I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I’m against goal setting. I’m one of the most goal-oriented people I know . . . Maybe a little too obsessed with where I’m at and how quickly I’m getting there. The problem I have with New Year’s resolutions is more about not wanting to wait until the New Year to take control of my life or fix my bad habits.
I’ve written in a previous blog post about my love for planning and goal-setting and how, for me, it’s a constant cycle of taking my long-term goals, breaking them down into manageable pieces, strategizing, evaluating my progress, and pivoting when my strategy isn’t working. It’s a process that, even with the frustration I have with my lack of progress at times, I really love doing.
I don’t usually jump on the goal-setting bandwagon that occurs on WordPress every year at the end of December and early January because the goals I have are part of a process that’s been ongoing for months (and years). Nevertheless, I’ll go ahead and join the fun this time around and let the rest of the blogosphere in on my current goals and strategies for the weeks and months ahead. Maybe making it public will give me an added push to make it happen. Maybe it will mean I’ll be that much more frustrated when I stop evaluate and find that (once again) things aren’t working out as planned and I need to pivot (re-strategize). Either way, here it goes.
When making goals, I like to try to make sure they are SMART goals. If you don’t know about SMART goals, here is a video to introduce the concept.
1. Have a draft of my novel finished by mid-June 2018. I spent about two years writing short fiction in order to focus on learning particular aspects related to the process and craft of fiction writing. Earlier this year, I spent a few months outlining and plotting a novel I wanted to write. I started a quick draft. (I was trying to participate in my first NaNoWriMo.) I finished about 27,000 words, but when I submitted the first 5,000 words to an online writing class I was taking, they gave me some really great feedback that would change the entire novel. The changes they suggested were wise and would help me fill the plot gaps I left open in my outline. Making those changes would mean I’d need to throw out the first 27,000 words I had already written and I’d need to re-work my outline and the arc for my main character. So I stopped with the quick draft I had started. I don’t think the time spent writing those 27,000 words was a waste, though. I learned a lot in the process, not the least of which was the discovery that writing a first draft by plowing through with an outrageous daily word count quota (forcing myself to get down 3000 words each day) . . . Well, it’s a strategy that doesn’t really work for me. This time around, I’ll be much more detailed with my outline than I originally was (a strategy that I discovered really does work for me) and then commit to writing 1000 words each day. For me, I think if I have a lower daily word-count quota like I did with my short fiction, the pages I do get down will be higher quality, I’ll have less stress about it, and I’ll have the time I need to do other writing-related tasks, like offering critiques to the other people in a workshop group I’ll be starting in February. Having a draft done by mid-June is still a huge task, which is why this goal is broken up into smaller tasks (each with a deadline) between now and then. I’ll start by working through some puzzles I still need to solve related to my outline and then I’ll start a draft and write 1000 words a day until it’s done. I’ll be working with a workshop group with the summary and first 10,000 words.
2. Find a critique group by June, work with them to come up with a reasonable submission schedule, and begin consistently exchanging work with them throughout the rest of 2018. I’ve been taking writing classes through UCLA over the last several months. These classes really helped me make some breakthroughs with my writing, but at this point, I think the best next step for me is to stop with the classes and just move forward on my draft. I don’t want to spend my writing time each day reading lectures and completing assignments unrelated to the particular project I want to devote my time to. At the end of February, I’ll start a workshop with a professional editor and a group of four or five other writers who also focus on YA fiction. My hope is that I’ll develop a relationship with one (or two or three) of those writers and they’d be willing to continue workshopping each other’s work. I’m also planning to try out some of the larger groups in Inked Voices to see if I can find a critique partner or two. Hopefully one of these strategies will allow me to be build a critique group where I feel like I belong.
3. Take that novel draft that I finish in June and take it through at least one good revision by mid-December 2018. I do have a revision strategy I plan to use, but that would be a blog post all its own, so I won’t go into the details here.
