Friday, January 12, 2018

New Year & Improved Writing Goals

Ancient sculpture of a seated woman from the National Museum of Archeology in Malta
If ancient Neolithic people could 
you can write a chapter this month. 

I love the fresh start of a new year. This is a natural time to assess your progress and set goals for yourself.

It is also a natural time to drive yourself crazy rather than actually set and accomplish goals. Let's avoid the crazy to try a more practical approach this year.

Writing Goals & Plan
First, ask yourself some questions: What are your writing goals for the new year? What do you think you can actually accomplish and when will you do the necessary work? Set your goals down (maybe even in a Bullet Journal) and schedule time to meet those goals daily, weekly and monthly. Give yourself time to brainstorm, write, edit, submit and read widely.

Writing To-Do List
Break your large project into small pieces (for example: research a particular question, write this scene, etc.) In fact, keep a to-do list of the small steps necessary to complete the full project. If you add, "finish my manuscript" in your to-do list, you're less likely to ever cross that item off your list than if you had written, "write backstory for X character." I encourage you to schedule blocks of time in your calendar to complete these particular tasks.

Write Everyday? No
I've heard the mantra to write everyday since I started reading about writers' approaches. As a teacher, parent and human with unscheduled things popping up daily, that's never been a goal I can meet.

Cal Newport writes in "Write Every Day" is Bad Advice: Hacking the Psychology of Big Projects,  "Hard scheduling rules — write every day! work on research for one hour each morning! exercise 10 hours a week! — deployed in isolation will lead to procrastination as soon as you start to violate them, which you almost certainly will do. At this point, the bigger goal the rules support will suffer from this same motivation drop. To leverage the psychology of your brain, you need to instead choose clear goals that you clearly know how to accomplish, and then approach scheduling with flexibility. Be aggressive, but remain grounded in the reality of your schedule. If your mind thinks you have a good goal and sees your short terms plans are working, it will keep you motivated toward completion."

Be Happy, Too
The first book I read this year was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, which a kind friend brought me from the States. I like Rubin's practical approach to meeting goals while being gentle to herself. My favorite resource is her 13 Suggestions for Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions.  She includes the possibility of giving up a resolution and asking for help. This is a general approach I can follow, rather than faltering one day and feeling frustrated enough to give up. You can be happy while achieving your goals. Why would you continue to work towards your goal if that work makes you miserable?

More Resources
There are many more fabulous voices adding ways to meet your goals in the new year. Here are some of my recent favorites:
Writing While Parenting by Sara Burnett
Don't Waste Your Time with Bad Resolutions by Tim Herrera

For more from me, I've written previously about Trusting Your Calendar and Setting Writing Goals

If you need help with your writing to-do list and setting a schedule for yourself, as well as individualized writing coaching, I'm available to work with you. You can read about my services here and email me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com. 

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