Where you’ve been, where you are, where you’re going

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan
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This is my last post of 2010 (ack!) and I’ve dearly loved being a part of this community (and apologize for (a) sometimes being so overwhelmed with deadlines that my comments come late and (b) still not figuring out how to do a cut tag so that my entire post doesn’t clutter the page).

Anyway, as one is wont to do, the end of one year and the start of the next makes me both nostalgic and excited.  One thing I’ve learned since getting published is that unfortunately it’s extremely easy to always be moving the goal posts without recognizing achievements.  To me, this is what the end of the year is for — to sit and tally your accomplishments.  Not only is it a great way to pat yourself on the back and prove to yourself in concrete terms that you’re working toward your goals, but it’s also really cool to go back and look at those accomplishments as you move forward.

For example, every year I post how many words I wrote that year.[*] It’s just a little thing but (a) it makes me realize that even though sometimes I feel like I’m running as fast as I can and getting nowhere that in fact, I am working and (b) it’s neat to see how my output changes from year to year.

So this is my first challenge to each of you no matter where you are in the journey: catalog your accomplishments for the year and be generous.  Did you wake up early to write?  Put it on the list.  Did you give up watching that hit reality TV show?  Put it on the list.  This should be what you go back to again and again to say “Hey, sometimes I feel like this is the longest slowest slog toward my goals, but you know what, I’ve been slogging and I’ve been accomplishing things!”  Also on the list put submissions even if they led to rejections — it’s a huge step to put your work out there in the world!  Every step you’ve taken to go after your dream should be on that list and you should sit back at the end and congratulate yourself on every single one of them!

Now that we’ve acknowledged how far we’ve come, it’s time to look forward to where you’re going.  My fellow writer friend, Erica Ridley, has a fantastic post on how to make goals — how they have to be specific, quantifiable, realistic and attainable (I’ll let her post on the subject speak for itself).  Again, I’m a huge fan of goals not just because it means spending time thinking about where I am and where I want to be and how to get there.  Sometimes I find that I have certain goals that I haven’t particularly thought through or that I’m not actively working toward which means I have to either (a) change the goal or (b) start working toward it.

So that’s my second challenge: take some time to think about what you want 2011 to look like and then figuring out how to get there.  Use Erica’s advice on setting goals to help you out and create a plan.  Again, it’s pretty cool at the end of the year to take a look back at your goals and see which you accomplished, which you abandoned, and which you just plain forgot about :)

So, now we know where we’ve been, we have an idea where we’re going and there’s one thing left.  Back after I first sold The Forest of Hands and Teeth I listened to a talk given by Debbie Macomber in which a friend suggested she sit down and write out the Dream List just after she sold her first book.  These were those “Oh My Goodness, I can’t believe this could ever happen and it has” goals.  On Debbie’s advice, I did this in 2007 and wrote out crazy goals — unbelievable goals.  These were the “I know I’ve made it when…” goals.

What’s crazy… I’ve reached some of those goals — selling movie rights, hitting the NYT bestseller list and others.  And yet at the same time, my goal posts have changed since then — I’ve moved them forward and I’m so thankful that I have this document from pre-published me in 2007 saying to future me “Hey, these are the dreams, recognize them!”

So that’s my final challenge: write out the dream goals.  They don’t have to be reasonable at all — these are the things you daydream about on the edge of sleep.  And then one day, hopefully, you’ll pull out that list and you’ll realize just how far you’ve come and you’ll have that moment to sit there and pat yourself on the back for all you’ve achieved.

Happy holidays and congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished this year!  I can’t wait for another fantastic year with all of y’all!


[*]According to my past entries: in 2006 I wrote 171,701 words and in 2009 I wrote 348,100 words (and I’m just now realizing I didn’t tally the years in between — oops!).  But still, that’s a pretty crazy change in output!  I’ll be tallying 2010 soon!



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8 comments to Where you’ve been, where you are, where you’re going

  • Carrie, Like you it’s been years since I tallied my word count for a year. But it’s important to keep track of the milestones passed, the goals won, and the positives in our sights. It’s been a good year for me too, though not (yet :) ) in the bestseller sense. I’ve regained my health and found the energy to work again. Life is good. I celebrate the small gains and the great ones. Here’s to a great 2010! Here’s to next year being even better!

  • Young_Writer

    Congrats on all of that, Carrie! Just want to share a story real quick:

    Every year I go on Borders and look for books to put on my Christmas list. I was looking in the young adult page, just browing. So I see this really cool cover. The title was interesting, so I clicked. Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Author: Carrie Ryan. I just about screamed. It’s on the list. :) I can’t wait to read it! (By the way, I made sure to get everyone else’s books, too).

  • Love the writing of dream goals for future reference, Carrie. I still have some for that list :)

  • Tom G

    Tallying up the words I write in a year? Hmm. Odd it never occurred to me to do this. I like that sort of thing, too. Though, I do know I’ve written almost 2 million words since 2005.

  • I love writing out goals for a new year, too, Carrie, and will be doing that early in 2011. And I have planning a taking-stock post for the end of this year, though I like yours enough that maybe I don’t need to do one, too. Thanks for this, and for getting me thinking about the year to come. Happy New Year to you and yours. Glad you’re part of our MW family.

  • A manager in an early job taught me an important lesson in task management. We had a blackboard (pre-whiteboard era) on which we listed things that needed doing for the shop. Steve emphasized that when one finished a task, do not erase it. Put a line through it, and leave the goals reached as visible milestones of accomplishments. Otherwise, it just looks as though you have an endless set of chores that never get finished.

  • Hmmm – the italics got away fro me there.

  • Faith — getting healthy is a massive accomplishment! I think it’s too easy to forget how much being sick or in chronic pain (which I’ve suffered) impacts your every day life. So yay for you!!

    Young_Writer — that is just plain awesome and your comment made my day!! Thanks!!

    AJ — dreams are always fun, it’s amazing how sometimes they come true!

    Tom — that is a ton of words — congrats!! I started keeping track because I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything and I wanted to prove to myself that I was charging after my goal even if I wasn’t there yet!

    David, I admit that I forgot to make goals last year (which makes me sad now because I have nothing to look back on to see if I made it) but this year, I’ll be making goals!

    Wolf — I’m a huge fan of crossing off goals. There’s nothing like seeing all those tasks completed (I’ve been known to put easy chores on my to do list just so I can cross them out!)