Ok, so, you know what you want to accomplish in 2019. You had it all planned out in December, you started strong in January…but it’s the end of the month. Odds are, you might be feeling discouraged right now.
Let’s take a brief moment to look at goals, and a variety of types.
Odds are, if you’ve been writing, trying to make a go of it as a published writer, or find yourself pursuing productivity and goal setting in any manner, you’ve run into the SMART goal format. (You can read more about it here.)
So let’s take a goal I have that’s not clarified or realistic enough to pursue.
I want to publish a novel in 2019.
Specific? Not very. Measurable? Only in a, did I do it or not kind of way. Attainable? If I want to put out a $%^! book, yes. But I don’t want that. Relevant? Yes. Realistic? Not so much. Time based? Well…there is a time limit, but there’s no structure built into it. Ultimately, this goal isn’t specific, focused, realistic or milestone based enough for me to succeed.
Vision and Path Goals
Now, a fairly brilliant language learner and podcaster, Kerstin Cable, has a brilliant method involving Vision and Path goals. My vision goals are where I want to be. Looking at my dinosaur novel, I want to be…
- Finishing a second draft of my dino novel and getting crit work done
- Talking to Sherard Jackson to see if they’ll do illustrations or a cover for me
- Going to fantasy and romance conventions, talking about and selling my book
- Figuring out self publishing and promoting my work
- Putting out the very best book I can.
- Finding people making fanart for my world
All of these are visions, or dreams. They’re not goals, but they’re results I want to achieve. Most of the goals following the first can’t be accomplished until I finish the one before it. So let’s take that first goal, make it smart, and incorporate the dreams and the desires that follow.
My goal for 2019 is to finish a second draft for Hexed, attend workshops on hybrid and self publishing, attend more conferences, and start making connections with editors, publishers, agents, and artists.
There. I’ve combined my goals into the dreams I want to achieve, the things I want to do. The desire is there. The specific, the measurable, the time based? Not so much. How am I going to accomplish this?
I will finish a second draft by December 1, 2019. Is this realistic? For me? Yes. Is it ambitious? No. It is definitely attainable–considering I want to write a handful of short stories next year as well–but it’s not unrealistic.
I will attend RWA events and workshops in my city and online to learn more about craft, publishing and marketing. But wait. I’m missing the time portion there, aren’t I?
I will attend a RWA event or workshop once per quarter, in my city or online, to learn more about craft, publishing and marketing. Realistic and time based? Check. Ambitious? No. We’ll get into the why not at the bottom.
I will remain active on Twitter and at local and online writing events, interacting with artists, agents and publishers I want to be friends with. I will grow my network by being a human being who wants to help others, even if they might not help me. Time-wise, this means I will post on Instagram and twitter weekly.
It’s time to move on to…
These are the steps I am going to take to succeed. So let’s look at the first goal, finishing a draft by December 1st. Here are the path goals that worked for me in the past, and the ones I will start 2019 with.
- I will write 5 hours a week, or 5 times a week. I will not beat myself up when injuries/work/loss/acts of god interfere
- I will email Brystan weekly about my writing goals, my successes, failures, stressors, or victories.
- I will bookmark 750words.com and dabblewriter.com on my phone, so I have zero excuses. (new workplace also doesn’t have wifi signal but)
- I will limit myself to outlining panic attacks to 7 days at max. If I haven’t solved an issue in that period of time, it’s time to start writing and winging it.
For the local events and networking with others, I have a series of strategies involving utilizing the buddy system, running out to event sites a few days before so I don’t stress about traffic, and in general, just give myself permission to fail, so long as I try.
Lack of Ambition or Realistic Goals?
Now, my goals are not as ambitious as Brystan’s are this year. You could even call them, a little…lackadaisical. As an extremely driven workaholic, I am extremely tempted to say I will finish two drafts of the novel this year, finish a draft on my co-writer project Maps, and write and submit 12 short stories for publication.
But very slowly, I am learning that I am not superwoman. I cannot do everything. A few years ago, I had a car accident that took my abilities down even further.
Going to big conferences with hundreds or thousands of people with PTSD and severe social anxiety? I can’t just excitedly sign up and not worry about the panicked last minute bow out later. Just over new year’s, I went over to a friend’s house for a party, expecting there would be 5-6 people. Finding out there would be 15 or more, I fled their house, hyperventilated and stress ate fast food, and considered if I could do this, or if I needed to bail before I ruined their party.
Right before the accident, I was dancing, 3, 4 nights a week, and beginning to dance at restaurants. I knew nearly every dancer within 100 miles of me at the time. And then I spent the next six months on bed rest, and every time I tried going back to dance for the following 3 years, I re-injured myself.
But. I am still an optimistic and driven person. I still want to write, and I’ve learned over time what strategies and goals work for me. Sometimes, I beat myself up that I can’t write and publish a novel every three months like X writer, or write 50,000 words in a weekend, like Y writer–but I know what I can do.
And it’s taken a lot of trial and error, but I know who I am today, and I try very hard not to compare myself to the writer I used to be. I can’t write 10,000 words in 3 hours anymore, but I also don’t only write angry verbal female protagonists.
So, while I have set seemingly low writing goals, you’re not seeing the realistic language goals, fitness goals, education goals and everything else that is going on. So do what’s ambitious for you–but be realistic about it, too.
Discipline and Grit
A lot of what this year is about for me is creating and maintaining discipline. As a writer, I am prone to be flighty, seizing on new ideas, fluttering into the sky, and then coming back down to earth, confused how I burned my wings. Only to heal and immediately dash back up to the sun and crash back down again.
While even I am a bit disappointed in my goals this year, when I take a step back, and look at my life, I see something I’ve never had before: Balance.
As a working writer, that’s an interesting balancing act. You need to push yourself to write more, but you can’t assume this book or the next one is going to allow you to quit your day job. You can’t assume X politician is going to make individual health care plans affordable for you and your family that you can pay reliably with your advances.
It’s taken me three years, but I’ve finally found a job that gives me satisfaction in what I do, moderate levels of responsibility, and respects a work life balance. I’m not bored to tears and considering suicide–but I’m also not panicking every night, that the form I signed or didn’t sign that day is going to ruin the life of one of my students.
So even if my goals are small today, I’ve learned that I can change them on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. And even if I start with small goals, once I build up the habit, the discipline, these goals can and will grow.
But I can’t start at world domination. I have to start as the working writer, doing the 8-5, feeding her family, and writing as much as my brain, body, and life will let me, right now.