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KISS YOUR GOALS GOODBYE! Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.

September 15, 2010

To tell you the truth, neither one of this weeks topics thrilled me. I’ve been ‘forever’ perfecting a story outline that thinks outside-the-box for the attention disorder that cycles with my bi-polarism (close, but no hookah smoking orange cream flavor to scream “Eureka” as I jump from the bathtub and run naked down the street.)

I also felt a little funky chatting about setting realistic goals for writing. After all, I’m the one who still thinks it’s fun to take the adult son up on his challenge to eat a 2 pound “shamu” burger without training for it first (I mean, come on! I’ve rocked premie babies who weighed less than what I was wolfing down!)

However, I decided to go with the lesser of two evils – and chose to write about setting realistic writing goals. Yeah. This coming from someone born under the sign of Capricorn (as many sea-goats sport tunnel vision when it comes to their goals. They disregard everything else – family, friends, even their own emotions – while in pursuit of their goal.) I was also born in the Chinese year of the Dragon, which may explain how I HAD to learn to temper my ‘Let’s go get ’em’ goal attitude, as Dragons are extremely tenacious.

So, out of years of trial and error (heavy on the error part), I’ve come up with the surefire formula for goal setting, guaranteed to work for Capricorn/Dragon/bi-polar/eccentrics like me who are ready to kiss their goals goodbye — because they’ll be looking at their accomplishments in the rear view mirror of life.

Don’t believe me? Then, my doubting friends, read on.

The plan is based on the anagram K.I.S.S. = Keep it simple stupid.

Now, this is not to be mixed up with Margie Lawson’s wonderful DUH plan =

  1. Do it first — or as close to first as humanly possible
  2. Understand that it will be inconvenient and/or difficult and do it anyway
  3. Hurray! Celebrate! You did it!

The main objective in KISS is just that – keep your goals simple, realistic, specific, manageable, and attainable, while still being able to live life, act like a human, breathe, eat, sleep and have sex.

Espesically the ‘have sex’ part. Really important there, especially if you want to write a great romance.

Before I get into the fundementals of what has helped me maintain a healthy set of realistic writing goals, I would like to take a moment to mention something about the concept of ‘time management.’

It does not exist.

No such animal.

A made up term that belongs in the last century, along with dentists who drill on teeth without novocaine or gas.

Think about it. Time can’t be managed. Time is uncontrollable and we can only manage ourselves and our use of time.

From now on, refer to this snagfu as “self management.” And it’s up to YOU to stop making excuses, get off your duff and do something other than complain and whine about not being able to reach your goals.

Now, with that being said, there are common “time wasters” dancing like dust faries with the toys in our attics.

I’m talking controllable things like personal disorganization, your inability to say “No” to anybody with a request, interruptions such as the telephone, email, TV or drop in visitors (“Have you got a minute?”), stress, anxiety and fatigue, procrastination (what are you avoiding?), conflicting schedules with children’s or spouse’s activities, indecision, ineffective delegation (come on, do you have to do it all?), acting without total information/ignorance, dealing with other people’s issues or problems, unclear communication, unclear objectives and priorities, lack of planning.

Get the point?

No approach to realistic goal setting for writing your novel is gonna work if you don’t get the other crap straightened out first. Period.

One last point before I lay down the blueprints that will change your life.

You need to get a firm grip on reality. Take off the purple and round John Lennon glasses and remember you are wearing big-boy underpants (and in some cases, a few are in frilly white lacey things that would make Ernest Hemingway bristle with envy).

If you’re working full-time and are coaching little league three times a week or are a big time Scout Master with duties at home: think. What are your priorities? Where will you make the time to write?

If this is your second time around in the relationship department and you have a revolving door of his kids/her kids every weekend: think. When? Where? Be concious of your decisions and stick to them.

If you work outside the home, have two kids and a husband who doesn’t lift a finger for mealtime, bath time or homework – are you really gonna set a goal of writing 3 hours a day? How are you gonna manage?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s alright to stretch yourself (in fact, you want to), but it’s not alright to stretch yourself beyond a sensible limit. Unrealistic goals will have you crying like a little girl. Before you know it, you admit defeat and run to the refridgerator, right into the arms of Ben and Jerry.

