Crush Your New Year’s Writing Goals

Every year, I make a list of New Year’s Goals. Yes, Goals. I don’t call them resolutions, because that just seems too concrete and causes too much pressure, setting me up for failure from the very start. Still, even then, some of my goals pan out . . . aaand some of them don’t. But I’ve started to notice a pattern throughout these successes and failures, and I thought I’d share some tips with you that I will be trying this year in the hopes of producing a higher success rate, especially when it comes to writing goals.

crushwriting.jpg

1) Focus on small habits, not the ultimate result.

I think the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to NOT make your resolution the same as your end-game, like “write a novel,” for instance. A goal like that is too daunting, too big. It’s also too vague. There are so many steps involved in writing a novel, and so many life “things” that can get in the way. Instead, a better goal would be to “write every day.” Don’t set a word count. Don’t say you’re going to write 1000 words every day. That’s also setting yourself up for failure. There will be days where you are definitely NOT going to make your word count goal, and you need to make room for that.

In fact, even better, don’t even set your goal to write every day. Make it something more tangible. Just say you’ll work on your novel every day. That can include anything: research, pre-writing, outlining, revising. . . .  And that’s GOOD, because all of those steps are going to get you closer to achieving that end goal that I told you to ignore: to write a full-blown novel. In order to reach that end goal, you need a game plan, so it’s that game plan you need to focus on the most. If your main goal focuses on the process of achieving that end result, you will be much more likely to reach it.

 

2) Failure isn’t an excuse for giving up

No matter what you do, there are probably going to be days, weeks, even months, where you are unable to work on your goals. Everyone goes through periods when they find it difficult to write. You might call that failure. “My goal was to write every day, but I haven’t written for weeks, therefore I’ve failed, therefore I might as well quit.” No! No no no no no. Don’t quit. Just start a-new. Start where you left off. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it. If you quit, then you’ve failed. But if you can accept that you’ve had a set-back and then pick yourself up and get back to work, you’ll know you have what it takes to succeed.

 

3) Flexibility is Key

Remember that a year is a long time. Things change. You change. The goals that you set in January may no longer apply in July. And that’s okay! I like to reassess my goals every few months to see what’s working, what’s not, and to think about what I need to do differently. It’s not failing or giving up if you decide that you need to take a different path. The point of a New Year’s goal is to improve yourself. Or to change yourself. Or to finally get the thing done that you’ve been wanting to get done. And in order to do any of those things without going crazy, you need to embrace flexibility. Go with the flow. If you don’t take a rigid stance, you’ll be more likely to succeed. At least, that’s my experience. Maybe it’s just because I tend to rebel against rules and rigidity. You may be different. But either way, you need to be willing to reassess and change if need be.

 

I hope these tips have helped. I will fully admit that I haven’t had a great track record for meeting the goals I’ve set each year, but a lot of that is because I haven’t followed my own advice. This year, I plan to. And I hope it helps you as well as me. Happy New Year, and good luck!

______________________________________

When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.

The End and the New Beginning

You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” – Ray Bradbury

“Rejected pieces aren’t failures; unwritten pieces are.” – Greg Daugherty

“It’s okay.” -Me

Well it’s December which means the year is nearly over. For some that brings about panic as they try to get done all they set out to do this year. For others however this is a sigh of relief. I fall into the latter category.

1481511533412

This year challenged me in a writerly sense (shut up, it’s a word). From my job description changing which deprived me of the normal hours of writing to a mental health crisis that left me devoid of any intention of crawling into my usual safe space of ink and words.

Also at the beginning of the year I was offered a deal to have my book published by a small press. All was looking good and then…well, nothing happened. But to be honest if I had signed a contract there’s no way I would have the book ready.

Writers get used to rejection and heartaches. It’s part of the job requirements. So I decided to take these setbacks and see what I could learn from them.

I learned how to make better use of my time. Spare moments are now my best time to write. Taking notes at a stop light, a few paragraphs at lunch, anywhere and anytime.

I learned to keep writing. Art and writing helped my daughter and me get through her mental health episode. Sharing creativity brought us even closer, and we learned how to speak through our collective creativity no matter how difficult the conversation may be.

Finally I learned that I can forge my own destiny. So much of my time and energy had been placed in the idea of being traditionally published that I was blinded to other avenues to get my story out. From what I heard from agents and publishers they really enjoyed it but had no idea how to sell it. So why can’t I just worry about that part? If I can survive this year then being passionate about my writing and figuring out sales should be easier.

