Goals for 2011

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:

  1. I plan to average 500 words per day. That’s over 180,000 words for the year – quite a significant figure.
  2. I plan to average 3 hours of focussed writing per day. That’s well over 1000 hours for the year – another large number.
  3. I plan to write and submit at least 20 short stories to magazines.
  4. I plan to write and submit  at least 50 poems to magazines.
  5. I plan to edit and submit 5 picture books to publishers.
  6. I plan to edit and submit 3 novels to publishers.
  7. 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 is never too late to be a writer

Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens, South Australlia

“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.

An inspirational effort

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.

Going nowhere fast – the frustrations of writing

My writing is going nowhere fast.

So fast, my current WIP (work in progress) has come to a standstill. Sigh.

I’ve had some frustrating times lately with family and community responsibilities interrupting my writing time. It happens every now and then and I know I should just accept these times and not get too frustrated with them.

Going nowhere fast

Trouble is, I’ve allowed the recent events to grind my WIP  to a complete halt. It’s going nowhere fast. I haven’t looked at it for nearly a fortnight. One thing I’ve found in recent years is that momentum can often be a very great friend. Once I get on a roll with a particular writing project – be it a novel, short story, article, whatever – the momentum created tends to be self generating. Momentum creates more momentum and I get to the point where it is like an unstoppable train, steaming along seemingly under its own power, carrying me along for one exhilarating ride. When that happens I can be very productive, sometimes writing 3000+ words in a day. About 700 words is  my normal average.

Slow and steady wins the race

Sadly, the opposite is also true. When  I don’t have any momentum because of illness, distractions, family or other responsibilities etc, getting up a head of steam to get moving again takes so much effort. Starting all over almost seems too hard and I can easily give up. The secret is to not stop. It is easier to keep a train moving slowly than to start from a stopped position. It is easier to keep going with a story every day – even if it is only a few words or for twenty minutes or so – than to leave it completely for weeks and then have to start all over again.

I should stop this now and get back to that novel.

It’s not going to finish itself.

Good writing.

I am writing a book

A recently over heard conversation went as follows:

“I am writing a book. I’ve made a great start: I’ve numbered all the pages.”

Consider the following:

  • Countless people say they are going to write a book.
  • Only a few ever begin the actual writing.
  • If you have started writing a book you are in rare company.
  • If you have actually finished writing your book you are in elite company.
  • If you have rewritten and edited your book you are almost unique.
  • If you have submitted to a publisher a well written, well edited and professionally presented manuscript, you are very special.

Don’t just say you are going to write that book.

Just get on with it.

Good writing.