Writing Goals

Writing goals is hard. Also, writing goals are hard.

Put another way: The act of writing goals is hard. Also, writing goals–goals related to writing–are hard to write.

I don’t like count-based goals, in writing or in other pursuits. Write 1,000 words per day. Run a half marathon in a year. Lose ten pounds by June. Goals like these, for me, are recipes for disaster. I usually start with a small success streak, but if I break that streak, then the break itself turns into a streak, and suddenly a month goes by, and I’m no closer to achieving my goals.

I prefer habit-based goals–goals designed to help me develop a habit. I’m not great at habits, but I’m always starting and then restarting them, so it’s not a total loss. I’ve learned this about myself the hard way, and I’ve learned (also the hard way) that beating myself up over dropping a habit is not helpful. It’s not that there are no negative feelings associated with dropping a habit (there are); it’s just that I’m learning to experience the negative feelings for what they are (feelings) rather than what they’re not (a definitive confirmation of my total failure).

In writing my new year’s resolutions, I decided to focus on two words: consistency and resiliency. These two concepts may seem mutually exclusive, but I think they’re synergistic. I want to develop consistency in working toward particular goals, but I also want to develop resiliency when I inevitably become inconsistent. Knowing that I can just pick back up where I left off means that I’m more likely to become consistent on a macro level (e.g., over the course of a year), even if I’m not that great on a micro level (e.g., over the course of a week). Resiliency leads to longevity, or so I hope.

To that end, I’d like to set some writing-habit goals. I’d like to write for about an hour a day most days of the week. Maybe two hours on weekends.

“Writing” may include one or more of the following:

  • Invention work, including, but not limited to:
    • Musing/daydreaming
    • Notetaking
    • Doodling/diagramming
    • Researching
  • Drafting
  • Revising
  • Editing

Projects may include:

  • Fiction writing
  • Freelance professional/technical writing & editing
  • Blogging
  • Literally anything except my academic writing. That’s what my day job is for.

So there you have it. Writing goals is hard, and writing goals are hard. Now it’s time to go forth and meet them.

Resurrecting a Blog

This is my first post on this blog in almost nine years.

The last thing I posted on this blog was a 1700-word thinkpiece on True Blood on August 25, 2009. No, you cannot read it. I took it down. It was… not insufferable, but it certainly thought it was a lot smarter than it was. I literally prefaced the piece by noting that I had “been searching for an educated forum on True Blood to post to that might actually stimulate intellectual comment on the show rather than just verbal cyber-throwdowns between the Bill and Eric camps.” I have no memory of scouring True Blood fan forums, hoping to find like-minded grad-school aspirants with whom to wax poetic about the portrayal of Southern culture on the silver screen. Perhaps I blocked it out.

At any rate, it’s been nine years, and here I am making an earnest attempt to return to blogging. We’ll see how it goes.

I was going to say that I have a discipline problem when it comes to writing, kind of like my discipline problem when it comes to running, but I don’t really like the word “discipline” because it carries with it an implicit moral judgement, and I also realized that it’s not really true. Or, at least, it’s not the problem.

I don’t have much of a writing routine, which many writers swear by. Writers with prolific outputs and published works, including self-help books for other writers, swear that if you can only set your alarm clock an hour earlier and just sit down and write, you, too, can finally finish and publish that novel. It worked for them, so clearly, it’s The Correct Way to Do Things.

I don’t have a regular writing schedule, but I did manage to write a 45,000-word dissertation. And then I managed to turn that dissertation into two (forthcoming) articles, one 6,000 words and one 10,000, so clearly, I do have the ability for output, even without a regular writing schedule.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make time to write, or that you should only write when the desire strikes you, just that, with those pieces, I managed to write them without waking up an hour early and without writing at the same time every day.

But what did I do? And how can I apply those strategies to my blogging fiction writing, which I’m trying to pick back up again. Those are the big questions.

For one, I had a fellowship the Fall semester before I defended my dissertation, so I had a lot of time to write. I didn’t have no other obligations, but I didn’t have to teach that semester, which gave me a lot of time to devote to writing. Writing that dissertation was my primary job every day that semester.

But when I wrote my articles, I did have to teach. Those semesters, I made sure to carve out a few chunks of writing time each week. I generally prefer large-ish blocks of time to an hour here and an hour there. I write at the same time every day, or even for the same amount of time every day, or even every day at that. But I did schedule two to three (sometimes four, if I was lucky) big chunks of time for writing every week. I set goals for those chunks, but I cut myself some slack if I didn’t meet those goals. I reassessed them and moved the target.

I don’t currently have a ton of extra time to devote to blogging or fiction writing, but I think if I can just get a few small writing sessions on the calendar every week, I can make some progress. And progress is what matters.