03 March 2012

Resolve to Build Goals

It’s the beginning of March. The weather has been screwy but we still have a nice campfire and hot cocoa to drink as we chat. Pull up a log and grab a mug.
Today, I wanted to discuss New Years Resolutions.
I bet you’ve had one to become an author.
How are you doing on that one?
Made any progress on it?
How can you track progress with something as nebulous as “Become an author?”
Okay, so that extracts a confession.
I had “Become an author” on my Resolution list for almost 10 years. I’d sit and write, maybe track my page count. I didn’t establish any true direction to fulfilling my resolution. Finally, about the end of 2005, after having worked through my first National Novel Writing Month, I realized I needed to get serious if I wanted to make the resolution a reality.
Resolutions became a forgotten thing when the New Year rolled around. It took me three months of sitting and looking at what I wanted to be resolutions. I broke them down. I shoved their ideas into boxes then shook them around. What I ended with was a list of measurable goals that I could point to and show progress. When the progress became visible, I found the path became clearer for me.
Let’s find that clearer path together by establishing a goal for yourself. Remember: Everything that follows is advice and not intended as Holy Grail lore.
To properly establish a goal, first you have to know what works best for your tracking needs. Daily tracking doesn’t work well for me, but it might for you. Additionally, consider if you’re offering a more public tracking of this goal. Will you update others on Facebook or a blog regarding your progress? How often do you want to reveal that to your audience? These two numbers don’t have to be the same. Consider, you might track your writing weekly, but only update your writing status on Facebook once a month or once a quarter.
Now that we’ve found how we’re tracking our writing, now we need to figure out what we want to track. What number means the most to your personal accomplishment daemon to make you feel progress? Some people track pages. Some get more specific and track words (like me.) Others may track larger blocks, like chapters.
Starting off, try not to track something so large and nebulous it becomes like our original dilemma. In other words, don’t say a novel a month when you first begin. When you’re just getting rolling, you’ll be tempted to place a large burden on the goal. Maybe, 7,000 words a week or 120 pages a month or 5 novels for the year.
Please don’t do this.
If you do nothing but write, with no other responsibilities, it might be possible. However, I don’t recommend it. With that pace, burn out definitely becomes visible. Then we have to work you from a writer’s block, breaking the chisels on the concrete at your feet. It won’t be pleasant.
Start small. Give yourself an achievable goal. If it falls quickly and painlessly, at the next review, increase it. Keep increasing it until it becomes difficult to achieve, but not impossible.
My final word of advice – Don’t lose sight of the fun you could have writing just because you’ve established a goal. Otherwise, everything might be lost.

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