I’m getting ready to leave for the Writers Police Academy later this week. Today is also Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (it’s 5773 in that calendar), which means there’s another chance to reflect on the previous year and another chance to review those resolutions and goals.
Did you set goals? How are you doing? Whether they’re writing related or life related isn’t the point. It’s having a direction, and a way to measure that direction. The key word is measurable. If you don’t know what you’ve done, you can’t know if you’re succeeding. And if your goals are too vague, you’ll get frustrated and abandon them.
So, before you set a vague goal like, “I’m going to lose weight” or “I’m going to finish a book,” look at them more carefully. How can you break them down?
If you’re looking to lose weight, what are your options? You can increase exercise. However, saying, “I’m going to exercise more” won’t cut it. You have to say, “I will go to the gym 3 times a week,” or “I will walk 2 miles four times a week.” You can’t say, “I’ll cut back on calories.” You have to say, “I will eat xxx calories per day,” or “I will have one piece of chocolate” (I’m never going to recommend giving up chocolate.)
For writing goals, finishing a book is kind of like eating an elephant. You look at what a finished book is going to be—my current one was over 100,000 words when I typed ‘the end’—and your first reaction is, “I can never do this.” But the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. If your goal is to write 500 words a day, you have something to measure. Know your limits, and set goals you can attain. But don’t make the bar so low that you’re not challenging yourself.
For example, my writing goal is to write 1000 words a day, 6 days a week. Do I meet the goal every day? No. But when I don’t, I’ll ask myself why—is it because of personal challenges? This year, I’m faced with an aging parent and have had to make several trips out to LA to visit. Writing came to an abrupt halt for those trips. Or, is it because I’m researching, or working out a plot problem? That, to me, is still working on the book, but it’s not putting words on the page.
I’d promised my manuscript to my editor by a specific date. When it looked like it was going to require a strong push to complete it on time, I upped my word count goals, but I did it in smaller increments. To double my production looked daunting. However, to try to write 300 extra words wasn’t a stretch. And from that, I could move the bar to 500 extra words, until I was writing well over double my word count.
So, on this first day of 5773, take a moment to reflect on how your own year is going—and there are nearly 4 months left in 2012 to address any changes you might want to make.
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society