Every year I write about goals and sometimeswe collect them here and see how everyone has done at the end of that year.
The truth is, I talk about goals all the time–NaNo goals, First of the Month goals, Whim goals, Goals Because the Month Started on a Sunday, I Feel Like It goals, Novel Deadline goals, The Night Before I Go to Bed Goals for Whatever Reason . . . You get it, right? I like making goals. I love accomplishing what I set out to do. But the truth is, I always overshoot. Always.
This past NaNoWriMo found me changing rules because I had a book deadline. Here’s what I wanted to do: rewrite a novel for an editor. Ann Dee and I would finish our book. AND I would rewrite and finish the book I was 10,000 words away from completing from an earlier NaNo. It didn’t all happen.
But I don’t beat myself up when I don’t accomplish what I set out to do. Guess what? Life gets in the way. Always. And while writing is my job, sometimes caring for Mom or being with my girls takes me from my job. I’m blessed to be able to leave my home office and walk in to where there are.
To be successful as a writer, we have to get comfortable with our goal making. Maybe you don’t feel okay when you fail at what you’ve set for yourself (I had a friend who was overzealous like me. This was back in the day. She charted her goals on graph paper and posted them on her fridge, just like I did. She went to a therapist who told her this was bad for her because she always felt like crap when she complete all 250 goals a year!).
here are some ways to set about making your goals. You know, so you don’t end up going to a therapist!
1. Aim at a reasonable target. I knew when I made my November goals they would probably not happen. I was okay with accomplishing only 1.7 of what I set for myself. Make your goals reasonable and achievable. Could I have accomplished what I set out to do November? Yes. However, I made choices that kept me from doing this. Keep Shel Silverstein’s Melinda Mae, who ate a whale a bite at a time, in mind. She’s a good example of winning.
2. Stretch yourself. The idea of a goal, for me, is to stretch. I want to be a better writer, a faster writer, a more thoughtful writer. I shoot a little higher so I have to stand on my tippy-toes to reach the prize.
3. If you’re a writer, don’t make writing your reward after a day of chores accomplished. Instead, make it your habit. Too many times we reward ourselves with writing. When the car is cleaned out. When the house is straightened. When the mile is run. Writing, itself, is the prize. Why put it off? There’s always something that will take your time. Give yourself to writing first, if possible.
4. Set yourself a word count to reach, not a number of hours of Butt in Chair. I can sit at my computer all day, for eight hours, and write nothing. I can research, watch YouTube, read blogs, check Facebook–You’ve done it yourself, right? If you say I’ll write 2000 words today and won’t get up till I’m done, then you’ll run the chance of writing almost ten pages in that writing session.
5. As Anne Lamott says, allow yourself to write shitty first drafts. Here’s where she says it: http://wrd.as.uky.edu/sites/default/files/1-Shitty%20First%20Drafts.pdf
Good, strong writing takes time. Thoughtful writing takes time. And stories are perfected in rewrite. Give yourself permission to write as fast and dirty and drafty as you can. Ignore the voice that tells you that adverb has to go. Write on. Then, in rewrite, begin the amazing work of perfecting the story.
6. Give yourself reasonable goals that YOU control. My dear friend, Rick Walton, taught me this and I have repeated it here many, many times. I will sell three books this year is a much harder goal to accomplish than say, I will write three books this year. You control your writing, but the publishers? Not so much.
7. Tell Writer’s Block it isn’t real. Then believe it. If you’re having a hard time with a novel, you’ve probably taken a wrong turn in your story. So back up and read to see where you’ve gone astray. Don’t wait for the Muse. She may never show.
8. We do what we love. Learn to love writing. Even if you hate it at the same time. Enjoy the struggle of making a passage work, developing a character, working through a difficult plot. Remember–good writing is work. My goal for any novel, once it’s done, is to love that I’ve written.