It’s everyone’s favorite time of year again, when we make big resolutions to change our lives and get our ish together for the next year. Speaking from personal experience, some resolutions might be as broad as “lose weight” or more specific, such as “write a book.”
Resolutions seem like such lofty things. There’s a lot of built-in pressure, typically followed by a bunch of disappointment when you realize halfway through the year that you’re no closer to completing said resolution than you were on January 3rd. And usually by that point, because I feel there’s no way I can achieve the resolution in that time period, I simply give up, cross it off my list, and move on to the Next Big Idea.
But that’s not right, is it? Because I’ve let myself down. Maybe I’ve even let someone else down because they were expecting that thing from me. And that’s where I don’t want to suck – I can live with letting myself down, but if I’m letting down someone else, it will eat away at me until I figure out a way to get it done. And then I’m miserable and annoyed and half-assing my way through it which is no better than not doing it at all.
Goals, however, are a little more solid. They’re straightforward, and you can take clear action steps to achieve the goals. There’s still some pressure, but even if you fall behind, you can readjust your action steps to still achieve at least part of your goal.
Let’s start with something we probably all are familiar with over the years. Rather than writing down “lose weight,” I’d suggest switching it to a specific goal: “Lose 50 pounds.” Once you make that goal, you can break it down into more specific actions that are tailored to your personality and/or schedule. HOW will you lose 50 lbs? Maybe it’s dropping soda and eating salad for lunch, or going to the gym 3x a week, or walking your dog everyday. See how those are a little more specific (i.e. realistic) than simply saying “lose weight?” And even if you haven’t lost weight by, say, June, you can again readjust those action steps – choose a smaller weight loss goal, or up your gym routines, eat only lettuce for 60 terrible days, etc.
Let’s go back into the writing side of things. Sure, you can say you want to write a book. It can be your first book, or your fiftieth, but there’s your goal. Then break it down – have you even started this book yet? Or are you still outlining? Maybe the specifics include writing at least 500 words a day, or taking one day a week to research your content and outline your world/plot. Every step you take is one step closer to reaching your goal.
Now, are you planning on having the first draft done within the 2017 calendar year, or do you want to get the first draft done within 6 months so that you can edit and query to agents, or self-publish by a particular date? (In which case, pick your date and do everything in your power to stick with it – trust me, there’s nothing like a pending deadline to light a fire under your ass and get it written.)
I know this method works because it’s how I got HoA done. If I’d simply said, “I want to release a trilogy,” I would’ve hemmed and hawed and found every excuse under the sun to put it off, because I am a champion procrastinator. However, by selecting “Summer 2017” with specific dates 30 days apart, and by announcing it to readers, that motivated me to get the work done. I made myself accountable, and couldn’t bear to disappoint not just readers, but myself. Now, it’s true I hardly came up for air for about a year, but by god, I did it, and the readers were thrilled I held up my end of the bargain. And so was I. I accomplished a hell of a goal, something I can look back on proudly and as a highlight of my writing career thus far. But it wouldn’t have happened had I not made goals and action steps in order to move forward.
So, let’s make some goals. I want to release Donovan Circus #5 in 2017, most likely during the summer. I’d also like to have a first draft of a YA dystopia novel I’m working on to be completed by February (as I’m nearly halfway through it). That gives me time to edit, possibly query (as I’m still on the fence), and possibly self-publish by fall (if I don’t query, or get no bites and decide to go ahead with it myself). I also have an anthology short story releasing in April. I’ve also just been accepted into a big YA boxed set for August. In addition, I’m either hosting or participating in signings and conferences in January (RRWC), February (Mysticon), April (RAI/RavenCon), and June (Utopia), with possible additions to be added for the fall.
You can plot your goals out however you’d like, whether it’s on a computer screen, written by hand and placed on a post-it right in front of your face, a vision board that stays up to motivate you when writing, a handy planner or bullet journal, etc. The options are endless, and can be whatever works for you. The important thing is that you make the goal and do everything in your power to achieve it. Believe me, once you’ve reached it, your chest will puff up with such pride that you might fall right outta your chair.