haven’t. I’ve decided that’s one of those things that I can let go to the children.
Sarah: So if, if I have only to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves, then one aspect of the person I want to be is someone who allows herself to be herself entirely.
Sarah: And the other thing that I read this year that completely rocked my world was an interview with a sociologist professor named Tressie McMillan Cottom, who wrote a book called Thick. She’s amazing. She has a podcast with Roxane Gay called Hear to Slay, and it’s incredible. But anyway, she did an interview with a magazine called Guernica and said, in the magazine interview, something that absolutely blew my mind.
“…nobody’s going to like you more because you hate yourself.”
Scarlett: Oh, I love that.
Sarah: The full quote is:
“You’re not doing anybody a favor. It’s just going to take them longer to come up with a good reason for disliking you. They’re always going to dislike you…so you may as well save yourself the time and admit that you are exactly what you are. Own it.”
Scarlett: I love that.
Sarah: Isn’t it amazing? Like, I was like, oh, I needed to hear that. Thank you for the universe for putting those words right in front of my eyeballs; I needed that right now. So one of the aspects of the person I want to be is to not hate, hate myself for being who I am. Just accept who I am and accept that sometimes I am like cilantro, and some people think I am like soap, and that’s okay!
Scarlett: [Laughs] Do you know what, I saw a quote so similar to that recently on Sarah Vrba. She does astrology and horoscopes and tarot cards and all that kind of stuff, but she has a great YouTube channel, and she said something along the lines of, it doesn’t matter what other people think of you because you will never leave your side.
Sarah: Ohhh! Oh, I like that!
Scarlett: And I thought to myself, do you know what? I am never going to leave my side.
Scarlett: And there was something so reassuring about that thought. But when you, when you said what you were saying, then it made me think of that quote too, which is –
Scarlett: – you know, by being yourself, you can be cilantro; you can taste like soap; it doesn’t matter, because you’re never alone, ‘cause you will never leave your side.
Sarah: I love that. So having that idea of, of comfort, what do you want to become? Where, where do you want to be?
Scarlett: I want to become one of those fabulous New York mavens with zero fucks to give. I want to be like a young Irene Apfel.
Sarah: [Laughs] Okay!
Scarlett: I am –
Sarah: I mean, how many fucks do you give now? I can’t see it’s more than five!
Scarlett: Ah! Yeah. Well, that’s probably five too many. I –
Scarlett: I just – so here’s, here’s the thing: one of the, one of the questions that we had asked, ‘cause we jumped to question three; the second one was, what is missing in my life?
Sarah: Yes, we did skip that one.
Scarlett: And, you know, for me, especially the last couple of years with perimenopausal depression, the joy and spontaneity went out of things.
Scarlett: You know, everything felt so planned, and because I wasn’t functioning at anywhere close to my normal levels, I always felt like I was behind, I always felt like I was playing catch-up, and if I had time I didn’t feel like I should, you know, just blow it off and go to the art gallery ‘cause I felt like it. I felt like I had to stay and do work, and everything became a little bit tick-the-boxes. Is the money put aside for the pension? Have you paid the bills? Where are you at with your work? Have you taken this child to this activity? And so, you know, if that was what was missing for me, I want that – you know, in the next ten years I’ll turn fifty; I’ll become an empty nester. You know, I want to, you know, I want to sit in that space of, you know, wearing whatever the hell I want and going to do whatever I want and following whatever creative impulse I have and not getting constrained by other people’s boundaries of what kind of writer I should be and what kind of genres I should be writing and whether this fits with the brand or doesn’t fit with the brand. I just want to have that – if I want to wear twenty-seven bangles in a rainbow of colors with a bright green jacket – which will never happen because I’m a black, gray, and silver gal – but –
Scarlett: – in, in, you know, if, if those things were my life goals, I just, I want to, I want to live in that space of just, you know, being gloriously myself!
Sarah: Yes. It’s, it makes me laugh so hard to hear you talk about wearing bangles, because in September I ended up looking on Instagram at people with multiple piercings – for some reason; I don’t remember why – and I remember thinking, wow, you know, I, I really wanted to get my ears double-pierced, and I was never allowed to, and then I was like, wait a minute! I’m forty-four Goddamn years old! No one can tell me not to pierce my ears!
Sarah: So I went to a piercing studio, and they carded me. Bless their hearts, they were like, we need your ID.
Sarah: I was like, well, here you go! I’m old enough to give myself permission to do this. So now, not only do I have double piercings, I actually have three. I got a third one –
Scarlett: Love it!
