Sticking to Goals as a Writer (and Not)

MP900302968I had a boss once who always knew what percent of the year had already passed – it was roughly 2% per week, a little more than 8% each month. He would cite the percentage down to a fraction.

I’ve come to adopt that attitude, as I watch time and life slip through my hourglass. What have I accomplished? I ask myself each week. Have I moved 2% along the path I set for myself back in January?

Even in retirement, I set myself goals each year, just as I used to set goals for my staff and myself when I worked a corporate job. I set goals for writing, for mediating, for my volunteer work, for time spent with family. Some of my goals are unlikely high-bars – like publishing two books this year – and some are more easily achieved – like attending my writing group meetings regularly.

This year it has been difficult to stick to my writing goals. When one is one’s own boss, it is too easy to let events intervene, to rationalize putting things off. There was my daughter’s injury, the time it took to get myself off one volunteer board (although that was one of my goals, and it did get accomplished), ongoing projects on a couple of other boards, preparing and filing my federal, state and local tax returns (which each year consumes most of March and half of April).

Before I knew it, it was the end of April. One-third of the year gone.

Daily OrganizerWhat have I done on my writing goals in those four months? I’ve written 45-50 blog posts (averaging about 600 words/post), most of them for this blog, but also for two other blogs I work on. I’ve written a couple of short pieces, edited 200 pages of a novel (which still needs more work before I can publish it), and planned and executed one group book-selling event.

Carolyn See Literary Life coverAs I posted last year, in Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, Carolyn See says to write 1000 words five days a week. I certainly have not met that goal this year.

One year, when I was doing the first draft of a novel, I kept a spreadsheet of words written each day. I probably stuck to my writing plan the best that year.

But when most of my writing work is editing, it is harder to count words. Carolyn See has an answer for that – edit for two hours/day. On days I edit, I probably work for an average of two hours.

But the problem is that I don’t write or edit every day. My days are broken up with too many meetings – just like when I was working. It is too easy to justify not working, if I only have an hour free till my next obligation. And that is my downfall!

I used to laugh at myself and say I wanted to be a recluse when I retired. Perhaps that is the answer. Chuck all the organizations in which I participate. And yet, each time I think about the organizations with which I’m involved, I talk myself out of dropping them. I agonize about them for months before deciding that one must go.

I tell myself it is all about self-discipline. And it is.

I could write every day, if I just quit reading so much. But I won’t. Or if I gave up trying to exercise regularly. But my husband, a fitness fiend, won’t let me do that.

There should be time for it all. But there isn’t. (Well, there would be, if I had the self-discipline. If I used those hours here and there between meetings.)

No matter what you do, you can never catch up, and you can never get ahead. Those were the lessons I learned from Carolyn See. Every week, 2% of the year slips away, never to return.

And that’s why self-discipline is so important. So I’ll work harder at it. I promise.

Do you set yourself goals? How are you doing this year?

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  1. Theresa,

    Oh, yes. I set goals. I set goals for my goals. However, every time that fails, I resort to my image of Anthony Trollope, 19th century author, who managed 2500 words a day…in the three hours that preceded his day job at the post office.

    Think they’re hiring?

    • OMT — Much as I want to improve my performance to my goals, I’m not willing to consider working for the post office. I do enjoy not having a job with regular hours.

  2. I think we may be suffering from that over-whelming weight. We are experienced in time management, setting priorities and even exercise self-discipline but we aspire to do it all, I think. So much to do, so much to learn and so little time.

    • Doesn’t it, though?! It always has and always will. I keep coming back to Carolyn See’s point about never being able to get ahead, or to catch up. When time is gone, it’s gone.
      Now, have I depressed us both enough?
      Thanks for the comment.

  3. Pingback: Balancing the Myriad Aspects of Writing and Publishing | Story & History

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