Setting goals is something we talk about a lot this time of year. Technically, you can set and start working toward new goals regardless of the time of year. Most people treat the new year as a chance for a fresh start. If that’s your way, then you are more than welcome to make it so.
I am unapologetically a “new year new me” kind of person. I believe in hard resets. If a new calendar year is what it takes for you to decide to get serious and make your goals a priority, then that’s good enough for me.
There are different types of goals depending on the objectives your specific goals are trying to contribute to. The best goals will always be the ones that are as specific and action-oriented as possible. “I want to finish writing my novel before the end of the year” is a good example. “I want to meet all the requirements for a promotion at my job in the next six months.”
The writing goals I am sharing with you today might look slightly different than this. I am not setting out to write a certain number of words or books. I am not giving myself any hard deadlines other than December 31, 2020. I am limiting the number of new things I “start.” I have many unfinished projects still in the works. Maybe this is the year I check them off my to-do list for good.
Here are the things I will be working on and toward this year. As always, you are more than welcome to share your own goals, hopes, and dreams in a comment. I promise I will respond!
Get a “final” draft of a novel ready for the query stage. Okay, I admit that this has been a goal of mine for a long time. It keeps ending up on my list of goals every year, and every year I somehow just quietly transfer it from one year’s hopeful to-do list to the next. But not this year. This year, I’m taking the next step.
This past year, my goals included finishing a first draft, revising/rewriting that first draft, and writing and sending query letters to at least a handful of agents. I completed the first step: Finishing the first draft. I am proud of that first draft. But once I finished it, and realized how much work needed to be done in order to make it even remotely publishable, I knew that taking some time away from it was going to be my best option.
So that’s what I did. I haven’t touched the thing since September. I don’t know if I will pick it back up again in January or sometime later in the year (I am really trying to only focus on a few projects at once, to the best of my ability). But I do know that I am going to get this book or another unfinished story to the point where I can (as comfortably as possible) feel comfortable sending it out to agents. Because you just never know. It might not lead to anything. It might lead to something magical.
Editing and rewriting my own long-form fiction is extremely challenging for me. But at least I know this going in, so I can make sure to put as much time and effort into it as necessary to accomplish this feat.
Focus on additional projects related to this blog. I have had plans for a long time to regularly expand content on this blog beyond just daily posts. That is a lot for one person to do by themselves, I know. It’s already a lot just pouring my thoughts out onto blank pages for 10 hours every week. But this is something I really want to do! I care about my audience and I know they deserve everything I am capable of offering.
What exactly this “additional” content entails and how much of it there will be and when still isn’t clear even to me — I am not rushing to make any big plans (more on that soon). The Patreon needs some work. I would love to send out a weekly newsletter (if this is something you might be interested in, let me know!). And making educational videos about professional writing is something I have done on occasion, but I would really like to do this regularly at some point. Whether or not that will happen this year is still undetermined.
And yes, this means also formulating a behind the screens system for making sure I don’t let your comments on my posts pile up, which leads to many of them going without responses — many of them still aren’t even approved at the time of publishing this post. I’M SORRY! This is the one major regret I’m holding onto from this past year. I haven’t been interacting enough wit you, and that’s not right. That defeats the whole purpose of what we are doing here.
I will work on that. And just a little bit (not too much) more.
Minimize and streamline my commitments. If you have followed this blog for even a little while, you are probably at least a little bit aware that I am a chronic over-committer (a trait I am not proud of, and am actively working to correct).
I like writing. I have a lot of goals and ambitions, and having a lengthy list of things to do helps me stay motivated and keeps me focused on the most important things in my world. However, I also like being “busy.” I have had a lot of down time in the past week or so, and I would dare say it has made me feel even more anxious than when my to-do list is mostly full.
The fact that I was desperately scrambling for ways to increase my daily word count in 2019 (I had a very big writing goal I was trying to achieve) really didn’t help further my quest to “say yes to less.” I ended up freelancing for three more sites than I had originally planned, both for the opportunities I hoped they would lead to and the extra boost in words and productivity.
So this year, I am — ha — committing to fewer commitments. Not just in my writing, but in my life in general. Plain and simple: I worked too much in 2019. I am proud of the work I did and the things that I achieved, and I am counting on the fact that some of these accomplishments will lead to great things in 2020 and beyond. But I have felt stressed for almost 365 days straight as I am writing this. Ambition is great. But I need a break.
Some writing related projects that will continue: This blog, of course. Working on at least one book (I can’t say I’m not going to continue writing a previous one or start another — if my creativity calls, I will answer). Continuing to do any writing necessary for my day job. And I will continue to contribute to a few pop culture websites that I thoroughly enjoy working with every week while turning in my responsibilities for a few others.
Things I won’t do: Search out writing opportunities just for the sake of having another byline or something else to add to the to-do list. Say yes to every opportunity that comes my way no matter how tempting all of them might be (assuming there will even be any … hey, who knows). And I definitely won’t be forcing myself to write when I desperately need to rest. This habit has caused me a lot of grief over the past year. Writing is work, and you have to do it when you don’t want to sometimes. But it is not necessary to work 12+ hours a day every day.
I am happy with these goals — and the fact that I have only set 10 overall goals for the coming year (this past year I had over 30 …). The year hasn’t even really started yet, and I am already making positive progress toward being more proactive about my work and considerate of how I treat myself.
As writers, we don’t always think about how the way we treat ourselves impacts our work. But the same way a musical instrument doesn’t produce good sound if its player doesn’t take care of it, a writer will never be able to produce the best quality stories possible if they don’t treat their bodies and minds with the care, compassion, and respect they absolutely deserve.
So that’s what I’m going to do. And I would encourage you to join me. Believe it or not, we can work and be productive without consistently overdoing it. We can get things done without always feeling like we have to. The guilt we feel when we aren’t working (when we “should be”) isn’t worth the additional stress.
I look forward to all the bright and wonderful things ahead. And I hope you do too.
Have you set any writing goals for the coming year? Feel free to share them in the comments, along with how you plan to get started.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.