As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been somewhat of an absentee blogger lately. First I was busy, then I was sick, then I was busy and sick, and now I’m back to busy. And when I say busy, I don’t mean I have writing deadlines for my novel that I have to achieve. (I wish!) I’m talking about the other stuff, my day-job, laundry, day-job, gardening, cooking, day-job, grocery shopping, oh, and did I mention my day-job? Not that I’m complaining; the way things are going, I’m very very grateful to have a day-job — and my prayers go out to those of you who have been affected by lay-offs. I’m just offering it up as one of the reasons why I haven’t been here very much.
It’s also why I think goals and deadlines are so important for us writers, those of us in this boat.
When everything else is so hectic, sometimes, the last thing you want is to have one more thing to do and think about, especially if it’s not getting you anything — like a pay check — and there’s no one breathing down your neck saying, “Are you done yet?”. So, if you’re not at the part of your writing career yet where you have a deal with a publisher and a deadline when you have to get your next book in, writing can come after all the other things on your to do list.
But, the Catch 22 (to reference a published book) is that, if you don’t carve writing into your schedule, you never will be in that position where you have a deal with a publisher…
So, that’s where the drive to write comes in. If you really want to do this, you really want to make writing a career, you have to fit it in now, not tomorrow or the next day — now. Because if you wait until tomorrow because you’re too busy today, your to do list will just continue to grow, and tomorrow you’ll be just as busy if not more.
Drive to tell a story is what makes us sit in front of a computer every day whether we’re getting paid for it or not. But sometimes, when there are so many other things that need our attention, drive might not be enough. That’s when goals and deadlines come in.
When Kathi Appelt was writing the first draft of her first novel, The Underneath, she had problems with doubts sneaking into her mind and disrupting her writing. Kathy created deadlines for herself to force herself to work through the doubts and write. Once she did that, she managed to finish her novel. And The Underneath was just named a Newbery Honor Book by the American Literary Association; congratulations, Kathi!
Goal or deadline setting has its own challenges, though. You don’t want to defeat your purpose by getting frustrated. So, here are some tips to get you started:
- Set goals or deadlines that you can achieve with your current workload.
- Set specific goals or deadlines, such as to write 500 words a day or 10 pages a week, instead of just to write a novel. The less specific you make the goal or deadline, the easier it is to not achieve it.
- Keep your goals and deadlines short-term leading to a long-term plan. If you want to write a novel, make an outline your first goal, then character profiles your next goal, then chapeter 1, etc.
- Celebrate when you achieve a goal or deadline. If you set the goal of writing five pages a day for a week and you achieve that, give yourself something nice, a warm bath, an hour in the sun, a glass of wine, a chocolate chip cookie, whatever you’d like that can say, I did it. Writing can get lonely, so feel good about rewarding yourself.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve a goal or deadline. But note how close or far you were and aim to do better next time. Things always pop up, and, as I mentioned, we all have a million things pulling at our attention. If you miss a goal, it’s not the end of the world. Just don’t let it bring you down, because the worst thing you can do is say, I don’t have time for this, and then not write at all. That’s why it’s so important to set realistic goals, keep them short-term and celebrate our achievements.
I’m doing exactly this right now. Last Monday, I started the polish of my novel and, thankfully, got through nine chapters (I write short chapters). I have 33 chapters in my novel. So, I’ve set a goal of having the entire novel polished in a month from now, by March 15. I have 24 chapters to do in four weeks, so that’s 6 chapters a week. I just did 9 in one week, so setting a goal of 6 a week is doable for me, and gives me added time in case anything comes up. If I do more than 6 chapters one week, I’ll just finish earlier and celebrate more.
So, set some goals and/or deadlines and get some writing done.