It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be making new year resolutions – and then posting about it. So, what are my resolutions?
Honestly, I don’t generally do that whole resolution thing. Not since I was a kid anyway. I quickly learned that making a promise to myself that I wasn’t sure I could keep was a good way to do nothing but end up feeling bad about myself and adding stress to my life that I just don’t need.
The saying “New Year, New Me” sounds inspirational on the surface of it. However, for myself, that just doesn’t work. I know myself well enough to know that changing what year I (forget to) write on checks doesn’t change who I am. Besides, I kinda like the person I was in 2013. I think I’ll keep him around for a while.
However, a new year is a new beginning of a sort. It’s a good time to think about what we can do better. I think the new year resolution thing has gotten a little out of hand for some folks. When we look back on the year just ended, we should look at what we did right as well as what we could have done better. We should certainly note those areas we were lacking in, and try to improve ourselves, as we should always try to do throughout the year.
In other words, don’t resolve to scrap the person you have been. Resolve to improve that person. You don’t need a new you, you just need to be honest with yourself (about both the good and the bad) and continually work to be a better person today than you were yesterday.
For myself, one of the shortcomings I have often discussed, particularly on Facebook and Twitter, is my difficulty with staying motivated. With the new year, I’ve taken a new look at how I set goals, and how I manage my writing time.
To begin with, I had suspected that I might be a morning writer. That’s weird, I know, because who wants to do anything in the morning? However, I’ve experimented with writing first thing in the morning and so far it seems to be paying off! In fact, I’ve been using my wife’s laptop, which she keeps by the bed. I’ve done a lot of writing in the past few days simply by waking up, grabbing her laptop, and cranking out a thousand words before I ever get out from beneath the blankets. Whatever works, right?
Another thing I’m doing is trying to be realistic with my writing goals. In the past, I have had some truly epic days. The first night I worked on the first draft of Frostwalker, I cranked out over 12,000 words in one sitting. But that isn’t what’s normal for me. I have to be honest with myself about how much time I can realistically devote to writing on any given day, and how much energy and enthusiasm I can maintain.
I know that I can’t write every day. Between running a business, having a part time job, family life, and all the other things that make demands on my time, there are simply going to be days when I can’t (or won’t) write. Beyond that, when I do write, I know that I can’t consistently do 1,000 words every day. Some days are just going to be less productive than others.
So, I’ve decided not to have a daily goal. Instead, my goal is for a daily average. If I can average 500 words per day, that’s good for me. So, if I write 3,500 words on Monday, I’m good for a week. Of course, writing 3,500 on Monday doesn’t mean I don’t try to write on Tuesday. But, if I can’t write on Tuesday, either due to work commitments or just sheer lack of energy or motivation, I’m covered. This gives me some wiggle room. At the end of the year, if I meet my goal, I’ll have written a total of 182,500 words, which is a couple of average novels worth of content.
Of course, 500 words per day isn’t great. However, that’s not a limit (I can and do write more), it’s just a realistic (for me) goal. It is very important in any endeavor to set goals. Without goals, you can’t have direction for your energy and you end up wasting energy for little or no gain. But, you’ll find nothing but frustration and despair if your goals aren’t realistic. I have to be honest with myself, and that means that 500 words per day on average is a reasonable, reachable goal. Setting a goal of 1,000 words per day, and then getting 800 per day, means I’m failing. Setting a goal of 500 words per day, and writing 800 per day, means I’m meeting my goal and then some.
One interesting side effect of this has been that I’ve actually done much better than expected. I have, in fact, written over 1,000 words per day since putting this goal in place January 1st. However, today I took a day off to get caught up on work that had to be taken care of. I could have written this morning, but I knew that doing so would have made it that much harder to do the work that pays the bills tonight. Counting today’s zero word count, my average output per day since January 1st (inclusive) is 1,004 words per day – twice what I’ve set out to achieve.
I don’t know if I’ll keep up that pace, but that’s what I have so far. If I don’t keep up that pace, it doesn’t matter. My goal isn’t to average 1,000 words per day, but to average 500. I’m ok with this. I have accepted that I’m not going to be that guy who writes 2,000 words per day. Not at this point in my life, and quite possibly not even if I end up writing full time. I’m me, and I’m ok with who I am. I work to make the most of that person, not to frustrate myself.
For the record, what I’ve been working on is A Man With A Gun. I’m still not sure where this story is going, or what it might end up as. It’s a departure from my usual work, but nothing truly worthwhile comes out of staying in your comfort zone. It may be that the project will be a full length novel, or maybe a novella. It’s getting a bit lengthy to be a short story, having passed 15,000 words. It may also be that it will fizzle and die. That happens too, sometimes. But, wherever it goes, I intend to follow it to the end.
In any case, here’s to a productive and successful 2014!