For the sake of your hips, you really want to avoid this ice cream scenerio (well, unless B & J were part of the making time for sex chat we had earlier, but then that would be just too kinky even for me and I’m not going there).

After you’ve given honest assessment of your current situation and have dealt with all the time wasters, proceed with this simple, yet effective plan.

1. Set your time goals.
Some writers decide on a specific amount of time they are going to spend writing each day. Whether they can only manage half an hour or are able to devote 8 hours a day to their craft, they sit themselves down at their desk and they stay there until that goal has been met.

This is also where they give themselves a time limit. A self imposed deadline or a publisher’s submitance deadline. Maybe even a holiday deadline. It’s up to you, how much you are willing to write and how stretchable you are (within reason). See? Simple!

2. Set a time to write.
If you really want to be invested in your writing goals, then you need to take this first step seriously. Again – it doesn’t have to be a huge hunk of time. Just some ‘time’ – an hour? 90 minutes? More? Less? Your choice. Keep it simple and attainable.

You may be a morning person and most creative then, or like to write in the evening when the day’s work is done. No matter. Set this block of time aside everyday when you’ll be writing. This doesn’t mean every moment of that time is going to be devoted exclusively to writing. It does mean that the daily discipline of being there sets the standard for your craft. See? Simple!

3. Set page goals.
If the time you spend at the desk doesn’t feel right for you, set a minimum number of pages to write per day. Whether it’s 1 or 5 or 10 pages a day, set your goal and stick to it.  I tend to shoot for 3 pages a day and on the nights I don’t sleep well, I allow myself a page or a page and a half. Maybe off set some with editing what I did do the week before. See? Simple!

4. Set aside a special place to write.
This can be a certain room in your house or even a special place at the kitchen table or elsewhere. For a couple of years, I actually did my writing in the bathroom closet.  (insert – and yes, I have a ton of coming out of the bathroom closet jokes.) Wherever you can carve out a spot, do it. Then, when you sit down there at your appointed time your focus is on writing. See? Simple!

5. Decide when to stop.
Whether or not you have spent your alotted time or finished the number of pages you set for your daily goal, it’s alright to stop. But, it’s a good rule to stop just before you reach the end of what you want to say. By stopping there, you will automatically have a place to start the next day. See? Simple!

6. Focus!

Really concentrate on the goals you want to accomplish, and be as specific as possible. Don’t say “write a book.” That’s too vague of a goal to lead to any direct action. Say “write a paranormal mystery story for Kensington that has a Christmas theme,” or something to that affect. Embellish your statements to make them clearer.  See? Simple!

7. I challenge thee…

Make your goals challenging, but not impossible. Writing down “write seven 90,000 word novels in a year” is not only stupid, but it will become obvious so early that you’ll probably stop pursuing the goal altogether. And what of the story line quality? It would suck. Trust me. Stating something more doable, like 3-4 stories, will challenge, but, in the end, you’ll still have a life and will still be writing. See? Simple!

8. Sins of the Past

List the reasons that your writing has failed in the past. Not to self flagellate in the wee hours of a bad day, but to steer you back on the path to submitting your book!  Look; what tendencies derailed you before you could even get started? I find by identifying the barriers that brought me to a halt previously, I will be more aware and breeze on by them, rushing to the victory line. See? Simple!

See? Simple. Realistic. And plenty of time for a healthy sex life.

Now, get started immediately. Keep going, don’t stop, and don’t skip listing your failures. If you don’t address them, you’ll be doomed to repeat the same mistakes again and again. Till next time, KISS – Keep it simple, stupid!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2010 3:04 am

    Bravo! I think so many writers get bogged down in what other writers are doing, they lose sight of their own goals. It becomes more about “keeping up with the Joneses” instead of plugging along at their own pace and making writing work for them. That, and I know there are a lot of writers who feel like, if they’re not at their day job, then they should be spending every single second of their time writing, and then when life intrudes, they become guilty or frustrated. Having a simple plan gives structure, allows for life, and then if you’re able to do more? Happy bonus!

    • September 15, 2010 9:38 am

      Thanks Daniel for your comment. Great insight!

