by Randy Henderson
Happy New Year!
Rather than share events from my past year, I thought I’d offer a bit of encouragement and advice to help with the coming year. While this is aimed primarily at my fellow writers, it also, I think, can be applied to life in general.
This weekend, I encourage you to sit down and do three things:
1) Create a calendar/schedule for your goals and tasks.
2) Create, or update, your list of goals and tasks.
3) BELIEVE and do what makes you happy.
One of the things I often do is to make resolutions, set goals, create to do lists, etc. and then get busy doing All The Things (and being distracted by cute animal videos and other interweb evils, etc.) and end the day having done a lot of things that were not actually those things I’d planned.
Don’t just make a to do list. Put the tasks on a calendar/ schedule.
Block out specific times where you are going to do each thing. And be realistic about it. Know thyself. Leave yourself time to snuggle, eat, nap, play with the pets, check social media, etc. as well as pad the time to allow for warming up mentally or physically to a task if necessary.
By prioritizing the things you really want or need to get done and blocking out specific times for them on your calendar, they are much more likely to get done, and in the order you want them to get done, than if you just create a list.
CREATE/UPDATE YOUR LONG- AND SHORT-TERM GOALS
Setting specific goals is an important task. It helps you to stay focused on the tasks, and projects, that will actually move you in the direction you want to go, and not be distracted or sidetracked by tasks or “opportunities” that will not. And achieving goals gives you a sense of progress and growth.
I began using this general model horked from Booklife by Jeff Vandermeer, which I highly recommend for additional clarification on setting goals, and other aspects of living the life of a writer.
It basically breaks down like this:
- Write a mission statement (who you want to be as a writer).
- Translate that into Goals. Write down where you want to be as a writer in five years. Then break those goals down into shorter-term goals and tasks. Some goals break down easily to tasks (breaking a 100k word novel down into word count increments) and can be set up front. Other tasks (managing your inbox, buying printer ink) are also needed but will be fluid, popping up as needed, and so will be managed and updated week to week, day to day.
- Update your Goals and Tasks. And you will need to occasionally update not only your short term task lists, but your long term goals as well. Perhaps you realize the goal timeline is unrealistic with your current life priorities. Perhaps you realize working toward that goal is not making you happy and a different goal will make you happier (e.g. you began writing a YA novel because that’s what’s hot, but YA is not your real love). Perhaps you have a life event that requires some adjustment to timelines. Perhaps an opportunity comes up that you decide to seize. Perhaps you achieve a goal and so need to make new ones to replace it.
Some examples are below. These are not my goals per se, but just some examples of the types of goals a writer might set.
Five Year Plan:
- Publish at least two books with traditional publishers.
- Self-Publish at least one book or story (to familiarize with process/ options).
- Won’t pursue or accept commercial/ tie-in novel offers until at least one original novel published.
One Year Plan (what you need to do in next year to be on target for your 5 year goals, update yearly):
- Complete new book.
- Get agent for new book.
- Sell two short stories to pro markets (ideally one set in same world as my book)
- Get speaking and reading opportunity at one or more conventions.
Monthly Task List (what you need to do this month to be on target for your 1 year goal, update monthly):
- Write at least 20k new words each month on book and short stories.
- Complete at least one new short story every three months.
- Read at least one novel (alternate between same genre as my WIP and not).
- Attend critique group at least once.
Weekly Task List (what you need to do this week to be on target for your monthly task list, update weekly):
- Write at least 5k new words on new book/stories.
- Post at least one new blog post, and/or at least three original posts across social media.
- Submit any completed or rejected stories.
- Respond to request for interview by Friday.
- Return contract by Tuesday
Daily Task List (what you need to do today):
- Write at least 715 words
- Resubmit any rejected stories
- Clear out inbox
- Buy printer paper
- Work on interview questions
BELIEVE AND DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
Writing is a masochistic occupation. It is full of rejection and hard work, usually for infrequent and underwhelming reward. And yet, for me, there is just no substitute for the happiness and sense of fulfillment it brings me, to face a blank page, and out of nothing to create worlds, and lives, and moments filled with drama and dread and joy and magic.
Just remember that setting goals as a writer doesn’t guarantee they will happen, or that your writing will achieve the level of commercial success you wish for.
BUT, if writing makes you happy, then write. And by setting goals, you will improve your chances of success, and you will be able to recognize and celebrate each small success. And the more you write, the better your writing will be, and the more the odds, and number, of successes will be in your favor.
Do not despair at the rejections, or the novel that didn’t work. Focus on your goals, and know that it is only a matter of time until they are met.
And most importantly, you are still writing, and that in itself is pretty dang awesome.
Finally, here’s a link to my SFWA article on how to be happy as a writer for some specific tips on doing so.
His “dark and quirky” contemporary fantasy novel, Finn Fancy Necromancy, is coming from TOR, February 10, 2015.