Sarah: – right before Thanksgiving, and, like, I’m really looking forward to picking out jewelry and decorating my ears, and I realized nobody notices piercings unless you’re thinking about piercings, and I noticed my postal carrier has piercings all the way up her ear and then inside on the inner folds, on, on her rook and her daith and, and on her tragus, and I was like, can I ask you about your piercings? They’re really beautiful! And she’s like, nobody asks me about my piercings! I would love to tell you all about them! And I, nobody notices! Nobody notices the things that I worry about, and I honestly don’t give a fuck what people think of my ears, but I, if I want to be the person who has metal all the way around my ear, I can do that!
Scarlett: I do –
Sarah: No one’s going to stop me.
Scarlett: I do think that goes back to what we were saying earlier about if you, if you are your thoughts and the universe conspires with you to give you what you need, if you are –
Scarlett: – thinking about all the ways why you shouldn’t pierce your ears because you were never allowed to and all the rest of it, you will just find reason to continue to reinforce that behavior. As soon as you allowed yourself –
Scarlett: – to start thinking, do you know what? I’m my age; I can do whatever I want; I can go get my ears pierced. All of a sudden, those things started to come into your life. You started –
Scarlett: – to read about them. You started to talk to your postal worker about them, who you’d never noticed, but probably had all those piercing all that time, right? That’s, that’s the universe delivering on their half of the intention.
Sarah: And asking myself, one of my, one of my major questions that I, that I ask myself often is, okay, who’s going to stop me?
Sarah: Why should I not do this? Why, why, why the hell not? Why not?
Sarah: The other, the other two questions – ‘cause we can’t just have four. No. Got to have two more.
Sarah: – is asking ourselves, what are we willing to do and what are we willing to release in order to be who we want to become in the next ten years?
Scarlett: That is such an amazing set of questions.
Sarah: It’s very hard. I think, you wrote them, so of course they’re amazing!
Scarlett: [Laughs] Well, it was a joint effort. But –
Scarlett: – what, what are you willing, what are you willing to release? is perhaps the most important, because everybody –
Scarlett: – everybody has got a really packed life right now. Like, if you ask anybody what they’re doing over the next month, they’ve got –
Scarlett: – full calendars! Everybody has, because life has a way of filling up the hours that we’ve got. So if you want to undertake anything new –
Scarlett: – if you want to make any change, you are going to have to find physical time.
Scarlett: You know, if one of them is to lead a fitter lifestyle and that starts by making time to go for walks or go to the gym or whatever, you have to physically find time, and clearing the mental clutter that stops you from believing that you can do it.
Scarlett: You’ve got to release those things –
Sarah: It’s so true.
Scarlett: – or else you’re going to set yourself up for failure in achieving all those things you really want to do.
Sarah: It’s true. One of the things that is the hardest is saying no to something.
Sarah: Even in the past twenty-four hours I’ve had conversations about this. Just say no! You can say no to things, and it’s going to be okay, and I have to tell myself that all the time. That it’s okay to say no, and the world isn’t going to end if you’re like, yep, nope, can’t do that, sorry.
Scarlett: Yeah. And it’s, and it’s hard to say that sometimes when you, there is perceived pressure or perceived implications that come from saying no. Right?
Scarlett: You know, when your editor wants that book by a certain date, and you know between now and then that your mom’s got to have a surgery and that means you’re going to be out of town for a while, and it’s your kid’s bar mitzvah and you’ve got to plan for it and book it, and you’ve got this and you’ve got that and you’ve got the other, you know, you feel like, well, maybe I won’t get the deal the next time. Maybe they’ll be angry with me. Maybe the, this’ll happen, that’ll happen, the other will happen if I say, no, I can’t make that date. But very often, if you actually say no, somebody says, okay, well, when can you get it done by? Oh –
Scarlett: – or, we understand, yeah. It’s going to be hard coming back from a trip and, you know, being ready to go straight into this.
Sarah: It is very hard sometimes to, to say no –
Sarah: – and to, to say a hard no. Earlier this year, when I was in Japan, at the beginning of, of 2019 – wow, that was only a year ago, and it feels like a really long time – I read a book called Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam, who’s a, a time management writer –
Sarah: – but one of the things that she talked about – and I know I’ve talked about this with you – is the concept of a jubilee year?
Sarah: Where you’re like, you know what? Everything is off my calendar, and I’m only putting back on the things that I want to do.
