At the beginning of every year, I always sit down and map out writing and household/personal goals with measurable markers. It’s something my dad taught us to do as children and a skill I’ve always been grateful. For example, I will write ten pages a day and finish a novel in so many weeks. I don’t ever set a goal of I will sell a book this year–as that part of the publishing process is out of my control, unless I am self-publishing. For example, my ebook rights to my young adult novel, WEAVING MAGIC, will revert back to me in April and I am planning to repackage the ebook and print and bring it out under my own imprint. But, other than that, in writing, I only focus on what I can control which is the output in writing.
I also prioritize one or two household projects that need to be done during the year–sometimes these are projects which are carried over from the previous year. For example, this year, the deck railing has to be painted. It should have been done last summer, but it wasn’t. I’m hosting my women’s book group of twelve people in August, so I know that project will be done this year.
One of the things which became clear to me when looking at 2015 is the writing has to come first. At least for the first three months of this year, the writing has to come first, not the teaching, not the workshops, not the promotion angel of my business, not my various household responsibilities, but the writing and creating books.
I have three books which I need to finish in the next three months. One is a contemporary romance, the first twenty-five pages were requested by an agent at a fall conference. I did not want to send the pages until I had a handle on the length of the story and possible markets. I also have a middle grade novel which received an editorial critique last August and I’ve never finished the edits. And I have a memoir which also had an editorial critique that I received in December. Both of those books, the middle grade and memoir, need one more sweeping round of light revisions before I start submitting–neither of which will take long if I focus on it.
And that’s the thing–Writing Needs to Come First. For the next three months, I have committed myself to finishing these three books. It’s very doable. The romance novel is in good shape. The other two just need revisions. But it does mean the distractions need to go for the next three months.
I call them the anxiety about writing distractions. These are the things I do while the anxiety races–What if I this story sucks? What if the words won’t come? What if no one wants to buy it? What if everything I’m doing is a waste of time? Shouldn’t I be doing something else? Shouldn’t I be obsessively scanning for new workshops? New students? After all, teaching is what pays, not this writing thing.
Stop. I tell myself. We’re looking at three months here. Three months to put the writing first and finish these three books.
So what needs to be eliminated or decreased?
Too much social media time wasting, reading Facebook, clicking on all the articles and news media links. It’s not the updating of my own feeds which take awhile. It’s the distraction of finding out what everyone else is doing. Or what big news story I might be missing. Or what big weather storm is headed our way. Enough. Enough!
Too much checking email and responding immediately to everything that comes in. The best business practices with email are twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. I need to stick to that. Nothing has to be answered NOW. In a working day, it’s reasonable to expect that within a twenty-four hour time period, emails will be responded and for the next three months, that’s how mine will be. Now, if you happen to email me in the evening and I’m sitting in front of the fire, half-hardheartedly watching some bad movie or reading a book which isn’t keeping my interest, then yes, you may get a response quickly from me. Maybe.
But, the best thing I did to affirm this goal for myself? I hired someone to do my least favorite job–my fall/winter yard clean-up. By doing this, in late March, my yard will only need me to pull some weeds, which in the Pacific Northwest, is a job in itself, but it’s a lot better than trying to clean up leaves I never picked up, trim grasses I never bothered to trim, and cut back shrubs I never pruned, all while being irritated that I’m not writing.
In the spring, after I have finished these three books and met my goal, I’m also planning to have my backyard redone and will hire someone to rip out the grass, put in gravel paths and easy to care for plants. A few years ago, I did this for my front yard and I love it. There is no mowing. The flowers are pretty in the spring and the gravel paths don’t get soggy with our winter rains. The biggest time suck for me in the spring and summer is my yard. I hate doing it and so the chore becomes a weight hanging over my head every week.
So, by eliminating that big winter yard chore and making my spring and summer yard work lighter, I am giving myself permission to say that yes, writing comes first.
What are your new year goals and intentions?