Those are just a few things I’ve learned from this year. Have you learned anything about yourself? Just remember it’s okay. You’ll be okay.
_______________________

Matt Williams is an avid reader, a collector of many pens, an ever improving father of two, and an all-around fanboy. When he’s not wrestling with cats or a long commute you can find him hunkered down writing something imaginative. He’s working on publishing his first book Beyond Here, a middle grade story involving a coma and a singing flower with a bent stem sometime in 2016, along with a few projects with his other daughter.

How to Write When You Just Don’t Wanna

Can we all just agree that the last two weeks have been the worst? I mean it. No matter what side of the political debate you fall on, the aftermath of this election has taken a toll on all of us.

I’m not here to get political, but I do want to address this toll and the effect it has had on our writing. Many—MANY—of my friends and colleagues have expressed how hard it has been for them to write lately. Many haven’t been able to write at all. I’ve seen several posts over social media bemoaning the looming end of NaNoWriMo and how behind everyone is because the election stress threw such a wrench in their ability to focus.

I’m one of them. At 22,000 words, I’m over 10k behind where I should be right now. I have massive amounts of writing to do if I’m going to hit 50k by the end of the month. I could just give up. I mean, it’s just an arbitrary contest. It’s not like my career is hinging on whether I can write 50k in 30 days. And everything else going on in the world right now feels much more important to me than finishing my draft.

Besides, I’ve failed NaNo before. Several times before. It’s not a big deal. But here’s the thing: at the beginning of this month, I made a promise to myself that I was going to REALLY DO THIS this time. I was going to finish this novel this month, come Hell or high water. Well . . . some might argue that Hell and high water are here, and now I’m struggling to keep my promise. I do still want to reach my goal, but when it comes to actually sitting down to write? I . . . don’t wanna.

I. Just. Don’t. Wanna. I mean, I do, logically. But I don’t have the mental energy for it. I’d rather take a nap, thank you very much, and hopefully not wake up until the year 2020 has come around.

Despite this, however, I’ve been managing to push myself through this writing slump, and so I thought I’d share some tips for how to get words down, even when you just don’t wanna.

donwannawrite

1) Allow yourself a few day’s break

This seems counter-intuitive. “Wait, so in order to get yourself to write, you . . . didn’t write?” Yup, I didn’t write. I gave my brain and emotions some time to try and work themselves out, with the promise that after a certain amount of time, even if I still didn’t feel like I was in a place where I could write, I would try to write anyway. That day came, and I turned off all social media, and told myself I couldn’t get back on until I’d written 4k. And amazingly, I wrote 4k. I’m still not sure how, but I did. And you probably can too if you really set your mind to it. But first allow yourself that break.

2) Break it down into small chunks of time

Not words. Time. You’ll probably surprise yourself by how much you’ll get written in that small amount of time. One thing I’ve done on days when I’m especially having trouble focusing, is I’ve set my alarm to go off once every hour. When it goes off, I drop whatever I’m doing (or not doing, as the case has been lately) and write for five minutes. If I hit flow, I’ll keep going. Sometimes that’s all it takes. It’s like a little shove on the back of the sled to get you to the start of the slope. Once you’re there, your sled will tip, and gravity will carry you the rest of the way down.

3) Multitask

I’ve become quite the fan of writing via dictation, and the bulk of my NaNo draft has actually been written via this method while I’m doing other boring tasks, such as folding laundry, picking up clutter, and waiting in the carpool lane to pick up the kids from school. Somehow, for me, I’ve been finding it easier to break through the I-don’t-wannas this way. It’s not for everyone, but if you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend you do.

4) Find a second creative outlet

Set aside some time every day to work on something else creative and/or relaxing that has nothing to do with your draft. Adult coloring books are great for this. Also crafts, such as knitting, crochet, or other needlework—basically anything that relaxes you but also stimulates the creative side of your brain. Sometimes when I do this, I’ll find my mind wandering off to work on my story without me, solving plot problems, coming up with new characters, all while in a nice, relaxed, state of mind rather than while stressing out over a blank page.

5) Don’t panic

If none of this works for you, and you just can’t do it, don’t beat yourself up about it. Stress is a nasty beast that sometimes takes longer to defeat than we would like. Allow yourself the extra time you need. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, go to bed at a decent hour, and take lots of bubble baths. Your ability to write has not left you forever. It will come back when it’s ready.

I do hope these strategies help you as much as they’ve been helping me. I will point out that they don’t work one-hundred percent of the time. Some days I just have to throw in the towel and admit that writing isn’t going to happen. But even if it works only a third of the time, that’s better than not at all. Also, if you have any tips of your own, please do share them in the comments. I’d love to give them a try.

