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.

It’s Early Yet

January 5, 2010

This early in the year, I have no business being hopeful. I am anyway. I have journaled, blogged (twice now!) begun a poem, and even written a little fiction. It’s hasn’t even been a week, but I have written something every day for five days in a row, and it feels great.

Tomorrow is the deadline for beginning work on my novel. My plan is to audition a few time slots to see if any particular time works best for writing fiction. First thing in the morning? After lunch? It may take a few days or weeks to figure out if there is such a thing as the “right” time for me to do it. Meanwhile, I’ll be getting plenty of work done.

That’s life in early January: busy, productive, and fun. I’m set up to do this all year… and I’m hopeful.

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.

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.

Continuing Slowness

November 9, 2009

Hello again!

Slowness this week refers to my leisurely return to blog posting. While I’m getting my act together, read something by someone who already has, quite a while ago.