      I totally agree with that statement – as I am guilty of it myself. Not as much as in the past, but I still have my moments of *Face Palm*

      I read and rub elbows with those who “CAN” do more than I and it’s not jealousy I feel, but inadequacy. (WHY can’t I do that? or If HE/SHE can do it, I should be able to). I whine a bit, partake in some kvelling. Then, out of some warped sense of competition or perhaps personal struggle, I will do something asinine.

      I set my goals based NOT on what I am able to do, but on someone I don’t even know.

      *Face Palm* moment.

      Case in point: In my genre, there is an author “known” for cranking out books – one or two a month. Granted, they are novella/series type and they have been professionally writing longer than I. Yet, once in a while I still become all kerfuffled and feel I’m not ‘writer worthy’ because I can’t match the output.

      After a (now) brief inner debate, I remind myself I am NOT this said author. Nor would I want to be, as the stories clearly indicate someone who is borderline burnout, obviously pushing out mediocre reads. Each book reads like a stale copy of the previous and in my opinion, the writers voice drones on with as much affliction as the beloved actor Ben Stein (Buehler..? Buehler..?). Perhaps this is why the author now resorts to co-authoring with fresher talent?

      Regardless, of what works (ah-hum) for them, I have to base my goals on ME, MY life and MY schedule. When I keep my snoot inside my own chicken coop, I’m less likely to set myself up to fail with what I want to achieve.

  2. September 15, 2010 10:38 am

    Hey hump buddie!
    Great post. I completely agree with you, and with Daniel as well. About the comparison thing, I used to tell people I coached, “Don’t compare your insides with someone else’s outsides.” And I got that from a 12-step program. We have no idea what is going inside anyone else, what makes them react, tick, have sex, or ahem, write. Come to think of it, (CJ are you listening?) that might be some future topic of discussion…We get discouraged when we look at so-in-so. Sometimes it’s hard not to. But it’s always nearly fatal for me.

    Keeping things simple and clear is so important too, George, like you wrote. I’ve recently discovered writing by blocks of time, where the focus isn’t all on the word count or pages, but I do have a minimum of 1000. Some days 3 hours is two hours of editing, or brainstorming characters, or reading for inconsistencies. All this has to be done. It isn’t all new material.

    But the communication thing-ah! the biggest time-waster of all for me. The hurt and “makeup” (not like lipstick to cheek or glitter to eyelashes) is exhausting. And never as good as thinking about it and getting it right the first time. We hurt ones we care about sometimes just by over complicating things. My husband and I came back from a long, difficult appointment dealing with a business issue yesterday. Mostly this arose because we weren’t careful about our communication between us, and between others. And now we are paying for it.

    Your points are good ones, George, and I thank you, my friend.

    • September 15, 2010 12:36 pm

      Hey you wild Wednesday woman, you!

      I like that 12 step saying. That could come in handy for all sorts of situations in life. Yeah, Ellisson – we’ll have to dog ear that one for next semester…

      Under the writing goal, there are many aspects of the ‘element of writing’ Not only do we have the actual writing of the story, we also have outlining, queries, sypnopsises, notes, plotting, and blurbs to write. And there are always revisions, editing and other ideas to flesh out a bit before we store them away under the bed.

      This doesn’t include all those elements of writing that are ‘non writing’ things, but are apart of the writing goals – including all the forms of research, networking, promoting, workshops, etc.

      Whew! I’m tired just typing about it. I think I need a nap.

      Anyway, my point – if we don’t examine our goals, take in consideration our time wasters/past points of failure and redirect our new found energies into a break down of of simple, digestible goals written out to refresh our over-loaded brain cells, we loose sight of what is important.

      The next thing you know, defeat is knocking on our door, in letters scaled bigger than anything Terry Prattchet’s DEATH character ever said in the Disc World series…

      (*Terry Prattchet is the author of a charming, award winning 38 book fantasy series named Disc World. His character, DEATH has appeared in every book but one. When DEATH speaks, it is always in capital letters.) Now, I would LOVE to know that author’s secret to success!

  3. September 15, 2010 11:18 am

    That. Was. Awesome.

    • September 15, 2010 12:00 pm

      *G*R*I*N. Thank you, JD!

