At this time of year many people make New Year’s Resolutions. That’s fine, but it is my observation that few people actually keep them.
I prefer to set some firm goals instead, especially in relation to my writing. I find this far more practical and achievable than some nebulous resolution. I shy away from airy-fairy resolutions like “I am going to be a better writer in 2011.” What does that mean? How do I achieve it? How can I measure how successful I’ve been?
My firm goals are often numerically based – so that they can be measured. For example, here are some of my writing goals for this coming year:
- I plan to average 500 words per day. That’s over 180,000 words for the year – quite a significant figure.
- I plan to average 3 hours of focussed writing per day. That’s well over 1000 hours for the year – another large number.
- I plan to write and submit at least 20 short stories to magazines.
- I plan to write and submit at least 50 poems to magazines.
- I plan to edit and submit 5 picture books to publishers.
- I plan to edit and submit 3 novels to publishers.
- I plan to write and post 200 articles on each of my 3 blogs.
That’s the plan at the moment. It may have to be adapted with changing circumstances but they give me something to aim at. I keep detailed records on each of the elements of my plans so it’s easy to see how I am going.
A special note about items #5 and #6 – the texts of these books have already been written. They just need editing, some rewriting and then submission. If I was to allow myself to have one resolution for 2011 it could be: “The year 2011 will be my year of getting published.” And knowing the way publishers work with their long lead times, this resolution may have to stretch into 2012 as well!
Further reading on this topic:
“It’s never too late to be what you could have been.” George Eliot
Do you want to be a writer?
I have – ever since I was eight years old. I dabbled in writing stories and poems in high school but then became sidetracked in teaching for 35 years. Teaching was always my second choice. All through my teaching career – a reasonably successful one I might add – I continued to consider myself a writer but could only devote serious time to it during holiday periods.
My writing received quite a boost when I bought my first computer in the late 1980s. All through the 1990s I built up a considerable body of writing and had limited publishing successes. I always considered that I would begin to write full time and very seriously when I retired. In part, I have succeeded in that goal. For the last six years I’ve written thousands of articles on my three blog sites. I’ve also written many short stories, poems and a novel for children.
The point of all this?
I agree with the Eliot quote above. Last month I celebrated my 63rd birthday. I’ve just completed the requirements for my Master of Arts Creative Writing degree. The novel I’ve just written will be submitted to publishers in the new year. My best writing years are still ahead of me. It is never too late.
Five years ago I would have scoffed at the idea of having a university degree. It is never too late.
Five years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing so much, but now I’ve written nearly two and a half million words. It is never too late.
Five years ago I could only dream of making money from my writing, but now have a steady income from my writing, especially blogging. It is never too late.
Five years ago I had very few readers but now hundred of people around the globe read my words every day. It is never too late.
Good writing: it is never too late to become a writer.
I don’t get too many opportunities to watch sport on television these days but when I do I am often inspired by the efforts of elite athletes.
Over the last week I have been watching the television coverage of some of the events in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. These games, like the Olympics, are held every four years in a country belonging to the Commonwealth of Nations. The countries involved include Australia, England, Wales, Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and many of the other countries that once made up the British Empire. The Commonwealth Games are often referred to as The Friendly Games with a much more relaxed approach to the event. Competition in the field and pool are still fiercely competitive despite this friendliness, and many records, including world records, are broken.
It is pleasing to me that a country like Australia with a relatively small population base does so well in these and other games. During the last Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 Australian athletes won more gold medals than the next four best countries combined. The trend this time is going the same way again though host nation India is having a big impact on the results.
During any games events there are many outstanding athletic achievements. Several competitors have already gained three or four gold medals with still five days of competition to go. One effort, however, stands out for me. Australian swimmer Ben Austin is not a household name even here in Australia. A few days ago he won a gold medal in the 100 meter freestyle event. His time would have won every gold medal in this event up to the 1974 Commonwealth Games.
So what, you ask?
Ben happens to have only one arm.
Ben swims in the EAD events. EAD stands for Elite Athletes with a Disability. His classification is S8 (above elbow amputee). His times are not all that far behind swimmers with two arms. What an achievement. And how inspirational is that achievement?
What has this got to do with writing? Too often writers – me included – grumble when things go wrong, a story is not developing as we’d like it, we have a headache, a poem gets rejected by a publisher or some other minor inconvenience and we feel like giving up. It is times like this we need to remember the Bens of this world. He has achieved great things despite having only one arm. And what about theswimmer in the last Paralympics who won the hearts of so many because he swam the length of the pool with NO arms?
Don’t give up – Good writing.
I subscribe to a number of newsletters about writing via email. I don’t always get to read every one of them, but I try to at least glance through most of them. Some are better than others, of course.
I’ve just read one that comes from a writer who lives here in South Australia. His newsletters are always worth reading – every word. In this week’s newsletter he mentions that he checked his submissions spreadsheet only to realise that he was well behind in his goal of 100 rejections. He chastised himself publicly, adding that if his writing was not out there doing the rounds of the publishers, how could he expect to get published. Good point, one I need to take serious note of as it’s been a while since I last submitted anything.
What he meant by his requisite 100 rejections he didn’t explain. Did he mean total rejections, rejections this year or what? It doesn’t really matter. The thrust of many of his newsletters is to encourage his readers to write, write, write and then submit, submit, submit. His theory – and it’s a good one – is that the more you write the better you get at this game. I agree.
The second part of his writing theory is that the more you write, the more material you have to submit to publishers. And the more you submit, the better your chances of being published become. The flip side is: if you submit nothing, that’s exactly how much you’ll get published.
Good writing – and don’t forget to submit something this week!