When Writing.ie first asked me to write something about my writing goals for 2012, my first thought was, “Oh, that’s easy. My writing goal for 2012 is the same as my writing goal for 2011, for 2010—in fact, for every year of the last ten. All I want is to get published.”
But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that actually, making something like “get published” your goal for the coming year isn’t a good idea. It’s potentially a very bad one. Because some Fairy (Editor) Godmother swooping down with a contract for a two-book deal is beyond my control. Yes, I can do things that can improve the chances of it happening, but I can’t make it happen. It’s not something achievable by me and me alone, and therefore it’s not a goal. It’s more of a dream, or an aspiration. A best case scenario. And setting yourself anything other than achievable goals is the surest way to finish up your writing year feeling like a failure.
Take my 2011, for instance. Twelve months ago, I did what I always do on New Year’s Eve: I wrote down my goals for the year ahead. The only writing-related one was “Get published.”
Since then, I’ve hit over 11,000 copies sold of my self-published memoirs, Mousetrapped andBackpacked. I’ve written and self-published a guide, Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing, and released a novel, Results Not Typical. I’ve been interviewed on one of Ireland’s most listened to radio shows, and been written about in The Sunday Times, Woman’s Way magazine and theIrish Independent. My blog has had over 100,000 visits. I’ve made some fantastic contacts in the publishing world, and an editor at a major publishing house has expressed an interest in seeing my next novel as soon as it’s finished. In October, I did something I’ve wanted to be able to do for years: relocate to an apartment in a sunny French place for six weeks, just to write. I’ve been hired to teach self-publishing at Faber Academy’s first ever self-publishing course in February 2012, and I know what my next three books will be about.
But did I get published? No.
But then, I don’t consider my 2011 a failure. Far from it. My mistake was in making my dream my goal, instead of setting for myself goal posts that I could realistically reach.
So this year, for 2012, my writing goals look very different. For example:
1.Compartmentalise my writing time
At the moment, I tend to work on one project at a time, exhausting myself until my two or three thousand words are done each day. (Or most days—I’m a terrible procrastinator!) But this means that future projects get put on the long finger and when good ideas or the urge to write an opening chapter bubbles up, I push it down, thinking, “Later, later. I have to finish this other thing now!” This creates stress. For instance right now I’m working on a novel, but I’m hoping to have an updated edition of Self-Printed out by April. Underneath the surface, the stress of not having started to work on the update yet is building an ulcer in my stomach. I’d be far better off, I think, if I spent, say, three hours a day on the novel, and then two on Self-Printed. I think it would also be easier than spending a huge block of time on the same thing each day.
2.Tackle my internet problem
The average writing morning at my desk goes a little something like this: e-mail, Facebook, Twitter; get an idea for a blog post; decide to write blog post now while idea is fresh in my head instead of waiting for more convenient time; remember guest post I have to write, decide to do it now before I forget about it again; see sidebar ad for 20% off in one of my favourite online stores, go investigate; decide not to spend that amount but instead “treat” myself to something from The Book Depository; go shopping on The Book Depository; catch up on irrelevant but inexplicably entertaining celebrity news; remind myself that what I’mactually supposed to be doing is writing; do once last round of e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, responding to blog comments, etc; start writing.
But then of course, half the “writing” day has passed.
The internet clearly plays a big part in my distraction, so in 2012 I’m going to make a habit of using something I’ve only used in emergencies before: Freedom. This is a program available for both Macs and PCs that locks you away from the internet for up to 8 hours at a time. You simply specify how much time you need—say, 2 hours—and Freedom forces you to work offline until then. When the 2 hours is up, you can access the internet again. If you have an internet emergency and you desperately need to go online within the “lockout” period, the only way to override Freedom is to shut down and restart. You can download a free trial from http://macfreedom.com/ or purchase the full version for just id=”mce_marker”0. If Facebook and Twitter are your time-sucking nemeses and you need the internet to write (say, for research), you could download Anti-Social (http://anti-social.cc/) instead, which allows you online but blocks you from social networking sites for specified periods. It’s currently only available for Macs.
3.Read more books
I tend not to read books while I’m writing, because if I’m in the midst of a really good one, an afternoon with it instead of my own work in progress is just way too tempting. But I think you need to read as many books as you can not just because that’s the best way for a writer to get better, but because escaping into a really wonderful book helps motivate you to create something that will help someone else do the same. My goal for 2012 is to read 100 books. That’s a very high number—an average of two a week—but I think it’s doable, considering that I usually have a fortnight here and there (i.e. holidays) when I can read more than usual, and there’s always flights, train and bus journeys. I might even wander over into the dark-side this year, and get a Kindle. We’ll see!
So in 2012 I hope to work on more than one project at a time, use something like Freedom to keep my internet addiction at bay and read 100 books. These are all things that can be measured, that will happen if I just put the time and effort in. They’re all within my control. And if you’re trying to think up some writing goals for yourself, you don’t even need to go into this level of detail. How about something like, I will write 1,000 a day every weekday? Think about it: if you wrote 1,000 words — which, come on, isn’t a lot—every day, you’d have 260,000 words or there about done by December 31st 2012. What writer wouldn’t like a pile of 260,000 words on the desk, eh? I know I’d quite like it!
What are your writing goals for 2012?