______________________________________

When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.

Making 2015 Better

I love goals. I love starting out on a project, having benchmarks along the way, and working to accomplish everything.

I have been known over shoot my goals.

By a lot.

One year, I was going to finish a book, participate in my first triathlon, teach the four different kinds of classes, practice the piano every day, and pretty soon I had planned more daily activities than I had day.

I crashed and burned before I even got started.

These days, I’m taking a more realistic approach.

I have some pretty big goals for 2015, some dreams that I’m hoping beyond hope have a chance to become a little more tangible than dream status. But I also know that for them to manifest in the way that I want, my daily life choices are what will make them come true.

That is the approach I’m taking in sharing a few tools with you to help structure life, and goals, in a way that is sustainable.

1. Be Accountable. 

Every year, when my students sign their course disclosures, the statement that basically indicates they are taking responsibility for their actions. This is a hard one – it’s very easy to not get writing time in because of X, Y and Z, to skip a workout, to binge watch Netflix, etc. The trouble with lack of accountability is that we not only fall behind on the goals we set, but we start to cast blame, most likely on the heads of the people who are closest to us.

Take some time, really look at where your life is and how you are spending it. If you are like most people in this modern world, chances are decent there are pockets of time spent on social media or gaming or watching that we justify for all the reasons in the world, but that could be used for achieving goals.  I highly recommend taking the time to plot out your day in a manner seen here. If it worked for some of the greatest creators, why not you?

Another part of accountability is having something to show for your work. If you have kids (or can remember when you were a kid), growth wasn’t something noticeable day to day, but when the pants were too short, or when the mark on the doorway was suddenly much higher, the progress became very clear. So too it is with our daily activities. My CP’s and I have a facebook message group where we share our goals, the dates we would like to achieve them, and report in as necessary.

When drafting, the daily word count is an easy indicator, revision, it gets a little more challenging. Luckily, our contributor Jamie Raintree has created spreadsheets to help with daily word count, tracking revision progress and has them set up to see daily and monthly progress.

2. Get Organized.

I’m that person who has a color coordinated calendar on my iPad and iPhone, and who gets great joy out of seeing everything structured and planned. But beyond that, trying to keep track of deadlines, research, projects, characters, and all those great articles that show up in the reader of your choice can quickly create a mountain of papers, and that mountain may tempt you away from the work you wanted to do.

Everyone has their own preferences regarding how to get organized. Increasingly, I’m going digital, in part because I don’t have a huge house, in part because I recently saw my father-in-law spend two months sorting and shredding what he kept for 45 years and it gave the creeps in a major way. Mostly, it is because I have what I need with me all the time.

Good for storing, ideas and reminders,
because an elephant never forgets. 

Evernote is my sorting, keeping, storing tech of choice. There are two great articles that will explain the ways you can use it here and here. If technology isn’t tickling your fancy, by all means explore your own other ways, but figure out a system that works for you and make yourself stick to it. (And if you have a different site you really love, please share in the comments.)

3. Get Centered.

It doesn’t matter the dream you are chasing, whether it is writing, some other creative outlet, becoming healthier, etc., there are going to be setbacks.

Say it again, there are going to be setbacks.

Go ahead and research one of your heroes. Really research them. Whatever they are now, whatever they do that makes you admire them, they didn’t wake up one day as that. They worked, and failed.

And worked.

And failed.

If you aren’t grounded with a firm knowledge of who you are, it’s hard to keep going when rejections or harsh reviews come in.

If you aren’t centered regarding what is important, really, truly important, it can feel like standing in the bottom of a dried up well only to look up toward the light and see dirt flying down to bury you.

And sometimes, when we are working toward a goal, we forget the necessity to refill the vessel we are drawing from. There is a necessity to take care of the creator, the goal chaser, the self. Study philosophers who resonate with you, practice yoga, tai chi or meditation, pray, leave every once in a while and become one with nature. Where possible, build a support system. People who you can meet with face to face is best, but online works for many as well. These need to be people who can cheer you on when great things happen, or hold you tight when it seems like they never will. There are some great organizations out there that do this, such as critique partners, other writers who are online or blogging, or organizations like SCBWI or WFWA.

Of course, you may want to get more specific with what you are hoping to see in the new year. Hopefully, these three suggestions having given you a few helpers in making 2015 the absolute best.

—————————–

Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and high school English teacher in Southern Utah. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of magic. Her loves include Diet Coke, owls, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is an editor for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly newsletter and can be found here.