This morning I checked in with myself to see if I was still working on any of the goals I set for 2010. Yes. Some more than others.

Writing hasn’t been at the top of my list. Journal entries are down, blog posts are way down, and I have written one short story and half a poem since January. It’s pretty bad.

My one comfort comes from looking back to this time last year, the first year for which I have any consistent record of when I wrote. I slumped in the first quarter of 2009, too (if you check the archives, you may notice a lack of February). I guess that’s not much comfort, really, but it is a pattern. It’s news I can use: I slump in late winter. Now I can decide if I want to tackle that as a problem, or schedule ten weeks off and have a few posts in my file to put up while I’m hibernating.

The half poem was left unfinished in early January. The short story was March 22, about the third sunny day of the season. So, should I do cloudy day writing drills? I’m picturing this: if the sun disappears, I sit down with my laptop for fifteen minutes. It could help me form a new habit, or at least break the one I have. Or maybe spring and summer marathons would be more productive: if I’m feeling charged, rev up the word count and build a stockpile against snow days. Then I could leave the hibernation time alone and not worry about it.

March is over, and I have a lot of ground to make up. A warm season sprint is the default option for 2010. This deserves some more thought before next year, though. Maybe setting my “writing year” to begin April 1st would give me the chance to meet all goals by Christmas, and take anything I get from under the snow as a bonus. That might feel better than playing catch-up for nine months, like I’ll be doing now.

Eighteen Months

January 7, 2010

My plan was to move from accounting to paid writerhood in 18 months or less. It’s been 18 months. I have a free blog, a writing coach job that pays a little, and a marriage. My life has improved over that time, but I’m not a paid writer. I decided months ago that I was okay with not working as a commercial freelance writer, which was my original goal. That goal was ambitious and specific, and I wonder if what I have now measures up.

I have several goals for 2010, including writing a novel, but although that is fairly ambitious, that goal and the others still don’t seem to have the same cohesion. Even my overall goal for the year, 200,000 words, doesn’t really satisfy. It’s output, and I know I can do that, but what am I really aiming for, here?

{At this point, I saved my draft, played backgammon with my husband, and slept on it.}

I am aiming for a life with ample room for writing. I don’t yet know if I’d most like to be a novelist, a professional blogger, or some other kind of writer. I do know that I want writing to be as important in my day-to-day life as it is in the one I imagine.

Last year, I took a dry run at goal setting. I learned what I needed to learn, and this year I’m making full use of my new skill. Today I have a blog. By this time next year, I’ll have a blog, a novel, twelve essays, and a record of my experiences, both cranky and content. Plus, maybe, a poem. That will be a good time to leaf through my files, pick a direction, and go.

Happy New Year

January 2, 2010

…and I mean that literally. I had a great holiday season and went to a couple of fun parties on the 31st, so I was in a happy mood anyway, and now I’m really excited about 2010.

This will be my second year of setting clear goals for my writing (and other things), and I’m hopeful that I learned enough about it in ’09 to finish an important project or two this year. I plan to keep LinneaWrites rolling with at least two posts per week, and I’m considering starting a second blog.

Also, I have the outline for my unfinished 2009 NaNoWriMo attempt on my hard drive. My most ambitious goal for 2010 is finishing a 60,000 word novel. I know NaNo is 50K in 30 days, but I also know that 50K is considered short for a novel, and that I’ll be taking more than a month to write it. 60K may also be too short-I’ll know when I get there.

Nonfiction, journal writing and maybe a little poetry are also in the 2010 mix. It’s going to be a great year.

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.

There’s a trade-off between productivity and peace of mind. Of course, if you’re getting a lot done, you can enjoy knowing that you’re on top of things. There are times when I have so much energy to spare I can clean the entire house, write for three hours, plan dinner, review my life list, and still find fifteen minutes to work on improving my handwriting. On those days, I feel awesome. There’s a lot to be said for getting a lot done.

Even so, keeping that up for weeks at a time makes my shoulders knotty. Planning to do it, and following through, generally makes me feel accomplished, and even energized, but still: knotty shoulders.

For the past few months, I’ve been working towards one of those Big Life Events that everyone comes together to celebrate and take pictures of, and that lots of us put into fancy albums to take out and cry over every couple years. I intend to do that, by the way. It has taken a lot of planning and effort and (ye gods) money and time, and for the past few weeks, I’ve opted to either do all that, or do nothing at all. This is one of those times that I know I’m falling short in at least one important area, but I’m okay with it because I’ve chosen to sacrifice one important thing for an even more important thing.

I’m getting married.

I’ll see you all again in two-and-a-half to five weeks.

-Linnea

Better

July 29, 2009

I did a little work on both new writing projects today. Nothing major, but something: a start. I’ve decided to plug these two endeavors into my Happiness Project, sort of. A word of explanation here…

Gretchen Rubin started the Happiness Project. You can read her story at the link above. Her project overlapped my life when she asked the readers of her blog if any of us wanted to start a Happiness Project Group. I volunteered, got the starter kit, and away I went with about half a dozen other people. It seems to be growing, very slowly, and it’s been a lot of fun so far.

The cornerstone of a Happiness Project is resolutions. You pick small, measurable things you can do every day to make yourself happier. My favorite example is the woman who loves relaxing on her porch, but rarely finds the time to do it. Her first resolution was to enjoy a glass of tea on her porch every evening. It’s perfect: simple, specific, and easy to measure: either she does it or she doesn’t. You can also take the option of doing less easy things, like biting your tongue when you’re tempted to say something crabby, but I advocated for baby steps for my group’s first month.

Keeping track of whether I’ve followed my Happiness Resolutions every day has been good for me. It’s also gotten me into the habit of looking at my resolutions chart every time I go near it. It’s been a few hours; maybe I can check off another one! With that habit established, a few other things that I really should do every day, but usually don’t, popped into my head. Right after that, I had my Happiness list at the top of an Excel spreadsheet, and I was adding my daily chores, a knitting project, life goals review, and “something (anything) for the wedding” under that. Plus a couple weekly items. It sounds overwhelming, but most of the things on the list only take ten minutes, if that.

Now I have a life scorecard, with about 15 points possible per day. That is where I put my writing. I know it deserves more than a ten-minute slot on my to-do list, but if it’s on the daily chart, I know I’ll give it at least that much attention every day. If nothing else, I’ll jot down some notes or an idea that I might otherwise have forgotten.

As much as I like dramatic leaps forward, I have come around to the notion that gradual progress works best. Also, my life is full and busy. It’s easy enough to lose track of my obligations to other people. If I want to do anything for me (and I want to do a lot for me… like write), I need to use some kind of system to keep a handle on everything. This one is simple, progress is measurable, and I can start fresh every day.

8 out of 15 is my average so far. If this were a class, I’d be failing, but it’s life, so I’m doing great.