Setting Goals and New Year's Writing Resolutions
By Melinda Goodin
Have you thought about which writing goals you wish to achieve in 2004?
Ever since I heard Margaret Brownley talk about goal setting for writers in 1995, I've been avidly following her suggestions. Well, as avidly as my procrastinating nature will allow. Each December, I choose a number of goals for the approaching year and print them up on decorative paper, in a nice frame. At the beginning of the year they are encouraging, sitting there on top of my PC and giving me something to aim for. By the middle of the year, I'm starting to glance at them and look away again, guiltily. Where did the time go? Why haven't I done more? And by the end of the year… Well, let's just say that "What was I thinking?" adequately sums up my cries of despair.
And at the end of 1999 I was going to write an article about procrastination, one of my major writers' flaws. But you know how this story goes… I never got around to writing it.
Recently I've been listening to Anthony Robbins' CD series: Personal Power 2. He focuses on many of the reasons for failure to meet resolutions: if you don't know what you really want: the resolutions may be too vague, your motivation to seek the pleasure of achievement too weak, and the practise of procrastination can seem too strong to break. It sounds very familiar to me.
So now seems to be a good time to look at conquering procrastination and meeting goals. For some people it is as simple as saying: "If not now, when?". Other writers find it easier to set out a gentle series of steps to meeting a goal. So let's have a look at some resources available to help goal-achieving challenged folks like myself to start the new year off with a new approach.
If you're a romance writer, please have a look at Sharon Ihle's recommendations at
"Goal setting for the serious writer". Ms. Ihle makes a couple of serious points in her article.
"1. It has been estimated that only 1 person in 50,000 would-be writers will sell a book.
2. Only about one person in 100 who sells a book, actually makes a living at it."
Makes you think seriously about the odds, doesn't it? I don't know about you, but I definitely want to be that one person in 50,000 and that further one person in 100. It's a matter of dedication, application and persistence. Ms. Ihle provides a workable range of suggestions including setting a long term goal, breaking down into smaller achievable steps, being realistic and never beating yourself up for not meeting a specific goal.
"Procrastination and Goals" by Karen Wiesner can be found at http://www.eclectics.com/articles/procrast.html
Ms Wiesner points out some of the common causes for procrastination: people have other jobs, they have children, they don't have energy. Others might be lazy or easily distracted. Check Karen's article out for the ways and wages of procrastination, and the opposing ways and wages of goal setting. She asks, "How bad do you want to be published? How much would you do it achieve it?" A good question to keep in mind when the bad habit of procrastination strikes.
Yet another thing to consider is that fear might lie behind your procrastination. Many of the authors I know wrestle with fear on a regular basis. What if I don't have anything worth saying? What if no one is interested in what I write? What if it's more of what's already out there? Will my friends and family think I'm writing the love scenes from personal experience? Will strangers think I'm writing the murder scenes from personal experience? What if I succeed? Won't I have raised the bar on myself? And so the litany of questions goes on.
I'm a subsciber to Vicki Hinze's very informative mailing list, Aids4Writers. Ms. Hinze sent out a post, the content of which was relevant to the issue of goal setting and New Years Resolutions. Thanks to Ms Hinze for her permission to present her post at my website.
From: Vicki Hinze
Date sent: Tue, 14 Dec 1999 13:06:46 EST
Subject: [Aids4Writers] To Do List
Now, for those hearty souls who are not maxed out right now, I have a suggestion for you. Each year, during the month of November usually (had to postpone this year to get a proposal written and meet a deadline), I usually take some quiet time to reflect on the past year. To look at what I'd done with my writing--both on craft and on the business--and to choose whether or not these actions were constructive.
Each year, I develop a Mission for the new year. Last year, that mission was Aids4writers, "doing good for goodness' sake." Not sure about next years, as I'm about to take this reprieve and decide on it.
I've found that by setting Goals, directing focus on what I've done, what I want to do, where I've been, where I'm going, where I want to go, and coming up with concrete steps to get there, I feel I have a little more control over my life. I know that many of the goals I've set and accomplished, I accomplished only because I focused on them.
So that's what I'd like you to use this time to do. Focus on what you want, need, and what steps you're going to take to achieve those goals.
Here are some suggested topics I use year after year:
Mission Statement: What is the most important thing to you that you wish to accomplish in the coming year?
Virtue: Each year, I chose (and often have to repeat!) a specific virtue to work on that I feel will build my character. In 1996, it was Patience. In 1997, Compassion. Choose a positive influence and focus on it all year. (Warning: you'll often curse yourself for this. "If only I wasn't focusing on patience this year, I'd give so-and-so whatfor for doing such and thus." :)
Writing: often we get so caught up in selling, we forget that we can't sell that which isn't written. So what exactly do you want to write next year? Be it a specific book(s) or article(s) or poem(s). Write it down. It makes it more real, helps you to visualize it written more easily.
Sales: What do you want to sell next year? Make a list, and be open to recognizing opportunities to market these listed projects. (Writing the list gives you focus. You are paying attention to this, and see these opportunities when they arise.)
Promotion: Published or (as yet) Unpublished, what concrete steps are you taking to get your name out there? Do you produce a personal newsletter, send cards, write articles for organizational newsletters?
Business: What aspect of the business are you most unfamiliar with? Which facet of the publishing industry would you most benefit from studying intently? Is it publishing itself? How does your industry work? What happens to a book once it arrives at a publisher's house? What about retail sales? Negotiation tactics? Wholesalers? Distribution? Marketing? Advertising? What about publishing contracts? Pick a topic and invest--in yourself!
Craft Education: What aspect of your craft are you least comfortable with executing? Theme, character, plotting, pacing, style? Choose one, and next year work at developing your skills in that area.
Reading: Too many writers stop reading. Don't! It's a terrible, terrible mistake, because not only do you stop seeing successful authors' methods, you also get out of touch with what's being published. So make a commitment to yourself to read. Books like yours, those unlike yours, articles, periodicals--fiction and nonfiction. Set a number on these things you agree to deepen your creative well. Make a monthly commitment that is realistic for you, and honor it.
Outreach: What are you doing to reach out to help others? Are you doing critiques? Sponsoring or supporting a benevolent project? Writing a how-to article on something with which you're extremely familiar that could help others? It's important to feed the mind and the soul.
Make your goal list as detailed as you like; whatever feels comfortable. The important thing is to think about these things. Choose and decide rather than just drift and feel frustrated because you're not satisfied with your personal progress.
I have a copy of my list on the wall near my computer in my office. Another copy in my Daytimer, and a third in my top center desk drawer. For years, I'd tape one to the mirror in the bath, so I'd see it first and last each day, and review it when brushing my teeth. This constant reinforcement may seem unnecessary. But I credit it with helping enormously at staying focused on what I want and how I'm going to achieve it. Constructive reinforcement is a good thing. Positive and empowering, and especially in the early years, when writers hear "no" a lot more than they hear "yes," we need positive empowerment.
Blessings, Vicki Hinze
© 1999 Vicki Hinze
Vicki's website is at: http://www.vickihinze.com . The website contains many Tips for Writers that are highly recommended. You can subscribe to Vicki's Aids4Writers mailing list via email or look for it at Aids4Writers on Yahoo's groups.
I look back at my goals for 2003 and I wonder. Did I really think I could revise a novel, write a complete first draft of a new one and begin a proposal for a third in twelve months? I sit back now, shake my head and resolve to make a more realistic and kind set of goals for 2004. Small steps every day will get me there. Will you join me? And good luck!
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