As 2011 wound down to a close, I found myself reflecting on the writing goals I set for myself way back in January. Did I achieve all that I wanted to? Could I have written more? Should I have put in more time in front of the computer, blogging or working on another book? Or was it entirely okay to sit in the back yard this July and watch the fireflies?
A friend and I were talking recently, and she asked me how the writing was going. I told her what I was working on and mentioned that I average two new books a year, plus some short stories.
“Two a year?” she exclaimed.
“Yes,” I answered. “I could write more books, maybe do five a year, but my stories tend to be longer,” I said.
She looked at me like I had three heads. “You do know that most people don’t even write two books in their life, don’t you?”
Her comment made me realize that everyone’s writing goals (and successes) are different. And that’s because every writer is different. There’s no “right” way to write – as long as you’re happy with your results. Writing is a very personal and individualized process. One writer’s goals or self-expectations may be entirely unrealistic for someone else.
At this time of year I look back at the books I’ve had published, compare them to last year’s books, and vow to write more in the coming year. I revisit those half-started outlines and piles of story ideas and pick out the most promising ones to “start fresh” with in January. It’s motivating to plan out the next year’s characters and dramas – after all, I’ll be living with these people for months!
Writers, ask yourself, what are your writing goals for 2012? Do you want to finish the novel you started last year (or haven’t started yet)? Send out a dozen short stories? Enter a contest? Now is the perfect time to sit down and make a list of all you want to accomplish. Having a list of projects and priorities will help keep your writing objectives on track. Try not to compare yourself and your writing goals to anyone else. Remember, you’re writing your book at your pace.
If you’re determined to start a new book, make a timeline for research, character development, plotting, etc. Give yourself a deadline for when you will start writing and stick to it. Decide how many pages or chapters you want to finish each day/week/month. Little by little, your book will take shape, and you’ll be amazed at your progress.
But keep a balance. Don’t let yourself become so “goal” oriented that you burn yourself out, stress yourself half to death, and let the writing life take the place of your real life. (Believe me, I’ve been there and I’ve learned.) Family, friends, pets, neighbors, and having fun are all important parts of being alive. Make time for your books, but also make time for yourself and those you love. (Yes, it’s perfectly okay to leave the husband parked in front of a movie and go write for two hours. But make sure when you turn the computer off, you focus on the present moment.)
Brand-new calendars are waiting to hang on our walls and each page is filled with unexplored days yet to come. Every new month is bursting with hope, possibilities, and opportunities. Make the most of the upcoming year. Set some goals for yourself. Write as much as you need to or want to, and then sit in the yard and watch the world go by.
Until next time,