Monday, January 2, 2017

How to Meet Your Goals in 10 Not-So-Easy Steps!

I'm a very goal-oriented person, but also easily distracted and not always organized. Here's what I've learned over the past few years about setting better goals, and my goals for 2017:

  1. Don't Compare. This is the hardest for me because I'm naturally competitive and use that to motivate myself. However, it is too easy to make unfair comparisons to people whose lives differ greatly from ours. Am I going to compare myself to a novelist who writes full time? No. Comparing to someone far more productive than yourself creates internal backlash. Always compare yourself to yourself first, and then to other people at a similar level of output. This will start you out right for the next steps:
  2. Depend On Yourself. Set goals that depend on you, not on an agent or publisher agreeing to publish your work. Shift the focus of your goals to how many places you submit, or, for a bit of humor, how many rejections you get, like this 100 rejections goal. 100 rejections means you've submitted 100+ places, and that's the point. With longer projects, there's always word counts!
  3. Know Your Output Level. As you get a baseline of experience tracking your writing speed and other measures of output, you'll be able to set reasonable goals. Know how much time you have and how fast you write, and how much time or how many steps a project needs before it is complete. Remember that real life WILL get in the way at some point, so leave time for that. I wrote 50k+ for NaNoWriMo and then barely met my 15k goal for December. I knew I'd need to do holiday things and give a little time to other projects that I didn't count.
  4. Know What Motivates You. Do you reward yourself when you reach a goal? And remember to let your completed art to be a reward in of itself, too. If your writing is not intrinsically rewarding, either you've hit a temporary bad spot, or your life and/or writing may be out of balance. Word counts motivate me so I find ways to use them even when I'm revising.
  5. Set Short-term Goals. Break projects down into manageable steps. Instead of thinking only "I'm going to publish this fantasy series!" (eek!), breaking it down into word count goals and the revision steps needed after that brings a big project down so you can wrap your head around it.
  6. Revise Your Goals. We're all human and we all make mistakes. Maybe we get to the end of a word count goal only to realize that the draft needs 30,000 more words, which has totally never happened to me ever. Also, we're all human and have to live on this physical plane where we need food and have to work or raise kids and then goodness forbid something tragic happens. Or maybe you hear about a short story deadline and you have the best idea for an entry. Don't be afraid to revise your goals in order to make room for opportunities or to acknowledge that you're not superhuman (bummer!).
  7. Set Flexible Goals. Long-term goals are important for flexibility. That way, if you don't meet your short term-goals, you can see that you've at least made progress, if not as much as you wanted. But you don't want to be revising your goals all the time--that's a sign that you're chasing after every new idea or you're setting your goals way too high (because life!). One way to avoid adjusting your goals all the time is to have a "goal" and a "super goal." The super goal is that high goal you know you can reach if all the stars align, like if my toddler sleeps at night. The regular goal is something that allows for life and all that, but still means that I didn't spend all month procrastinating by magically finding other things to do besides write. 
  8. Organize. I Guess. Last year I attempted to organize by moving all my files off every device and unto the cloud. I was tired of having to switch devices to find the latest draft of a project or a file I needed to submit, plus I didn't want to lose files in a computer crash. What I didn't do was organize every single file in the cloud to make everything as perfect as I want it. I wrote a novel instead. So, organize enough that you can find what you need, but don't use organization as an excuse to procrastinate, either. Thanks to search features, I can find the files I need, and websites like Submissions Grinder help me keep track of short story submissions. I use my google calendar to set alerts for deadlines and for reminders of projects I don't want to leave behind. My other organization accomplishment last year was to create media files for each published and soon-to-be-published work, so that when I want to reach out to beta readers or give potential readers a purchase link, I know where to find it.
  9. Be Nice To Yourself! Do you know what bites? Not meeting my goals! A lot of this advice boils down to being nice to yourself. Sure, you want to push yourself, but that doesn't mean you have to be mean about it! Set reasonable goals and if life really kicks you, revise your goals. Meeting reasonable goals gives you the confidence and experience needed to know when to take a risk - like NaNoWriMo, or pushing a new project into the mix.
  10. WRITE. You can't meet your goals if you don't write! You won't know your output level if you never output. Yoda says there is no try! You can conceivably publish fiction without setting goals, but you can't publish anything if you don't write. Use goals as motivation and focus on the process of writing itself, on sitting down and typing those words. 

Review of 2016 Goals:
  1. Revise opening of Dragon Islands - 50%. I did revise (a lot!) but plan to revise again and technically don't have an opening scene right now. (I have two... This was before the great migration to the cloud!)
  2. Finish and submit short stories. 100% I have 7 pieces and 20 rejections. This was a huge deal to me as I've been focusing quite a bit on Dragon Islands.
  3. Some kind of NaNoWriMo. 100% I surprised myself by changing my mind from doing revisions to writing the next book in Dragon Islands, and it was absolutely the right choice at 65k since Nov 1.
  4. Improve my platform for Premeditations. 100% My publisher recently thanked me for 'not giving up' on my chapbook. See, many authors and publishers act like a book is dead after a few months to a year. But that doesn't fit my long-term goals. I felt like I could have done more when Premeditations came out, but I saw no reason for that to be a permanent mistake. I learned more about marketing and long-term planning.
  5. Reviews and blogging. 100% I review 1 magazine a month for Tangent Online, and on top of that, I wanted to review more on my blog, keep up with Pendragon Variety posts, and release regular content both here and on my homeschool blog. I mention this because I think periodically about giving up, but I didn't. I even sold an article or two to homeschooling magazines. Done!
  6. SURPRISE GOAL! At the beginning of the year, I had no idea I'd write, illustrate, and self-publish a children's book, Charlie Cat Does NOT Like Halloween. It's been a long-term goal of mine to write picture books and this year I did it! 

2017 Goals:

  1. Release Charlie Cat Needs a Break on Thanksgiving.
  2. Write another Charlie Cat book.
  3. Finish drafting the Dragon Islands series. (Continue logging word counts).
  4. Revise the opening to Dragon Islands and send the first book to beta readers.
  5. Write, revise, and submit more short stories for 30 rejections.
Ahhhh, so scary! A year is a long time to plan for! Anything could go wrong!

Or things could go right. Hmm.

Here's to a great 2017!