Sarah: Now, not everyone has the ability and the privilege to do that. You can’t be like, all right, well, person I need to care for who is in very, very delicate circumstances, I’m out. I’m not doing this anymore. But can you adjust what you’re giving to give more to yourself? Can you adjust what you do to give more to yourself and meet all of the commitments that are in your life?
Sarah: That’s a really hard question, because it means that you do have to say no.
Scarlett: Yeah. And that’s that, what are you willing to release, right?
Scarlett: Because sometimes we keep things on our calendars because we’re the, we’re, we assume we’re the only ones who can do it, or we’re the only ones who’ll do a good enough job.
Scarlett: Right? You know, where you, you don’t let go of control of – [laughs] – decorating your Christmas tree –
Scarlett: – because you, you know, can’t stand the thought of looking at it, but then it puts an extra two hours in your calendar because you’re the only one who can decorate your Christmas tree in a way that, way that you will like it, not that I know anybody like that. But, you know, in all seriousness, there are things that you need to be able to release. My friend Tony decided this year that she was going to release guilt.
Scarlett: She was not going to feel guilty about anything, and funny story, even today – so I am, I have bought a whole bunch of things for stocking stuffers for Christmas, and in it I bought myself these After Eight, they’re like straws, they’re like Matchmakers, you know, like long, thin versions? And I was sitting there –
Scarlett: – and I thought, you know what? I’m going to eat them. And so I posted on Instagram, because it actually said that – I’m just turning the packet now – that portions should be adjusted for children of different ages, and I thought, oh my God, could you imagine saying to your two-year-old, well, you can only have one, but your brother’s four, so he can have two. Like, that would just break out a war, so, you know, this was obviously written by somebody who didn’t have children.
Scarlett: And so To- –
Sarah: – kind of bullshit portioning is that?
Scarlett: Tony called me on it. She’s like, are you eating mints? And I’m like, yep! I said, and I bought them, so I feel no guilt, and she actually said, well, you know I don’t believe in guilt, so high five, right? [Laughs]
Scarlett: She just let go of guilt. That was the, the thing that she was going to release. She was going to let go feeling guilty about being the last mum to school pickup. She was going to stop feeling guilty about forgetting to send, you know, the child in out of uniform or whatever it was. She was just going to –
Scarlett: – stop feeling guilty about it.
Scarlett: And honestly, I –
Sarah: Which is related to me telling myself I’m doing it wrong, yes!
Scarlett: – I get a contact high from her when she’s letting go of guilt.
Scarlett: Because she’s just like, yeah, fuck it! I’m not, like, I’m not, I’m not going to feel sad about this.
Sarah: I’m not going to feel guilty; I refuse.
Scarlett: No. I just refuse.
Sarah: Oh. You know what I let go of this year? We, my family and I, we travel a lot, and, like, we went to Japan at the beginning of the year –
Sarah: – over the summer we went to New York, and that was all built around a, an exhibit of rock guitars and memorabilia at the Metropolitan that I knew my son would want to see –
Sarah: – so we built a whole weekend, long weekend out of going to New York. And sometimes eating on vacation can be challenging, ‘cause not everyone likes the same things –
Sarah: – and I said, all right, you know what? There’s no “should” on vacation. There’s no “should.” We’re not should-ing anything.
Sarah: There’s no you should do this; there’s no you should eat that; oh, I should have done this. No. There’s no “should.” And I’m thinking about it as we’re, you know, having a wonderful weekend. Like, why should there be “should” at all? Like, why – what, what is “should”? “Should” is external pressure of what someone else expects of me.
Sarah: Fuck “should”!
Sarah: I really should. There is no “should.” And I know there’s, I know that, I know that some therapists will say, well, you know, stop should-ing all over yourself.
Sarah: Yes! I am no longer should-ing in any direction at anyone else or – and I stop myself from saying it to my kids: well, you know you should – no? Nope, nope, nope. Not, excuse me, not going to say that. One option might be – but I, I am trying to take the word “should” out of my vocabulary.
Scarlett: Yeah. And, and if your goals, if your resolutions or your intentions over this year or ten years have any element of should in them –
Scarlett: – you “shouldn’t” be doing them.
