January is the time of the month where plans are made, and you enter the new year full of determination and drive. Well, unless you start the year with mental and work-related chaos and can’t see the point in planning anything. However, while it might be refreshing to work without a deadline, I absolutely suck at it. I need deadlines. But if there’s one thing my stress levels don’t need, it’s more deadlines. On the other hand… I’m getting increasingly sick of being just as far away from my dream as I was last year, or the year before. Aaand it turns out that not having a project to work on, a goal to aim for, is really bad for my mental health. How on earth do you combine all these things?
The answer might be obvious to most other people, but for overachiever and burnout-prone me it’s definitely not. Realistic goals, what’s that? Cutting out something to make time for this new thing I want to do, is that possible? Wow.
Frankly, what do I find more rewarding? Writing, or spending my precious spare time watching mind-numbing stuff on Youtube? I’m sure I can live without watching the latest Buzzfeed video on people testing something that’s not even remotely relevant to me. Maybe.
I could start by having a deadline for the next revision of Rogue Sorcery, or for the plot revisions and the timeline file for the updated plot, but I’m not sure. There’s been so many deadlines for the past year, and while it works well for NaNoWriMo, it hasn’t worked at all for the remainder of the year.
I think I’ve realised why. While the end goal is 50k (or more, in my case) for NaNoWriMo, it’s not what I focus on. What I focus on is my daily goal. Your 1667 words per day, or 3334, or 5000. That’s what I look at in the NaNoWriMo stats, in my spreadsheets. It’s making that particular day green in my wordcount file, not red. Because I know that if I reach or even surpass this target most days, I will reach 50k, or 100k, or 150k. There’s no need to worry about it. Finishing a draft is a completely different beast.
So I’ve decided to make a new type of goal. It might be what everyone has been doing for ages, but it’s new to me. It’s inspired by what you often hear in fitness and/or weight loss circles: Focus on the process, not the goal. Sometimes things happen despite the best of intentions, and you can’t control the outcome nearly as much as you’d like. But you can control what you do on a regular basis to influence the outcome.
I have made the following little set of rules, or perhaps “steps” is a better word. My main idea is to turn one into a habit before I start on the next one, until I get used to making time for writing:
- Write something every Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. I don’t care if it’s just a sentence, a 5-minute sprint, something you’ll never look at again, write something on any kind of story.
- Spend a minimum of 15 minutes writing (actual writing, not plotting or planning) every Tuesday and Wednesday, an hour every Saturday and Sunday. Some of this hour can be used for plotting and/or planning, but minimum 30 minutes are reserved for actual writing. This equals two and a half hours every week, which is the main goal.
- Write at least 10k every week. This should be doable within the allotted time periods with my max writing speed, but most days it might require more time.
- Resist the urge to increase the word count goal (even if it’s fine to actually write more – it just shouldn’t be a must).
I admit it’s tempting to plan on writing every single day of the week, but frankly, with my timetable, mental health and other projects, it’s just not feasible. For example, on Thursdays I usually don’t even have time to make dinner before I have to go to bed. Insisting on writing on those days anyway would be asking for a disaster.
So there it is. My new 4-step program to actually getting the book (and my other projects) written. Do you have a plan for your writing this year?