We’re nearly half way through December, and by now I hope many of you have discovered how capable you are of putting your writing high on your list of priorities. No matter how busy you are, you should be able to find the time to do those things that are truly important to you. It can be so easy to fall out of the habit, even with something we want to do, but if you write daily — even for a short while — you keep that momentum going. Not only do you feel good in the moment, but when you reflect back on the year, you’ll see that you’re finishing 2015 in an excellent, productive way.
This week is the perfect time to start reflecting. Did you set writing goals for the year? How did you do? Was there a particular part of the year where you felt you went off track? What things did you accomplish that maybe weren’t on your original to-do list?
Why do we look back? There’s plenty of advice saying you should just look forward and not dwell on that past, but I believe you can only move forward successfully once you’ve assessed your previous actions. That doesn’t mean you should beat yourself up for perceived failures; we all fall down on the job occasionally, or have something that doesn’t turn out the way we imagined it would. The key is to take inventory and see what was in your control, and determine a new plan of attack for the future.
Once you’ve thought about the past year and your accomplishments, you’ll be ready to set goals for 2016. I don’t like the term resolutions. They bring to mind weight loss ambitions that die out by mid-February. Instead I believe in setting goals and then laying out a plan.
So, a few things to think about this week as you go about your business:
What are one or two year-long goals you’d like to achieve pertaining to your writing? These should be sizable and consist of actionable steps that you can break down over the course of the year. If you’re part of the way finished with writing a book, your ultimate goal could be to have it out on submission to agents, something that can be broken down into finishing the draft, revisions, writing a synopsis and pitch letter, etc.
Are there smaller goals you can set deadlines for at different points during the year? For instance, something you plan to complete by the end of January, or the end of March? Aim to send out a specific number of query letters by a set date, or spend a month learning a new-to-you social media platform or useful computer program. Not everything needs to start on January 1st, either. You might want to participate in NaNoWriMo come November, for example.
Don’t make every goal directly related to publication and becoming a professional writer. Allow yourself to set some fun goals, or to learn skills that have other applications as well. Aim to treat yourself to a weekend getaway somewhere you want to visit that might be a setting for a future book. Try your hand at writing in a different genre or format as a side project, just to see if you enjoy it.
Think ahead for bigger goals that might not take place this year but which require some advance planning. Do you want to attend a certain writer’s conference but feel it’s too costly? Put it on your goal list for 2017 and start saving now. Would you like to visit your editor in New York City when you finally get a book deal? Again, that might require you start setting aside a bit of money.
Stay flexible. Remember, these are your goals. You are making them for your own benefit, so you don’t need to answer to anyone or explain yourself if you don’t complete them all in the time you set. Sometimes things take longer, or less time, or you decide that you’d rather do something else entirely. You only have to answer to yourself, and only you can determine if a goal is important to you.
These ideas should just get you started. You’ve got a couple of weeks before the new year kicks in, so spend a few minutes each day considering what you’d like to do with it. Be a little ambitious. Let yourself stretch. Reach for a couple of stars. You can do it.