    • Kris M permalink
      September 15, 2010 12:04 pm

      Awesome post as always by my buddy George… so true about realistic goals. Even the best intentions of I’m going to ‘write 3 hrs this morning’ can get hoodwinked with a distress call to take mother to a doctor’s appt. I’m the kind of person that everyone [siblings] calls because I ‘work from home’ so of course I can take Mom to the doctor whenever the appt is. Forget the fact that I’M WORKING FROM HOME. what part of working don’t they get???? I’ve learned through my sins of the past — that my new favorite word is ‘NO’.

      I’ve looked at the things I have to do in my life — and eliminated as much of the ‘do I really HAVE TO do this NOW’ as possible. I’m the first to admit that I take on a lot of obligations and responsibilities that take away from my writing and I still need to work on that — hence the constant practice of repeating my new word
      ‘no’ like a two year old.

      When I’m writing, I’m writing and you better not disturb me.. I put the phones out of reach, turn off the email, FB, twitter etc. and just write.

      But I’ve also learned that sometimes you have to give yourself a break from your rules — if something comes up that you can’t control -don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make your goal that day. Relax the book is still there within you – you’ll make it up some other day.. keep things flexible.

      I’m still working on that part. I need to get to the point where at night when I’m all tucked in with my hubby getting ready for sleep or whatever *wink wink* I need to be happy with what I have accomplished that day. No matter how much or how little I’ve been able to write.

      KISS right back at your George…

      • September 15, 2010 1:03 pm

        Oh Kris – I love that attitude…

        “Just Say No”

        Sorta like a cross between the Nike slogan (Just Do It) and the old Billy Squire Album – “Don’t Say No”

        Yeah – isn’t ironic how folks ‘automatically’ assume if you are a writer from home, without another source of income (or currently being supported by your companion between gigs) then you can be nominated for all sorts of things, because “You have the time.”

        Grrrrrrr. That is a sure fire way to bristle my buttocks.

        Of course, you could be working part time or even full time and folks will do that to you. After all, if you are a writer, you must have “All this free time on your hands…”

        Again, I say “Grrrrr….”

        A writers time is of value – sometimes even more so than others, since it is hard for us to carve out that said time (with insensitive family, friends or fellow employees dumping their tasks, other obligations or duties on us.)

        Hmmm. Do you sense a bit of exasperation on my part?

        By keeping your goals simple and attainable, one can eliminate at least the frustration we cause to ourselves (thus, when the beloved idiots in our lives don’t use their brains, at least we’ve given ourselves some room to breathe since we haven’t compounded the problem.)

        And see? I was right.

        Who would have thought by saying “No” – you would have more *wink-wink, nudge-nudge* action going on?

        This writer isn’t dumb when it comes to sex!

  4. Thom permalink
    September 15, 2010 11:45 am

    George,

    Another great post.. you have great insight.

    I know how hard it is to get the job done when social interaction can be so d@mn easy. Between Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, classes, etc, it is so easy to lose sight of the goal. Add to that reading (which is necessary, but sometimes it is just too hard to put that book down), research (chasing rabbits when you find something interesting instead of sticking to the subject at hand), and just the feeling of overall fatigue that depression (many an author’s constant companion) can bring and sometimes it seems as if that book is NEVER going to get written.

    You have made many important points here, now it’s time for all of us to put them into practice and take the publishing world by storm. Then we will all have even MORE books to take up our valuable time by reading, but at least they will all be top quality stuff. :{D

    Anyway, keep up the great work. I look forward to your posts every other Wednesday.

    • September 15, 2010 12:40 pm

      Thank you, Thom.

      More fodder for the goal garbage heap. The depression and reading are good ones – and a constant war I have to fight. Along with the research thing.

      (*Face Palm moment, added with flush of embarrassment.)

      Ummm. Yeah. One of my major pitfalls, I’m afraid. Still have to master that one.
      I get so engrossed with the research, so captivated with expanding my knowledge on the topic at hand, I become bit short sighted. (*sigh)

      *Blink-blink.

      Story? What story? Oh, yeah. I was looking up a good Mafia type crime name to use in chapter three when I was suppose to be writing. And I’ve just spent…, holy mother of God! 6 hours on the Internet and not one word written! Where’d the time go…?

  5. September 15, 2010 12:13 pm
  6. September 22, 2010 6:41 pm

    Never a truer word spoken! KISS… with you all the way, George 🙂

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