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!