I’m surprised at how many people have already signed up to try a streak, and there are a few retired streaks and one active streak going on with professional writers that are stunning that will be listed. It’s going to be a fun way for all of us to keep track and push ourselves a little.
But today, on this last post of the year and the last post in this series of posts about setting goals, I wanted to go over some of the basics one more time and give you a few more tricks that not only work for a beginning year goal, but when you are starting back up after life gets in the way.
So, basics first. Real quick. And if you have questions, go back and reread the earlier posts where I talked about some of this. And if the question doesn’t get answered, feel free to e-mail me.
Find Your Dream. That’s first. Look way out and ask yourself what you would love to be doing in ten or fifteen years. Don’t be afraid to dream big.
Figure a Smaller Five Year Dream. This can still be out of your control, but should be a step toward making the larger Dream. For example, sell five novels in five years. Out of your control, which makes it a dream, but still something to work toward.
Set Your Yearly Goal. This goal should be structured to get you to your Dream in five years and be in your control completely. For example, if you want to sell five novels, you should write and mail about three a year. You might sell more with that number, but at least you are giving yourself a fair shot and not putting all the eggs in one basket. This yearly goal will still seem like a huge elephant to you. So go to the next step.
Set Your Weekly Writing, Mailing, and Learning Goals. This is where your focus needs to be all the time. Just one week, and better yet just one day. Once you do the math and set these goals, working with the time you have available, working with time you will miss, working with family and jobs and everything else. Plan to miss at times and always have a plan to start fresh on the beginning of the next week. Every week is a fresh start. Be realistic, but don’t be afraid to push a little.
In the example above, three books a year is three pages per day. If you can’t write every day, figure 6 pages per writing day and miss half the year. Remember to work in time to mail (not in your writing time) and structure in ways to learn storytelling craft as you go along. Always keep learning, all the time, and the writing as you go along will just get better and better.
Remember, don’t let yourself think too much about the big dream. Stay focused on the week, on the day. That’s the key.
So, now to a few tricks that might help with tomorrow. Or any start-up day.
Trick one. Plan out ahead what you are going to work on. And Write it Down! I don’t mean outline, I just mean know what story or novel you plan to work on. And have two or three out ahead of you. Example: Tomorrow I plan to work on X-Novel. Chapter 10. Friday I plan to work on X-Novel, finish Chapter 10 and start Chapter 11. And so on. If you have three or four writing sessions out ahead planned, it will cut down on the panic of “What am I going to Write About?”
Trick two. Have a back-up project to work on. And have it written down on a back-up list. Example: I plan to work on Chapter Ten of X-Novel, but for some reason, that’s just not coming, so my back up is to work on Y-Short Story about (blank). There is no such thing as writer’s block, but there is “project block” so be ready to move to a new project and fire at a moment’s notice. The moment you do that, the pressure on the other project will ease, your subconscious mind will figure out what was stopping you, and you can go back to it later. But always have two or three projects ready to switch to. The legend was that Asimov used to have a number of typewriters where he could move from typewriter to typewriter when one project got stuck. I never saw it, but what I knew about him and after being around him a number of times, I wouldn’t doubt that legend.
Trick three. Set an emergency back-up time each day for writing. For example, you plan on a writing session between 7 and 9 in the evening, but alas, family gets in the way and you’re going to miss. Nope. Your back up for the day is after the family goes to bed, you’ll stay up and get the minimum pages cranked out. That way when you wake up the next day, you’ll feel amazingly good about overcoming a life issue and still getting your pages done. Again, this time is emergency time only. But it will really help you keep up a great attitude along the way.
Trick four. Set up a “report into” person. Or persons or group or something. Ideally this is every day or every other day or at worst every week. The streak page here is a “report in” page every month. But set up another writer friend, a family member, someone, to report in to. Knowing that you have to do this will drive you even more. We all hate making excuses and missing, so knowing we’re going to have to do that is a key element in the early years of this craft. It will drive you to write in your emergency time more than not.
After time, as you become a professional, you have trained yourself enough to drop this, but early on, it helps a great deal. And when anyone is really pushing on a project, it helps as well. I often set this up with other writer friends, and have one going now with a friend as I start this new year.
Reporting in is one of the most powerful tools in structuring new habits, which is what many of you are doing with your writing.
So, here we go into a fresh new year. It has lots of promise and fun as well as tough times and life issues. The country is bouncing along the bottom in a lot of areas, jobs are tough, money is tight. But we have a new year full of promise, a new President with new promise coming in. Eventually the snow will melt, the weather clear, and the economy turn around. Now is the time to start fresh on the writing as well, no matter where you are at in your career.
Look out ahead, find your real dream, find the goals that can get you to the dream, break it down into a week and then only a day. And focus on that day. Only that day. Build something, write something fresh and new that one day.
And then the next day build something fresh and new that day. One day at a time.
And have fun. Writing fiction is a great job. It really isn’t work at all, and anyone who claims it is has lost a screw. I get paid money to sit alone in a room and make shit up. I have no boss, no dress code, no commute. I have a cat sitting on the back of my chair and another beside me as I type. I live in a compound overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
I have my issues, yes, and I’ve worked hard and long to get here. And so can you. If you start tomorrow. And focus on only one day at a time.
And have fun.