Scarlett: Because, you know, if you want to become, let’s say if you want to become a fitter and healthier person – right, you’ve got young grandchildren; you want to be around to run around and play with them, and it’s a resolution that you want to become a fitter and healthier person so you can engage and play with them. If your actions from that is you “should” eat healthily, you “should” go to the gym, then you’re not going to be successful. These have to come from a place inside yourself where you actually want to change, and therefore the thing you are willing to do is you’re willing to make changes to your diet. If you “should” change your dieting, it’s not going to be successful, but if this intention comes from inside yourself, that you want to become this fitter and healthier person, then it actually is, it, it’s easier for you to make the change.
Sarah: I so agree with you, because “should” is external, and –
Sarah: – “want” is, is internal.
Scarlett: Yes. That’s a good way of putting it.
Sarah: It, it’s, it’s a totally different set of motivational directions.
Sarah: It’s a totally different place of origin for whatever it is that you want to do.
Scarlett: Yeah. Like, if you want to write a book – you, you’ve never written a book and 2020 is the year you’re going to write a book – you know, if you should get up at 5 a.m. to join the 5 a.m. Writers Club, that, that’s not going to work so great. You know, if, if you literally said, but that’s what other writers do; they get up at 5 a.m. – no, you’ve got to figure out the hour that you – what are you willing to do? What’s the hour you’re going to commit to writing? It doesn’t have to be the 5 a.m. Writers Club. I’ve never been in a 5 a.m. Writers Club, I don’t think. Maybe somebody can find a hashtag right at the beginning of my writing career when every tweet I wrote had #amwriting in it, but –
Scarlett: – you know, I, you know, when I had like three followers, and one of them was, like, Tim.
Scarlett: He’s like, yes, I know you’re at home writing, ‘cause I am at home working behind you.
Sarah: Am aware. Can confirm.
Scarlett: You, you’ve, you’ve got to find your own thing that, what are you willing to release? What are you willing to let go of so you can find the time? What are you willing to do? How are you going to make time to start writing that book? If they’ve got “shoulds” in there – you should join the 5 a.m. Writers Club; you should join a local RWA –
Sarah: It’s not going to stick!
Scarlett: It’s not going to stick.
Sarah: No. But that also informs how you’re going to be accountable. How are you going to be accountable for the goals that you’re setting? “Should” is not going to be accountable to anything.
Sarah: And figuring out what is going to make you accountable is a major component for me figuring out how I’m going to be doing the things that I want to be doing and achieving the things I want to achieve. I’ve worked out a number of systems that work for me. I know they don’t work for other people, and I know they don’t work for everybody, but I know how to hack my own brain and my own tendencies and what makes me feel good, and learning how to be accountable, whether it’s accountable to myself or accountable to other people, I’m much better being accountable to myself. But like you, that makes me my own worst taskmaster sometimes.
Sarah: Being a, figuring out how to be accountable in a way that isn’t full of “should” is really important for me.
Scarlett: Yeah. And I, I think there are so many different ways to keep yourself accountable?
Scarlett: Some people do respond well to external validation. Right? So –
Scarlett: – you know, I –
Sarah: Nothing wrong with that!
Scarlett: Yeah. I have, I have a standing monthly call with romance author Cindy Kirk. We met at RWA the year before last and just got to know each other and really enjoyed spending time with each other, and once a month we have a call and we go, what did we say we were going to do in the month that’s just gone by? How much did we get done? You know, what got in our way? What didn’t work? What are we going to do differently? We have a bit of, like, knowledge sharing, so maybe I’d read a book that contained some really interesting information; I want to share it with her. Maybe she went to a conference and, you know, she’s kind of got three or four things that were, that really stood out to her, and we share it. Then we make an appointment for next month, and we’re, we’re done. And it’s a really positive experience and it’s very work-focused. Then on my personal goals, I have my own system, and I’m very accountable to myself. I’m completely susceptible to a don’t-break-the-chain? Like, if somebody gives me –
Scarlett: – a good don’t-break-the-chain, I am all over that shit. Like, honestly, I, my husband will tell you, we, we, it wasn’t, it wasn’t really a competition, but there’ve been periods where we’ve kind of gone, well, how many Calm meditations have you done this month? Oh, well, how many Calm meditations have you done that month? [Laughs] But I got on a, like, don’t-break-the-chain of doing a Calm every day, and I think I got to like, eighty-six days where I’d done one consistently every day. And whilst, you know, I got a dopamine hit out of, like, crossing off in my calendar, like, look, I didn’t break the chain, by the end of eighty-six days it was a new habit.
