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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Erratic Writing & 2012 Writing Goals

Last post at Arizona Inspiration, I shared my amaze that I had managed to rack up around 125,000 words in 2011. "That's great!" you say.  "You have a figure to work from in drawing up your 2012 goals."

It is great.  But the goal setting isn't so simple.  The problem is that my word count month to month is very erratic.  For example, I only topped the 10K words per month goal twice in 2011--in January (50K) and July (40K).  Three of those months, I didn't even hit 1K.  The remainder of the months, I went anywhere from 2000-6000 words per month.

I don't want to just achieve word count, I want to consistently produce.

Why?  A few reasons:

1.  In this digital age, whether we like it or not, it's hard to get your book discovered in the first place, but once it's out there, the impatient modern reader isn't going to wait years for you to release the next one.  Translated as--when you publish the first one, you better have another waiting in the wings.  Yes, I know--you can't rush art.  I can hear that response now (and I've thought it myself).  But the bottom line is, if I want any kind of secondary income from my writing, the work has to be out there on the market.  Period.

2.  Part of laying out my writing schedule is not only scheduling writing time but spacing out my projects so that once I've finished the draft of one manuscript, I can set it aside and edit another.  That's hard to do when your production schedule is at such extremes.

This whole writing goals thing is further complicated by other commitments.  I have a highly stressful day job.  And there are certain times of year when it is even more stressful than usual.  It is no coincidence that my best writing months were months when my job was at "normal" high stress level.  But if I want to consider myself a professional in the field of writing, I need to learn to produce--even when the going is tough.

Tack onto that an intensive course load as I learn web design (or try to) and you've got a struggle to find time to write and write consistently.

There are also certain months of the year that I'm simply more productive.  I love January.  While there may only be 1 second separating 2011 from 2012, when that clock ticks over to 2012, it reinvigorates me with new possibilities and the desire to forge ahead with my writing.

Traditionally, October has always been a good month for me, but in recent years, losing both my brothers in the month of October, it has dampened my enthusiasm and productivity for that month--I only wrote 500 words this October.

So how do I muddle through all that to set my 2012 writing goals?  When setting my goals, these were the key:

Increase the previous year's word count:
No one can tell you by how much to increase it, but you've already proven last year's word count, so it's time to raise the bar a little bit.

Space projects through the year in phases:
Sure, there's the writing, but there's also editing, research, lining up critique partners, etc.  You need to allow ample room for each phase.  While ideally I'd like to set aside a manuscript for six months and let it percolate before the first set of revisions, for 2012 I'm going to try for 30 days.  I'll have to wait and see how that will work for me.

Give weight to your most naturally productive months:
For me, my most productive months were January and July.  It might be different for you.  So I'm going to set robust word count goals for those months, even though in January I'll be knee deep in a couple of killer classes.  I'm going to trust my natural rhythm during those months to see me through.

Set weekly word count goals, not daily:
Everyone is motivated by different goals.  In past years, I have set daily word count goals.  For me, that doesn't work.  Since my life is so hectic, I think it will be less stressful to set weekly goals--which will give me some flexibility around the highest stress days in meeting my word count goals.  The danger of course, is letting your word count pile up till the end of the week.  But I'll have to live and learn.

Acknowledge that try as you might, these goals are merely targets:
There is no such thing as a goal set in stone.  While we might plan our life in one way, God might have completely different plans He hasn't shared (just because I pray about my goals doesn't mean I get clear answers). All I can do is use these goals as my target, but I know I must be flexible.  After all, for most of 2011, I thought the year had gone abysmally in the writing department, and then I was pleasantly surprised to sit down this week and realize just how much I had accomplished.

These goals will be difficult to achieve in the midst of all of life's other stressors, but I just have to remember one thing.  No one is waiting in the wings to say "Here sweety-pie.  Let me just handle that nasty old day job for you while you sit and write," or "Here honey-bun.  Don't you worry about the rent.  Just think of this as your year-long sabbatical to write."

While there might be someone out there who HAS heard those magic words, for the rest of us, we must decide if we want publication badly enough to pursue it, despite the stress, the fatigue, the illness, or any other barriers, real or perceived.

For me, it's worth the struggle.  There are so many amazing stories waiting to be told.

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