Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year, Kidliteratians!

It's that time again. The time when we reassess where we are in life and think about where we'd like to be. In other words, the dreaded new year's resolutions.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license.
Credit: Hannah Swithinbank.
While I think that setting goals for writing is important, it's also very difficult to do. The process of writing is so fluid and unpredictable that it's hard to meet strict goals -- ones like “I'll write a new manuscript before May.” If that works for you, then awesome! But for many of us, something that rigid starts out great but quickly dissolves into a giant puddle of stress. Because what happens when you get to the middle of said due-by-May manuscript and have zero idea where you're going? STRESS! Or you've written two-thirds of the book and realize you need to scrap the entire thing and start over? MORE STRESS! Or you've got another book you're querying and an agent comes back with an R&R request and you have to switch gears entirely? GAAHHHH!!! So much for your resolution . . .

Used under a Creative Commons license.
Credit: Studio Curve
And yet it's hard not to set goals like this. I do it all the time. For example, I have a project I want to finish within the next couple of weeks, and I'd love to get a new proposal written before spring. So why do we do this to ourselves?

Maybe it's because it takes a certain kind of personality to persevere and ultimately succeed in writing. Writers tend to be goal-oriented because we can see what's down the road if we complete steps X, Y, and Z. For example, if I finish that manuscript before May, then I can revise over the summer, and then I'll have a shiny new manuscript to query with in early September, which (according to traditional logic) is one of the best times of the year to query. And in my writerly brain, this ups my chances of snagging the perfect agent who will get me an amazing book deal. Heck, by this time next year, I'll be eating chocolates and happily waiting on an edit letter from my newly-acquired editor! Yay me! But only if I can get that darn first draft done by May 1st.

Used under a Creative Commons license.
Credit: Jeffrey Ploquinto
See how that works? If I don't get that draft done by my May deadline, then I've knocked over every other domino in the line. And by doing that, I've set my entire writing career back.

This is a terrible thing to do to ourselves, and yet we do it all the time.

So I propose that we all take a deep breath and instead of thinking in terms of deadlines, picture ourselves where we'd like to be at this time next year. Do you want to still be writing? Do you want to have learned more about writing craft and feel as if you're creating something that's better than what you created the year before? Do you want to find a good balance between writing and the rest of your life? Do you want to grow your circle of writing and publishing friends?

These are the kinds of goals I'm setting for myself this year. How about you?


  1. So true! I try to develop reasonable goals, but as I gain my re experience in my writing, I realize that the muse, and how long the work actually takes, is so difficult to judge! On the other hand, when I don't write down goals I don't get as much done. Sigh...

  2. I love this article, especially because it reminds writers that there is so much more than just aiming for that publishing goal. Learning and enjoying your craft is so important and is so often forgotten. Thank you for your well-timed thoughts.


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