Scarlett: And it was formed and it worked, so, you know, you can mix it up. You don’t even have to have, oh, I’m, I need an external person or I need to do it all myself. You can mix up personal goals, professional goals, and, and mix and match the way you actually hold yourself accountable to them, but the most important thing is that you’re engaged in the process and there’s some element of reward to it.
Sarah: Yes! You can have forward momentum without being unkind to yourself.
Scarlett: Yes. It’s so easy to do, right? Like, if you, if you plan to write ten thousand words this month, and then your baby got sick, and then you couldn’t –
Scarlett: – squeeze in your two hours for several days and you, you got six thousand words, it’s real easy to say, I only got to six thousand words.
Sarah: I failed; I didn’t hit my goal.
Scarlett: Yeah. Instead of a hell yeah on that big journey, that much longer journey of becoming an author, I’m six thousand words closer than I would have been.
Scarlett: Right, where that should be a source of celebration, you know, if you aimed aspirationally for ten and the conditions didn’t line up right so that you could do ten and you –
Scarlett: – still got six done – no “but” I only got six done; and you still got six done – that’s amazing!
Sarah: Yeah! It really is.
Scarlett: We’re so, we’re so hard on ourselves that, you know, if we, if we don’t make these goals, there’s something wrong with us as people. We’re not motivated enough. We’re, you know, we don’t have enough determination or courage or, you know – we’re, we’re so hard on ourselves. We, we find it impossible to actually sometimes look and go externally, well, my baby couldn’t help it that she got sick and I was up for four nights straight with her, and therefore I couldn’t get up at five till seven to, to write because I only got to bed at three. Like –
Scarlett: – you know. You would –
Scarlett: – and you would have that humanity for another individual. Like, if your friend called you and said, I tried to get ten, but the baby was sick and I only got to bed at three, you’d be like, oh my gosh, that’s so awful. The first thing you’d ask is, how is the baby and how are you? You wouldn’t say, well, ah, six is kind of shitty. Like, that would not be –
Scarlett: – the first words out of your mouth; you’d have some compassion. And so we do need to, you know, reframe failure and celebrate success.
Sarah: Yeah! How, how do you celebrate your success?
Scarlett: I give myself varying – so I, when I take a project and I break it down into pieces, I give myself an increasing size of reward. So it could be, you know, usually my normal week is, depending on how many words I’ve written is dependent on how many gins I get to drink on a Friday night?
Scarlett: That’s my, it’s my treat to myself? You know, but as I finish a first draft, and I get my nails done, because I tap the shit out of my nails when I’m typing, and they –
Scarlett: – they grow so fast, because my aesthetician says I’m constantly activating the nerves at the tips of my fingers. I’ve no idea whether that’s true or not, but it’s a good theory. But you know, I might get my nails done, and when I sign a book deal, you know, I might get something much bigger. Like, when I signed my seven-book deal with St. Martin’s Press I got myself a new big-ass monitor for my desk, right?
Scarlett: But I, I try to, you know, small goals get small rewards; big goals get bigger rewards. You know, ‘cause it keeps giving you that frequent dopamine hit to keep wanting to keep on working on it.
Scarlett: And then you don’t feel rubbish about yourself!
Sarah: My problem is always that when I set something that I want, I always want it right now. [Laughs]
Scarlett: I think that’s a very human condition, isn’t it?
Scarlett: And I do think –
Sarah: I want it right now.
Scarlett: – I think that goes straight back to that, you know, the opening quote that we were talking about, the Bill Gates one: most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in ten.
Scarlett: May-, maybe part of that is because we want the success right now, and then when we don’t get it at the end of the year, because we weren’t able to do the million tasks that really should have taken two and a half years?
Scarlett: We feel defeated, that maybe we’re not good enough, or maybe we can’t do it; maybe we can’t cut it; maybe this isn’t how it’s supposed to go; maybe I’m supposed to do something else; and saying, well, wow, did I just want that instantaneous gratification of it being done? You know, it’s like learning to play the piano. I would love to be – that, that was one of my decade goals, so I’ve been, I’ve been working on it. And I’m still only like a grade five because I’ve just been going slow and steady and doing –
Sarah: Oh, time out, time out, time out, time out, time out. I’m sorry, where are you?
Scarlett: Grade five.
Sarah: You are “still only” at grade five?
Sarah: Wait, I’m sorry; what, what, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait; let’s back up.
Scarlett: I, I know; all right. Thank you. I’m at grade five!
Sarah: [Laughs] You’re all the way at grade five?
Sarah: You’re all the way to grade five after practicing.