4. Read at least fifty books in 2018. I reached fifty books in 2017. I do think that number should be higher for an aspiring writer, but fifty is a do-able number for me. If I can get above fifty, then great, but fifty is the goal I have for now. I love reading all different genres, but I’ve been trying to be more purposeful in how I select my books. (Which is easier said than done because there’s so much out there I want to read and so little time to finish all the books I want.)
5. Start blogging again. Okay . . . I know this goal isn’t specific or measurable. There really isn’t anything SMART about it. To be honest, I’m kind of stuck with knowing exactly what I want to do here. My blog started because of all that I had read about needing an author platform, and so I went ahead and started a blog thinking I’d figure out my niche and an appropriate posting schedule once I got started. Well, that still hasn’t happened. I have discovered that I really love blogging. It gives me a creative outlet different from the fiction I write, and I love having my own little corner of the internet that belongs to me where I can post whatever I want to . . . but I’m not sure I’ve found the purpose for my blog yet . . . Other than it being a place for me to write about the odds and ends that come to mind that have nothing to do with the bigger (and more difficult and time-consuming) fiction projects I like working on. And so here I am, not sure how to make this goal a SMART one since I’m still not quite sure what I want my blog to even be yet. I think for right now, my first step is to come up with an organizational system in which I keep track of all the different posts I start and deadlines for when I want to post them. I also need to decide on a posting schedule I can actually stick to. After that, I’ll do some thinking about what I want my blog to be about . . . Whether I can (should) keep posting about whatever random topics come to mind or if I should commit to getting a more specific niche. Then I’ll try to figure out how to build an audience.
6. So last year, I was an exercise maniac. I was obsessive about training for the Great Wall Marathon and it took up way too much time and energy. After the race I was so burned out on exercising that I quit completely. Since then my exercise has run in spurts. I have got to get back on track again. I want to exercise five times a week (in the mornings before the kids wake up). A thirty-minute workout is enough. I want to be in shape and be healthy, but don’t need (or want) to do anything crazy this year (like run a marathon). My goal here is simply to find a do-able routine that I can manage to stick to.
7. Cut back on sugar and carbs. Cook more often. Order food (and eat at restaurants) no more than once a week. This is more of a keep-doing-what-I’ve-been-doing goal. When we came back to China in August I was so sick of the bad habits we develop during our summer visits to the US, I kick-started our healthy eating habits in China (yes . . . It’s much easier to be healthy in China than the US, believe it or not), and I gave up all added sugars (which also meant giving up processed foods . . . Which we don’t eat much of here in China anyway) and giving up pasta and bread. I even stopped eating my yummy homemade bread and stopped putting sugar and milk in my coffee. Oh. My. Goodness. When I gave up sugar and pasta and bread, you wouldn’t believe the difference in my energy levels . . . And the quality of my skin . . . And even though I wasn’t exercising, I lost ten pounds in about three months without ever feeling hungry or really even trying to lose weight. It was amazing. I did backslide a few times (it is, after all, really hard to be picky about what I eat while traveling), but I liked what happened to my body when I made those changes, and so I intend to continue them.
8. Go on one-on-one “dates” with the kids and husband more often. My kids are asleep by 8:00 every night, so it’s not all that difficult for hubby and I to enjoy a glass of wine and watch a movie together in the evening. We’re both homebodies, so our ideal date is usually a romantic evening at home anyway. But recently, when Daughter had a dress rehearsal for a dance recital, I took my son on a date and while waiting for her to finish. As I listened to all he had to tell me when he knew that he had my rapt attention, I realized how rarely it happens. It’s not that we don’t make family time a priority in my house. We do. But it’s not very often when my kids get one-on-one time with either parent. It’s always both of them together. They love each other dearly . . . But they are normal siblings. They fight. They compete for attention. And when I was on a date with my son, I was reminded how important it is to at least try to give them that one-on-one time. I’d like to try for once a week. And I want to be creative about what we do, too. It seems like “dates” in our family always center around some sort of naughty treat at a restaurant, and that’s a habit that doesn’t fit with my other goals and isn’t one I want to start.