Tag Archives: Goals

Checking In On Those New Year’s Resolutions

Last year was spectacularly unproductive for me. I started on a roll but the unexpected death of someone close to me left me shattered and barely functioning for the rest of the year. So on New Year’s Eve, I set myself some goals for 2012. I do this pretty half-heartedly every year. After all, nobody ever sticks to their New Year’s Resolutions, right? Only this time I meant it. Really, really meant it.

I had a big goal in mind when I set my resolutions: to finish the current WIP before World Fantasy in November. That meant some serious edits. As of New Year’s Eve, I had a mostly complete first draft. It had issues – some big ones. A flabby middle (which I’ve christened the FM), lack of relationship building between key characters, some subplots were little more than a suggestion. I had two viewpoint characters but most of the manuscript was written from the perspective of one of them. It had been suggested that I needed a third viewpoint character and although I knew exactly what I wanted to do, it was difficult and very unlike anything I’d ever attempted so I had been putting off starting. In short, I had a lot of work to do.

So with the new year, I had a renewed focus. However what bothered me about focusing on edits for the next ten months was that I wouldn’t actually be writing during this time. Although the edits were necessary, it seemed I was facing a year of lots of writing work but few new pages.

So my New Year’s Resolution was deceptively simple: write a page a day. Something. Anything. Even while editing. Regardless of how it happened, I would produce a page a day of new words, be they new scenes in the WIP, blog posts, short stories, whatever. An additional benefit was that I’d be learning to keep two projects in my head at once, which is something I struggle with.

For a 31-day month, one page a day – assuming a standard 250-word page – comes to 7750 words. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But if I could consistently produce a page a day through 2012, it would give me 365 pages of new writing. I figured it was worth a try.

So four weeks into the new year, here’s how my resolution is panning out…

Week 1: Motivation levels are high. I’ve just had a week off work so I’m feeling somewhat refreshed. I’ve achieved my goal of one page a day every day this week. Word count: 3189 words, almost half of my goal for the month.

Week 2: Motivation is still high although I’m starting to flounder a little. I’ve spend some time this week on a new short story and a couple of blog posts. Not as much time on the WIP as I should have. Word count: 2616.

Week 3: This week has been almost easy. I feel like I’m developing a habit and I’ve worked on the WIP every day instead of letting myself get distracted with writing other things. Word count: 2988.

Week 4: Now it’s getting tough but I’ve not missed a day yet. Work count is 1974 and the week isn’t over yet. I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long and am starting to think that maybe I can actually achieve a page a day for the whole year.

Lessons

The big lesson I’ve learnt is that I can write every day, which I didn’t think I could do. My usual pattern is four days on then one or two days off, and I’ve never really tried to push past that before. I might be tired and a bit brain dead or, like tonight, ill and having trouble concentrating, but I’ve found I really can do it if I want it bad enough. And I think this is the first time I’ve ever had a New Year’s Resolution that lasted four weeks. Bring on February!

Okay, ‘fess up. What’s happening with your New Year’s Resolutions?

 

 

 

 

Managed Expectations

One of the things that the contributors to this blog do, as part of a larger community of writers, is to set goals for the coming week that we broadcast to each other. The things that we need to do, or aspire to do, written there and stated plainly to the others in our writing group. The following week, we not only make new goals, but we account for our progress on the old ones. It’s been a way that we can keep in touch with the goals of others, and act as encouragement for those who need it, or to celebrate in each other’s accomplishments. Sometimes we’ve cheered as someone gets a publication, and sometimes it’s been something as simple as praising someone meeting their quota of words for the week. It’s been a great way to keep in touch with what people are doing, and what people are hoping to achieve.

In another sense, it’s a way to keep each other accountable to our goals, even if the only sanction is a sense of shame at not having lived up to the standard you’ve set for yourself. There have been times where I have cheerfully and earnestly placed a goal – say something modest, like writing a few thousand words – only to fail at it, and then have to face up to writing that accounting the following week.

Sometimes I write my rationalizations – oh, what the hell, excuses. I was busy. I did this instead. I did that instead. Et cetera. Sometimes – the times when I really didn’t have an excuse – I just didn’t say anything. A flat, inflectionless statement of the coming week’s goals, as though last week’s mark had been completely forgotten.

Inevitably that leads to a sense of frustration and failure. Wracking up week after week of missed bars is not a good feeling, and there have been times when I have felt that keen frustration that comes achingly close to just calling the whole thing off, taking a hiatus, not bothering to keep up with the accounting.

This is the wrong way to go about it. If you’re at all like me – someone who has a desire to write, but has a whole lot of life in the way of it – it’s important to keep those goals, and those reckonings. But maybe they have to be shifted. Maybe this won’t be the year that the blockbuster gets written or the screenplay gets done. But maybe, if you can block off some time, hit your small achievable goals, well, that well keep the whole thing from turning into an inescapable morass of shame and failure.

For me, I have my final licensing exam for my medical boards in May. I will not have time to do much writing in these last five months – I just wont. Afterward, we’ll see. In the meantime, what goals can I achieve? How can I do enough to justify to myself that I am a writer, as opposed to some hobbyist with an unused laptop in the corner? Maybe for the next five months it will be blog posts, and small submissions to journals that carry prose and poetry in the medical humanities field. Maybe token goals – a scene a week, or a couple of hundred words. Something that won’t detract from the very real need to study for this exam, but will make me feel as though I’m still actively engaged in this equally important passion. A managed expectation, if realistic and still aimed toward the future, can still be an important one, and one that keeps you on the path forward until you can raise the bar higher once again.