Day Late, Dollar Short (or How I Make New Year’s Resolutions)

Yeah, I know it’s already January 4.  But really, this is the first working day of the new year.  So, the fact that I’m supposed to post on the first of each month shouldn’t really matter, right?  Even if my post is about how to impose discipline on writing, specifically through the use of New Year’s Resolutions?

First off, let me clarify:  I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  Instead, I set goals for myself.  To me, “goals” are far more concrete than “resolutions”.   For example, instead of saying,”I’m resolved to lose weight in the new year”, I’ll say, “I set a goal to lose mumble-mumble (I don’t mumble to myself; I just mumble to you guys, here, in public) pounds in the new year.”

Because I come from a business background, with an unhealthy addiction to strategic plans, I break out my goals further, defining specific strategies:  1)  I’ll walk for at least one half hour at least six days a week; 2)  I’ll count Weight Watchers points; 3)  I’ll weigh myself weekly.

And because I’m only human, I give myself rewards:  I’ll buy one pair of cool socks for each whisper-whisper (a measurable fraction of the overall mumble-mumble) pounds that I lose.

So.  Why am I sharing my weight loss plans with you?

Because they mimic my writing goals.

I used to make resolutions with regard to my writing, saying things like, “I’ll get published this year” or even “I’ll sell the X Series this year.”  Along the way, though, I’ve learned that such vague self-promises have no meaning.  In addition, they might well be beyond my ability to accomplish – not because I lack will, or because I lack ability, but because publication is actually out of my hands, in many, many ways.

Therefore, I now set career goals:  I will write X words this year.  I will prepare Y proposals for my agent to submit.  I will read Z books as background for Big New Project.

Because each of these goals is wholly within my own realm of control, I can also create strategies.  I can block out time for writing and for reading.  I can harness software, such as Scrivener, to create my proposals.  I can find my library card.

And, of course, I can set up rewards for goals met:  social gatherings with writer friends, books purchased purely for escapist fun, long walks in favorite woods.  (I try not to make my writing rewards conflict with my weight loss rewards!)

So, how about you?  Have you made resolutions?  Did you set goals?  How have you made those plans concrete?

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  1. 1. D. Moonfire

    I found that vague goals really don’t succeed for my own thoughts also. Like “I want to be published” means that you might make decisions just to be published instead of “published well”. For example, not going with vanity press which is published for some people, but not really helpful beyond that.

    Though, I’ll admit, I have a self-publish (via Lulu.com) as this year’s goals, simply because it is a present for my father. And I want to typeset it also (well, and make the font inside it).

    Having the metrics to qualify success really help. For example, I use my weekly weigh-in at Weight Watchers as the “official weight” for my own goals.

  2. 2. Mindy Klasky

    D. Moonfire – LuLu is a great resource for specific projects! I recommend it on a regular basis to people who have niche projects. Yours sounds interesting, especially the font work!

    And yes, metrics are crucial, to any sort of goal!

  3. 3. Alma Alexander

    Making a resolution like “I will be published this year” is something you can’t keep – no really, not by yourself, not unless it IS a niche project and you’re going the Lulu route. Any other incarnation of said “publication” involves other people, over whose reactions and responses you have no control over, whatsoever. At ALL. And you can’t make resolutions for them…

    I plan on writing – hopefully finishing, but at least writing a large chunk of – a new novel this year. That’s as far as that goes.

    Good luck with yours!

  4. 4. Elias McClellan

    My resolution/goal is to be more receptive of information given freely, that might just be wisdom. This plays into the discussion on publication and all the cute qualifyers, I promise. I agree with Ms. Alexander; you can’t keep the resolution to publish; not on your own. There are too many variables no matter what metric you use. But there are steps to take that are write, I mean right in front of you.

    Three years ago, I’m reading over Elmore Leonard’s website and the master says the question he is most asked is how to get published. To which he responds, (and I paraphrase) ‘if you focus on the writing and keep at it, you’ll get published.’ That’s it. No magic bullet, formula, or trick of exacting expectations. Just work at it. No more, no less.

    Was I receptive? Hardly. I was p!ssed to say the least at the very idea of such pompus, condescending, arogance. Three years later, I’m writing and writing and writing. I’ve hit the limits to what I can do on my own and I’ve found a workshop of like minded, publishing-oriented, genre writers. In two weeks my writing has improved 3-fold.

    In three months, I’ll start pitching. Win, lose, or draw, I’ll keep writing. And I will publish, not on my own, but without any spear or magic helmet either. It’s good to set goals, resolutions, or construct warm and fuzzy thoughts. What ever works for you. Just don’t that YOU have to work for you too.

  5. 5. Doug Hulick

    I’m trying to doulbe my average daily word output. Why? Deadlines, my friend, deadlines.

    To help with this, I picked up one of those freebie monthly planners everyone is giving away this time of year (I grabbed mine at the place I get my hair cut). I plan on recording how many words I produce each day, on which projects, by time of day (day or evening).

    The thought is that rather than try to double my output *every single day*, I will instead track my output over time. This way, I will be able to have slump days, sick days (for me or the kids), and hyper-productive days, all without having to worry about not getting X number of words done that particular day. As long as I average out well over the course of the month, I’m still good. (It will also let me track my output, so that if I am lagging going into week three of the month, I know I need to bear down).

    I know that output does not always equal quality, and that there will be days where revised words will out number new words; but since I now have to produce X number of words by Y date, I figure this is a good way to help track and motivate myself over the long haul.

  6. 6. Mindy Klasky

    Alma – good luck on your writing for the coming year! It sounds as if you have a major project ahead of you!

  7. 7. Mindy Klasky

    Elias – It sounds to me as if you’re “staging” your career. First, you’ve built your writing on your own, and now you’re working with a trusted group of critiquers. Those are extraordinarily valuable stages – not everyone goes through them, but they can really be helpful (as you’re already seeing.) Good luck, as your writing continues to evolve!

  8. 8. Mindy Klasky

    Doug – It’s amazing what a good deadline will do for the motivation, eh? I’m a big believer in putting cold hard facts in plain view – your use of the planner makes a lot of sense to me. Good luck meeting your double-the-words goal!

  9. 9. Elias McClellan

    @7, that’s why I was pestering you about your plan to outline the most common mistakes (aspiring) writers make. Your comments about waiting to write until you’ve: read enough, found the right teacher/group, encountered the right energy in the universe, etc, have been very helpful.

    From your points and the comments of others, I am find the principle of writing consistently reinforced. Everything else is secondary to actually writing/finishing the book. The right agent, group, or class is not gonna write the book for you.

  10. 10. Mindy Klasky

    Elias – I still have plans to pick up the “mistakes” advice line. Alas, if I could just find that 48-hour day!

    But, yes – the first step toward getting published is writing, writing the best story that you can. That alone won’t do it, but without a story in hand, there’s no reason to move forward!

Author Information

Mindy Klasky

Mindy Klasky is the author of eleven novels, including WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD and HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH in the As You Wish Series. She also wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, and MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, about a librarian who finds out she's a witch. Mindy also wrote the award-winning, best-selling Glasswrights series and the stand-alone fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE. Visit site.

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