I found myself slowing down writing-wise over the past month or so. I tried blaming it on my day job, needing a break from writing, needing (but not getting) a vacation, the weather, my house being messy, my dogs… All of these were factors, but at the end of the day my reasons for why I was writing less don’t really matter. What matters is what I do to write more.
I suspect I like herding dogs because at heart we’re the same. We have to do something all the time. However, my need to constantly accomplish things means I can spend an entire weekend cleaning my house, reorganizing my digital photos, scanning bar codes so all my books are tracked on my computer (I use Delicious Library, if you too have a touch of OCD), etc. I can and will find a zillion things to do. Which is great as long as writing is in the list, but not so great when it’s not.
I finally realized two things:
- I needed to research a few things for my novel. I knew from the beginning that I had to figure out some key pieces of information, but I decided to plow ahead with the first draft and deal with them later. Partway through the second draft it suddenly became later, but instead of doing research I sulked for a few weeks.
- I’d achieved the writing goals I’d set for myself (well, mostly – I’d changed ‘publishing novel #2 in 2013’ to ‘finishing the first draft and starting on the second draft’). This was great, except I hadn’t set new goals. I seemed more interested in sulking about the novel I wasn’t working on than switching to any of my other writing projects.
I was recently listening to a writing podcast in which the authors were talking about how well setting writing goals works for them. One of them mentioned how non-writers will often ask: why are you setting goals? You’re a full-time writer, publishing your own books – why give yourself goals and deadlines? You can do whatever you want!
In my case, do whatever I want turned into things like spending many, many hours on Ancestry.com, which was super fun but I’d get to Sunday evening without having even opened my manuscript. I did clean my office – twice. I sewed polka dot napkins. I read a few books, and even watched an entire movie by myself. (Grosse Pointe Blank, which I love every time I watch it.) I did do some writing – I wrote the first two pages of a new short story, and poked a bit (sulkily) at my novel. But it wasn’t enough.
I needed goals!
So here are my writing goals for 2014. Since these are goals, not rules, I can change them if I need to – but they’ll give me something to shoot for.
- Novel #2
- Finish the final draft and get it edited.
- Come up with a title other than Novel #2.
- Get a cover design (obviously this requires a title).
- Publish the novel
- Finish the first draft of novel #3. (This also includes deciding which novel to work on.)
- Write 12 short stories.
- Outline three books in my historical fiction series. (I came up with the series idea a few weeks ago, and I’m super excited about it – but I need to do a LOT of research.)
These are pretty aggressive goals considering I still have a day job, three very energetic dogs, and I haven’t scanned my non-fiction books into Delicious Library. But I’d rather set myself tough goals than easy ones. I like when I’m working super hard on my writing. I like getting to where I can write something useful even if I only have 15 minutes free. Writing is like exercise – once you’ve made it a habit, it’s easier to stick with.
Don’t worry, the dogs won’t get shortchanged.
Rosie has just learned how to jump on rocks, but doesn’t yet understand that she’s supposed to look at the camera. And yes, she has two leashes while neither of the other two were on leash for this afternoon’s hike.