Friday, December 28, 2012

Final Friday

Have you set your goals for 2013?

It's Final Friday, the last Friday of 2012.  There are only four days left of this year to begin, work on, and finish the list of goals we'll be working toward next year.  This time next week, we'll be four days into the new year.

It's goal setting time!

It's hard to stay productive without knowing where and how you're going.  That's how goals help us.  My local writing group has been working on a goal all year.  Actually, we've each had our own word goal which is part of the overall word goal of the entire group.  We'll be talking about a new word count challenge at our January meeting and how we can make it more successful than this one.  We've all learned something this year about goals and writing, so next year can be even better.  The following are a few of those things I learned over the past few years when setting and trying to reach goals.

  • Murphy's Law of Goals: When working on a goal, especially a year-long one, life will always intrude.  Try to build in extra time when setting your goal.  If it's early in the goal and you discover you're behind, there's still time to make up for lost ground.  Write an extra page or the equivalent word count of a page each day or twice a week.  Your odds for catching up are fairly good.  If it's later in your goal, just keep working and don't worry about the deficit.  Any progress, no matter how small, is PROGRESS.
  • Never give up because you've fallen behind.  Dumping a goal is the worst thing you can do.  Giving up gets you nowhere, and you'll always wish you'd kept going.  Recognize why you're not staying on goal and try to correct it, if possible.  If not, keep going.  Sometimes miracles DO happen!
  • Don't expect perfection.  Write first, polish later.  It's easy to write a few pages, then spend days, even weeks, going back over and fixing this little thing and that little thing, never making real progress. It's true that we can polish the shine out of anything we work to death.  Never surrender.  Write now.  Fix later.  Remember, you can't fix a blank page, except by putting words on it.
  • Have a road map of where you're going.  Whether your goal is two pages a day or ten, having an idea of where your story is going and who your characters are will make the writing much easier.  This doesn't mean you have to have a complex plot, complete with twenty page synopsis.  It simply means that you need to have a solid idea of who the story is about, what's going to happen to him/her/them, and how the conflicts will be resolved.  Plan ahead.  If that means planning only a few scenes or chapters ahead, go for it.  Having an idea of what's going to happen when you sit down to write will be one step closer to getting words on paper.
  • Celebrate each small goal you reach.  We all tend to be harder on ourselves than we should be.  When we don't reach a goal, we frown, grumble and brood.  When we do reach a goal, we too often don't give ourselves even something as simple as a pat on the back or a "Way to go!"  Reward yourself, even if it's nothing more than an hour reading, watching TV, napping, or spending extra time with family or friends.
What did I learn this year?  Taking a look at my stats-to-date, I see I need to make some changes.  I'm amazed that I surpassed the word count I'd set as my goal.  This past year, my word count total included both regular book writing and also blog writing.  In 2013, I plan to significantly raise my regular writing goal and keep the blog word count separate from it.  This year my word count goal will be 175,000 words.  Having learned that I can write more than I thought I could, there's no reason not to raise my goal.  

For those who set a goal for this year, but missed meeting it, don't give up.  A new year is just around the corner, and learning from our mistakes is a blessing.
We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. - Edith Lovejoy Pierce

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