Scarlett: I am all the way – [laughs] – after practicing, I am all the way to –
Sarah: Fuck yeah, grade five!
Sarah: Sorry, I interrupted, and it was very rude, but I was being a total bitch about it. [Laughs]
Scarlett: I, I would probably be the equivalent of a, a year nine, maybe a ten school concert?
Sarah: Damn, girl!
Scarlett: And now I’ve completely forgotten why I was telling that I was learning the piano! Oh, because when you sit down at it, you want to be able to play a concerto, because concertos sound fricking amazing, but for now you’ve got to focus on “Jingle Bells” with two hands and one only moving chords every three notes, right? Like, it’s, it’s the steps. And so, you know, that instantaneous need to do it I think is what throws people off a lot of those big long-term goals, because it just seems so far off and so hard and so far away that it feels unachievable.
Sarah: Yeah! And it, and it, and it feels daunting, like you don’t want to start because it’s so far.
Scarlett: Yeah. And, and to come back to the start of our conversation, when you’re like, oh my god, people are like, ahh! 2030? Can we just get through 2010? 2010 –
Scarlett: 2010 will be a lot more productive and successful if you kind of know where – sorry, 2020 will be a lot more productive and successful if you know where you want to be at the end of the decade.
Sarah: Yeah. And part of that is knowing that you’re always going to be at your side.
Scarlett: Yeah. You will be at your side. And then you’re going to let go of being hard on yourself; you’re going to release feeling guilty. You’re, you’re –
Sarah: Fuck “should”!
Scarlett: – you’re going, we’re going to fuck “should.” Right?
Sarah: Yeah. [Laughs]
Scarlett: We’re going, we’re going to say no. We’re going to figure out the closest we can come to a jubilee year.
Sarah: Yeah. So you want to talk again in ten years and see how we did?
Scarlett: I would love to. This is –
Scarlett: – is it, is this like the equivalent of a ten-year time capsule? Are we going to, like, bury this –
Sarah: I bet it is; I bet it is.
Scarlett: – in the podcast, and then when we do it again in 2030, you can weave in bits of this conversation.
Sarah: Oh yeah! I absolutely can. [Laughs]
Scarlett: ‘Cause I’m probably going to be like a hardcore grade seven by 2030 on my piano. [Laughs]
Sarah: Did I tell you that this year, for 2020, I’ve decided to teach myself how to sew?
Scarlett: I could see you doing that, though. You’re great at cross stitch!
Sarah: I am – thank you! So I’m going to teach myself how to sew. By 2030, I will have made at least a handful of pieces of my own clothing.
Scarlett: You can bring them on our canal boat.
Sarah: I will bring them on the canal boat, and the gin.
Sarah: I’ll, I’ll make up something special to transport the gin carefully and gently –
Sarah: – to the boat. [Laughs]
Scarlett: I love it. Love it!
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. I would love to hear the answers that you have to our question. What are you proud of that you’ve done in the last ten years? What do you want to do in the next decade? What do you do to celebrate your own success? I’m very curious, and I would really love to know. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be absolutely delightful to hear from you.
And if you would like to find Scarlett Cole, you can find her on her website scarlettcole.com, and on Twitter she’s @itsscarlettcole. I will have links to where you can find her in the show notes as well.
Thank you again to our Patreon community. If you would like to join our Patreon group, it is patreon.com/SmartBitches. Monthly pledges begin at one dollar. Every pledge keeps the show going and helps make sure that every episode has a transcript, including this one, so thank you to our Patreon community, and if you would be interested in joining, it would be delightful to have you!
Coming up on Smart Bitches, we have reviews of new books; we have Help a Bitch Out, Books on Sale, and Bachelor recap. The Bachelor is back. Elyse is here. She’s got rum; she’s got Coke. It’s awesome, so come hang out with us; it’s delightful when you do.
I will have links to the apps, poems, podcasts, everything that we talked about in this episode; we talked about a lot of things.
But of course I will end this episode with a terrible joke, and this joke comes from Martin, who is part of our Patreon community. He handcrafted this joke for us, and it’s pretty terrible, and I love it. So from Martin – [clears throat]:
What does it take to get a regular column on a romance novel website?
Give up? What does it take to get a regular column on a romance novel website?
A couple of smart pitches.
[Laughs] That’s just delightful! Thank you, Martin! Smart pitches!
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend. We will see you here next week!
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to listen to at frolic.media/podcasts.
[end of lovely music]
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.