Embrace 2020: Plan for success in your writing

Holy crapamoley – it’s the year 2020! Is anyone else having Jetson-like fantasies about this year? I feel like it’s officially future-land, and yet, not a single flying car has soared past my window. Maybe they’re just slow to make it to New York’s Hudson Valley?

What has for sure happened, though, is that a new year has begun, and with it the chatter about intention-setting versus resolution-forming. I still love Julie’s guidance from last year about setting a word, or words, around which to structure the next 360 days. I have done, however, exactly none of any of this goodness, though the year is already escaping through my fingers. 

So, putting myself on the spot here to come up with a word for 2020, I think mine is going to be “vision.” Because what could be clearer than 20/20, right? (dull cymbal roll).  But if life has hammered any lesson home to me, it’s that in order to see into the future, we have to first look at our past. 

Putting that into writerly terms, before we can envision (I’m full of ‘em today, watch out!) what we’re going to rock this year, we need to look at what we rolled last year. This, by the way, is an exercise best done without champagne goggles (or the subsequent hangover).  For me, in order for this to be meaningful, I need to do it a couple of times, and each time needs to be a little quieter, for a little longer. 

(This exercise is vastly easier if you actually set goals last year. If you didn’t, keep reading, since I’m going to show you how setting goals is helpful on both the micro and macro levels.) 

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

For me, my 2019 goals were to finish one manuscript and get it out on submission. Then I was going to review an older MS I had previously submitted (and had rejected a dozen – okay, fine, 20 – times), to see if it warranted further submitting or needed an overhaul. And I was going to write a brand-spanking new MS during NaNoWriMo in November. 

Let’s recap: that was three major goals for 2019. Note that none of them were dependent on anyone else, and all were encapsulated projects that could easily be judged successful (or not). 

How’d I do? Well, when I first looked at the sticky note I pinned to my work board 12 months ago, my thought was hit, strike, meh.  Then I turned away, unimpressed by my inability to knock all the balls out of the park last year. 

Take away: Always set goals that exceed your abilities. It will give you something to strive for. But then be kind on yourself when you don’t make them all happen.

A few days later, I came back to the too-vibrantly-pink-to-be-ignored record of my grand ambitions and looked at them a bit more closely. I gave myself a pat on the back for getting the one MS out on submission. It hasn’t sold at auction (yet), but it’s not dead in the water either, so that’s something. That goal, as the first on my list last year, also had the most detailed partitioning of sub-goals. I had goals for that puppy by quarter, by month, and by week. And while I didn’t make all of those micro timelines, there’s no doubt in my mind that my ability to check that one off had a lot to do with the very specific visualization (and logistical) planning that went into making it reality. 

Take away: Setting a large goal is just the beginning. You have to start with the end and then work back to the beginning, a quarter, month, week, or day at a time. It will keep you moving toward the finish line.

A few days later I looked at the list again, with the door closed to the outside world. I considered why I utterly failed to go back to the shelved MS. Time was a big factor. I had penciled this goal in under the second quarter, part of which was taken over by wrapping up the first goal, and part of which was eaten by summer vacation. The total failure here (I mean, the closest I got to reviewing this MS in 2019 was moving the storyboard from place to place in my office, usually to dust or make space for something else) was rendered glaring by the fact that I at least got two-thirds of the third goal done. Why? Well, because the third goal was tied to a very specific point in time. NaNoWriMo happens in November. I knew that from the outset. I planned for it. As it turned out, I didn’t have enough time to finish the whole thing, but I got most of it down and I have no doubt I will finish this MS early in this new year. 

Take away: Whether it’s the power of setting the intention, or the actual muck-work of planning how you’ll write the damn thing down week by week, breaking the larger goal down into sub-goals is the key to success.

So what are my goals for 2020? When I peer into my crystal ball, what do I hope I’ll see? I’m not sure yet. What I am sure of though, is that I’m going to be intentional about:

  1. Setting goals that I am capable of achieving on my own
  2. Making sure that they can clearly be judged as successful (or not)
  3. And that if they’re worth articulating, then they’re worth breaking down into tiny, manageable segments that will keep me on track (even when I blow a micro-deadline). 

What are your goals for 2020? I’d love to hear them, and I’d love to root for you. I’m happy to help you map a way forward even. Leave a comment here or share them on our Facebook page. Or both! I want to see you achieve your goals this year! Happy 2020!

–Thea

One Reply to “Embrace 2020: Plan for success in your writing”

  1. Thea is awesome at this goal-writing-and-achieving thing. I looked back at my goal list…some I can check off! Others, not so much. I think Thea’s microlevel of goaling would have benefitted my less-than-achieved goals. This year I’m going to try a new tactic. If it’s helpful, I will share! Best wishes for 2020!

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