Yes, I know it is already the 7th of January, and whether or not I like it, the new year is in full swing, but when you are married to a teacher (and do a fair amount of teaching and subbing, yourself) things don’t get “back to normal” until the school year re-starts. So, today is my New Year’s Day, at least as my writing life is concerned.
Set Goals that YOU Can Control
Last week I opened a new Pages document and began listing the things I wanted to accomplish with my writing this year. Last year, I did the same thing as I graduated from my MFA program, and having that list of “Big Picture” to-dos really helped me focus and accomplish many of the things I wanted to accomplish.
One thing that I did differently this year was I stayed away from listing those goals I can’t directly control. Last year, I had a goal of 3 to 5 new published pieces from my short story collection. That was one goal that was left unfulfilled as 2012 drew to a close, but it was also a goal I have no direct control over. Ultimately, if a story is published, that is the publisher’s decision. The part of that goal that I can be in control of was the goal to submit 10 stories to 100 different publication. (That part of the goal, I kept.)
When I began making this year’s list, I did so with this in mind: Set goals that I can control, and allow the rest to fall into place. Or not.
A Stern Talking To (With Myself)
At the end of that goal setting document, I had a little heart-to-heart with myself.
Come to grips with the fact: no one…or, at the most, almost no one…will ever read the stuff I’m writing, now. I have to write it for me, and to write it for me, is to just get it done…do it, and get over it…puke it out and move on…I’ve spent a lot of time wishing, hoping, thinking I’m writing these things to change someone else’s life (or at least help inform it), but that’s not going to happen. So lets just get some of this #$!@ DONE and move on.
It is disheartening to send stories to editors and have that pile of rejections pile up, but it isn’t unexpected. It is even more disheartening to send stories to friends and loved ones who claim to want to read them, but to have them sit for months (or years) unread. But, the bottom line is this: I have to write. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. And it’s high time I stop having a pity party full of sad clowns and deflated gray balloons and just get over it. Sit my butt in the chair. And write.
Plan Your Work, and Work Your Plan
It isn’t a mystery. You can’t “have written” something until you actually sit down and write it. You can’t “have submitted” until you take the time to research the markets and actually send the work out. And, no matter how unlikely (or, ultimately, unimportant) publication is, you can’t “have published” unless you have the writing done, and the submissions sent.
After I had the goals for this year set, I laid out a plan to accomplish those goals. I figured out how many hours each week would be optimal for various categories, or kinds, of writing-related work, and then built a daily schedule of what the ideal writing work week would be for me. I came up with eight general categories:
- Writing – This is pretty self-explanatory. (Hint: It’s the actual, you know, WRITING.) I write, generally, in three-hour blocks. I decided five of those blocks would make for a productive work week. 15 hours.
- Editing – This includes editing and revising my own work, or the work of my paying writing instruction clients. Three more three-hour blocks. 9 hours.
- Book Development – Several of this year’s goals include self-publication of some resource materials and perhaps two other short books. In order to get this accomplished, I have to devote the time to the actual development of the materials. 8 hours.
- Teaching – I’m teaching, currently, two writing classes. 4 hours.
- Class Prep and Editing – When you teach, only a fraction of the time is devoted to the actual teaching in class. There is also prep, and when teaching writing, critique and editing time for student work. 6 hours.
- Platform and Brand Building – For writers, no matter what stage, having a “branded” social media presence isn’t just a way to kill time in the evenings. It’s a basic part of marketing and relationship building. Blogging, Tweeting, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. 6 hours.
- Non-writing Creative Rhythm tasks – I’ve blogged before about having other creative outlets (Julia Cameron calls them Artists Dates) and having a group of other artists to socialize with (either in-person or online) but the only way to assure I actually accomplish this part of maintaining my Creative Rhythm is to schedule time for it. (This year, I’m starting to play guitar again. The fingertips of my left hand are hating this idea…) 7 hours.
- Reading and Personal Development – To write, one must be reading. This isn’t hard for me, as I am always reading two or three books at any given time. What is more challenging is keeping a balance in my reading life between “for fun” books, “for learning” books, and “for personal development” books. I am very structured in making sure I have a good balance. 9 hours.
All totaled: 64 hours of writing-related activities would make a good work week for me.
Tomorrow, I’ll share with you the method I use to both plan and track those 64 hours.
Until then, happy writing.
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