Stephanie writes young adult novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and the Ellie Sweet books. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.
Hello, writers! Happy New Year!
A few weeks ago, when I noted the calendar counting down the final days of 2015, my mind—like many—turned to goals. Yes, I was thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2016, but I was thinking more about 2015.
|Connor and Eli, two extra time-consuming|
kiddos who I wouldn't trade for anything!
We all have an element of unknown in our life, of course, but some years are much more unpredictable than others. When so much is unknown, how can you make realistic goals? Here are a few principles that helped me make the most of last year:
1. Think rocks, not sand.
If you haven't heard it before, the idea is this: Say you have a collection of rocks, some sand, and a jar. If you put the sand in the jar first, you won't be able to fit many rocks. But if you put the rocks in first, the sand will fill around the rocks and the jar will hold a lot more.
I've found this such a helpful illustration when I think about my time that I keep a reminder of it on my desk:
I don't want to fill my life up with non-priority things—shopping for the perfect pair of boots, keeping my house perfectly vacuumed, re-doing my very out-of-date laundry room—at the expense of the things that really matter to me, like time with my family or writing. Of course these are still things that need to happen, but I either choose to push them off to another season of life (redoing the laundry room) or fit them in during bits of time (cleaning and shopping) rather than chunks of time.
Even within the category of "writing," I have rock items and sand items. Maintaining Go Teen Writers and engaging with you all on the blog is a rock, as is the writing/editing of whatever my main project is at any given time. But being active on Twitter or Facebook, responding to emails, and getting together with other writers are all sand items for me. I fit them in around the rocks.
2. Think strategies, not numbers.
Right now isn't one of those seasons. A goal of 1,000 words a day will only frustrate me. Weekly goals are more doable, but even those are hard to hit consistently. Not for lack of trying but for lack of time.
So instead of thinking in numbers or deadlines, I get strategic about what I'm going to do when. I know I will have some work time on the days when two of my kids are in school and the baby is napping, so I set aside that time for writing. Always. That's my strategy for making progress—however slow it may be—on my book. And I judge my success not by how many words I wrote or chapters I got edited but on how focused I was during the time I had.
3. Think community, not flying solo.
The act of verbally expressing my daily goals to someone has been really good for me. That extra bit of accountability keeps me on track when I'm tempted to drift over to Pinterest or my newest obsession, Stuff You Missed In History Class. (Fabulous writing fodder!) It also helps me to be kind to myself when I'm not making the kind of progress that I wish I was.
Do you set writing goals for yourself? What works for you?
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