How are you doing so far with your New Year’s Resolutions and writing goals for 2011?
Hopefully you did the goalsetting bit right and are powering on with them!
Or have you already broken them? Or did you not bother making any at all, ‘cos you know from bitter experience all they do is make you feel like a failure?
That’s been me most years, one or the other. I really hope I can do it differently this year. I’m old enough to know better than to keep on doing what doesn’t work. If you are feeling like a failure because you haven’t met your writing goals, that’s not really true. You haven’t failed as a writer. Maybe you simply set the wrong goals. I know I often have.
The New Year starts off all clean and fresh and hopeful and positive, and by around now I am usually sitting in a corner crying and feeling like crap (well, that was yesterday, and it wasn’t over writing, it was over other goals that are less under my control than my writing is).
I have a history of setting crazy high goals I could never manage to keep going longer than three days. Impossible daily word counts, or finishing the story by a date that’s insanely too soon are my favourites. Problem is, every time I crashed and burned and couldn’t do it, I felt like an even worse failure as a writer than I did when I started.
So the easy answer was to give up on goalsetting. I’d write when I wrote, and that was okay.
Only problem with that was, it got me nowhere. Sure, I’d write. Lots of ideas and first chapters that never went any further, because without the discipline of a goal to keep me focused, I’d follow whatever bright shiny idea came along, and never stuck at anything long enough to get results.
Good goals are goals you can keep. Good goals deal with things you can control. Good goals are goals that get you where you want to go.
I’ve had loads of practice setting bad goals. To write 3000 words a day when I have a busy full-time job. To get published by Mills and Boon by the time I was fifty. To enter writing contests that were for lines I really didn’t want to write for. Baaaaad goalsetting!
Good goals start with thinking about what it is you really want, then working out the steps to get there. It’s not usually going to be easy, or doable in one step, or we’d already be there. A bit like that old joke where a lost tourist stops his car to ask a local how to get to the place he wants to be, and the local replies, “Well, if you want to get there, you really don’t want to be starting from here.”
My big dream come true goal is to take early retirement, move back to Australia, and make my living from writing romance. That’s a massive goal. I’m not going to get there from here. But if I can get myself a few steps closer, I might just get to where I can reach “there” from.
Steps to get there- Improve my writing. Learn how to present it better. Submit it to the right places. If I get rejected, learn from that. Either revise the story to submit somewhere else, or start a new story. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and repeat some more.
But those steps aren’t what I really need, either. I need specifics. I need to know what I have to do today and every day to get me there.
I like this blog post where writer Hart Johnson applies science to goal setting. She differentiates between goals and strategies. Goals are the results we want, big aims that break down into smaller stages. Strategies are the things we need to do to achieve those stages, real, concrete, measurable things.
So, the things that will get me published are to write better, write finished stories, and submit them.
The practical task that will show I am doing that is to finish my work in progress, edit it up, and submit it.
The strategies to get there are to stick with writing at least 500 words a day on work days, 1000 words a day on non-work days until I finish first drafting the work in progress, my SYTYCW story. I know this is a realistic, do-able target. 5000 words a week and 55,000 more words to write, so I aim to have that done by the end of March. I need to edit up the first three chapters and update the synopsis, so a realistic subbing target is the end of April. There’s a bit of leeway in there, so if real life gets in the way, it won’t derail me.
Then on to the next step- starting rewrites on my rejected SuperRomance, to sub elsewhere.
So far, 9 days into the New Year, it’s working! Though there’s a lot of year still to go.
It should keep working, because what I have set myself to do is realistic and practical. I’m determined. I’m ready to change the way I do things and make the changes last. I want 2011 to be the year it happens for me. Maybe not publication with Mills and Boon, but by this time next year I will be published or at least had a story accepted for publication. I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep editing. I’ll keep subbing. I’ll keep learning. I’ll keep growing as a writer. In the end, that’s all it will take- keeping on and not giving up.
Chelsea over at Sassy Sisters wrote a wonderful post on goal setting that reminded me of the most important piece of all- celebrating the little successes along the way to the big goal.
The big goal is so huge- to make my living from writing full-time, that measuring myself against that goal, I feel a constant failure. But there are so many smaller goals along the way I can feel good about, from sending in a sub, to sticking to writing 500 words a day minimum, to finally getting a handle on story structure, to understanding character arc and why proactive characters are so important.
So, wherever you are, if you are powering into the New Year or looking at the flaming wreck of good intentions and wondering why you bothered, remember to celebrate what you have achieved and what you’ve learned. If what you’ve tried isn’t working, it’s never too late to start again. That’s what I keep telling myself.
And it’s true.
If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes. – Andrew Carnegie