Did anyone read that article of Chris’s I linked to last week? If you did, you might have noticed his writing goals for 2010. The overall word count blew my mind: 300,000 words! This guy has become something of a role model for me, so I felt like I should aim in that general direction, but three hundred thousand words seemed like a lot.

But is it really? I haven’t gone back to add up the total, but I was keeping track of my word count on this blog in the spring, and I also kept notes on my progress during the day on my desk calendar. I have that calendar beside me now, and I’m wondering why I was so hard on myself. I know I fell short of my goals more often than not, but, criminy! In April I wrote 19 days out of 30, which, if I’d been sensible about it, could have been the weekdays. You know: the work days. I’m seeing numbers like 116 and 152, but also 1493 and 1848. If I write 240 days per year, and write April’s average (660) on each of those days, I’ll be more than halfway to someone else’s really ambitious goal.

I kicked myself every time I didn’t hit my targets last spring. Now that I look back, I realize that just the attempt left me with something I wouldn’t have otherwise had. A blog, for example, although that’s just part of it. I also have a record that proves I tried to do something that was important to me, and that I met with at least partial success.

That means a lot to me as I set goals for next year. I’m married now, so I have these new things called “shared goals”, which take up a lot of my time. Also: “obligations.” Balancing those two and my personal goals is likely to be my biggest challenge in 2010. It’s heartening to see that just setting (and tracking progress on) a personal goal can help me do that… even if I don’t succeed.


Another Tool for Writers

December 7, 2009

Chris Guillebeau has written another timely post. It’s encouraging to see someone living at the convergence of writing and goal setting. I’m using his Annual Review method for the second time this year, and I hope to meet with similar success in the years to come.

Contented Writer

December 6, 2009

Frank McCourt said, in the first chapter of Angela’s Ashes, that “the happy childhood is hardly worth your time.” Then he proceeded to tell the incredible story of his incredibly hard youth.

Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, suggests going back to Kindergarten and writing down every detail of every event I can remember, grade by grade, plus holidays. The very next example features a family gathering where half the adults are so drunk they can’t walk from one room to another. Flannery O’Connor backs her up, saying that there’s enough awful material in anyone’s childhood to pack several novels. Misery seems to be an excellent source.

Can a writer write anything good when everything in her life is coming up roses?

How important is discontent to the creative process? It’s been a motivator for me often enough, and I think it’s easier to make an emotional impact in writing when I feel strongly about something. I can remember sitting down to write a chapter, and discovering that I’d fallen out of love with someone. It completely derailed the story, because that unrequited love was the reason I started writing it. My motivation was gone, and so was the main character’s. Seriously, why didn’t she just go home already? The guy just wasn’t that important.

Perhaps that’s an argument for not writing characters too close to myself and people I know.

When I decided to try NaNo this year, I was far too happy to have an entire novel’s worth of angst about anything ready to write out. No life tragedies, no insoluble internal conflicts… I turned to No Plot? No Problem! and the Snowflake method, and came up with characters I like but don’t know very well, and a storyline I didn’t expect. Life derailed my plans once again, and (here in early December) I haven’t finished the novel. Even so, I’m optimistic about it.  Having guidelines and a goal have also been helpful in my past writing.

Maybe contentedness isn’t an insurmountable obstacle.