I also felt a little funky chatting about setting realistic goals for writing. After all, I'm the one who still thinks it's fun to take the adult son up on his challenge to eat a 2 pound "shamu" burger without training for it first (I mean, come on! I've rocked premie babies who weighed less than what I was wolfing down!)
However, I decided to go with the lesser of two evils - and chose to write about setting realistic writing goals. Yeah. This coming from someone born under the sign of Capricorn (as many sea-goats sport tunnel vision when it comes to their goals. They disregard everything else - family, friends, even their own emotions - while in pursuit of their goal.) I was also born in the Chinese year of the Dragon, which may explain how I HAD to learn to temper my 'Let's go get 'em' goal attitude, as Dragons are extremely tenacious.
So, out of years of trial and error (heavy on the error part), I've come up with the surefire formula for goal setting, guaranteed to work for Capricorn/Dragon/bi-polar/eccentrics like me who are ready to kiss their goals goodbye -- because they'll be looking at their accomplishments in the rear view mirror of life.
Don't believe me? Then, my doubting friends, read on.
The plan is based on the anagram K.I.S.S. = Keep it simple stupid.
Now, this is not to be mixed up with Margie Lawson's wonderful DUH plan =
- Do it first -- or as close to first as humanly possible
- Understand that it will be inconvenient and/or difficult and do it anyway
- Hurray! Celebrate! You did it!
The main objective in KISS is just that - keep your goals simple, realistic, specific, manageable, and attainable, while still being able to live life, act like a human, breathe, eat, sleep and have sex.
Espesically the 'have sex' part. Really important there, especially if you want to write a great romance.
Before I get into the fundementals of what has helped me maintain a healthy set of realistic writing goals, I would like to take a moment to mention something about the concept of 'time management.'
It does not exist.
No such animal.
A made up term that belongs in the last century, along with dentists who drill on teeth without novocaine or gas.
Think about it. Time can't be managed. Time is uncontrollable and we can only manage ourselves and our use of time.
From now on, refer to this snagfu as "self management." And it's up to YOU to stop making excuses, get off your duff and do something other than complain and whine about not being able to reach your goals.
Now, with that being said, there are common "time wasters" dancing like dust faries with the toys in our attics.
I'm talking controllable things like personal disorganization, your inability to say "No" to anybody with a request, interruptions such as the telephone, email, TV or drop in visitors ("Have you got a minute?"), stress, anxiety and fatigue, procrastination (what are you avoiding?), conflicting schedules with children's or spouse's activities, indecision, ineffective delegation (come on, do you have to do it all?), acting without total information/ignorance, dealing with other people’s issues or problems, unclear communication, unclear objectives and priorities, lack of planning.
Get the point?
No approach to realistic goal setting for writing your novel is gonna work if you don't get the other crap straightened out first. Period.
One last point before I lay down the blueprints that will change your life.
You need to get a firm grip on reality. Take off the purple and round John Lennon glasses and remember you are wearing big-boy underpants (and in some cases, a few are in frilly white lacey things that would make Ernest Hemingway bristle with envy).
If you're working full-time and are coaching little league three times a week or are a big time Scout Master with duties at home: think. What are your priorities? Where will you make the time to write?
If this is your second time around in the relationship department and you have a revolving door of his kids/her kids every weekend: think. When? Where? Be concious of your decisions and stick to them.
If you work outside the home, have two kids and a husband who doesn't lift a finger for mealtime, bath time or homework - are you really gonna set a goal of writing 3 hours a day? How are you gonna manage?
Don't get me wrong. It's alright to stretch yourself (in fact, you want to), but it's not alright to stretch yourself beyond a sensible limit. Unrealistic goals will have you crying like a little girl. Before you know it, you admit defeat and run to the refridgerator, right into the arms of Ben and Jerry.
For the sake of your hips, you really want to avoid this ice cream scenerio (well, unless B & J were part of the making time for sex chat we had earlier, but then that would be just too kinky even for me and I'm not going there).
After you've given honest assessment of your current situation and have dealt with all the time wasters, proceed with this simple, yet effective plan.
1. Set your time goals.
Some writers decide on a specific amount of time they are going to spend writing each day. Whether they can only manage half an hour or are able to devote 8 hours a day to their craft, they sit themselves down at their desk and they stay there until that goal has been met.
This is also where they give themselves a time limit. A self imposed deadline or a publisher's submitance deadline. Maybe even a holiday deadline. It's up to you, how much you are willing to write and how stretchable you are (within reason). See? Simple!
2. Set a time to write.
If you really want to be invested in your writing goals, then you need to take this first step seriously. Again - it doesn't have to be a huge hunk of time. Just some 'time' - an hour? 90 minutes? More? Less? Your choice. Keep it simple and attainable.
You may be a morning person and most creative then, or like to write in the evening when the day's work is done. No matter. Set this block of time aside everyday when you'll be writing. This doesn't mean every moment of that time is going to be devoted exclusively to writing. It does mean that the daily discipline of being there sets the standard for your craft. See? Simple!
3. Set page goals.
If the time you spend at the desk doesn't feel right for you, set a minimum number of pages to write per day. Whether it's 1 or 5 or 10 pages a day, set your goal and stick to it. I tend to shoot for 3 pages a day and on the nights I don't sleep well, I allow myself a page or a page and a half. Maybe off set some with editing what I did do the week before. See? Simple!
4. Set aside a special place to write.
This can be a certain room in your house or even a special place at the kitchen table or elsewhere. For a couple of years, I actually did my writing in the bathroom closet. (insert - and yes, I have a ton of coming out of the bathroom closet jokes.) Wherever you can carve out a spot, do it. Then, when you sit down there at your appointed time your focus is on writing. See? Simple!
5. Decide when to stop.
Whether or not you have spent your alotted time or finished the number of pages you set for your daily goal, it's alright to stop. But, it's a good rule to stop just before you reach the end of what you want to say. By stopping there, you will automatically have a place to start the next day. See? Simple!
Really concentrate on the goals you want to accomplish, and be as specific as possible. Don't say "write a book." That's too vague of a goal to lead to any direct action. Say "write a paranormal mystery story for Kensington that has a Christmas theme," or something to that affect. Embellish your statements to make them clearer. See? Simple!
7. I challenge thee...
Make your goals challenging, but not impossible. Writing down "write seven 90,000 word novels in a year" is not only stupid, but it will become obvious so early that you'll probably stop pursuing the goal altogether. And what of the story line quality? It would suck. Trust me. Stating something more doable, like 3-4 stories, will challenge, but, in the end, you'll still have a life and will still be writing. See? Simple!
8. Sins of the Past
List the reasons that your writing has failed in the past. Not to self flagellate in the wee hours of a bad day, but to steer you back on the path to submitting your book! Look; what tendencies derailed you before you could even get started? I find by identifying the barriers that brought me to a halt previously, I will be more aware and breeze on by them, rushing to the victory line. See? Simple!
See? Simple. Realistic. And plenty of time for a healthy sex life.
Now, get started immediately. Keep going, don't stop, and don't skip listing your failures. If you don't address them, you'll be doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again. Till next time, KISS - Keep it simple, stupid!