It seems fitting that the second post on this blog and my first post of the year should be, in the grand traditions of evaluating what we want to accomplish during the coming year during New Years, is about setting goals. Something I come to think every writer should make the time to do at the end of one year and early in the next, and something I’m doing this year myself.
What are goals anyway?
People tend to make resolutions this time of the year. I’m going to join the gym and get in shape, I’m going to eat healthy, I’m going to write that novel I’ve always wanted to write etc. And all those things are fine. But, and this is something that finally dawned on me one day after years of not meeting my resolutions, they’re not the same thing. Resolutions are often treated as intangible, someday I’m going to do what I set out to.
Goals are tangible. Not pipe dreams of writing and getting a novel trade published in a year. It’s not that going all in is a bad thing, it’s awesome to shoot for the stars. But they should be things that are both challenging and achievable such as writing that writing that novel, whether it be the draft for one person or 1st draft to query letter ready in a year for another. Reaching too high, particularly in an unrealistic way— the trade publishing world moves kind of slow compared to other industries— just means we’re setting ourselves up for failure.
Recognising and picking goals…
I think it goes without saying, despite my blunt tone, that the goals we set ourselves for the year should be things that we would be proud to achieve and genuinely want to accomplish.
The easiest way I can think to do this is to sit down and write a list of things we want to do writingwise this year, no matter how much of a pipe dream as long as it makes us proud. Once you have the list, ask yourself the following questions about all the items on it:
Is it realistic but challenging?
Can I break it down into small, manageable chunks?
Am I willing to put in the time to and effort?
Anything that isn’t realistic should be struck off the list, allowing us to let go of the item. To in a sense tell ourselves that it is completely OK we can’t do whatever that item is at this point in time. After all, there’s no use beating ourselves up about the things we can’t do instead of doing the things we can.
Look at what remains. Is there anything that you aren’t willing to devote time to this year or can’t be broken down into manageable chunks? Cross those off the list as well.
By now you should have a, hopefully, much smaller and easier to handle list. The best part, IMO, as a lover of lists. Because now you have total freedom. Freedom to use all the things on the list that you’re left with as goals, or to pick one, two, however many of the items that remain which you genuinely feel you can accomplish, would be proud to accomplish and are willing to work towards.
Reaching your goals…
It feels a bit ironic to me that I’m talking about reaching goals, as I’m bad at it. But maybe we can get better at reaching our goals together. Who knows.
Maybe we will, maybe we won’t.
Either way, it’s time to take that list and turn it into a plan to help us reach our goal(s) for the year. Having goals without a plan often turns out just as badly as making a run of the mill resolution. It doesn’t have to be a paper plan, but I’ve found that having even a mental plan helps. And for me, planning on paper is even better than a mental plan because I can’t ignore it unless I deliberately delete the file or lose the paper/notebook my plan is in. Do whatever works for you, be it Gannt chart, the major tasks in list format, or something like a Bullet Journal.
It doesn’t have to be a paper plan, but I’ve found that having even a mental plan helps. And for me, planning on paper is even better than a mental plan because I can’t ignore it unless I deliberately delete the file or lose the paper/notebook my plan is in. Do whatever works for you, be it Gannt chart, the major tasks in list format, or something like a Bullet Journal.
Plan in hand, it’s time to follow through with the plan. Work towards the goal in some way every day or however many days a week you realistically have time for, and take the time to reevaluate and see how much you’re progressing. Seeing the progress will help to inspire you to keep going when the goal seems far away, gives you the chance to say “yes, I have made progress and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made so far.”
My goals for the year…
It doesn’t seem fair to me to have you sit here and read my blabbering all about goals without letting you know what my 2017 goals are.
This year I hope to…
- Create a thriving blog.
- Finish my current novel and get it query-ready.
- Write and submit 12 short stories, with one of those stories hopefully being accepted somewhere.
- Participate in a personal poetry writing challenge and submit 12 poems, with one or more of those poems, again, hopefully being accepted for publication.
- Write two novellas.
It’s not a huge list at only five items long, but they’re all things I know that I can do if I chip away at them. Maybe I’ll even get to start another novel or the research for it!
Feel free to join me in my next post where I will be talking about how Bullet Journaling can be a great tool for writers.