Resolve nothing and do more

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Like many of you at the beginning of 2011, I reflect back on what I accomplished in 2010 compared to what I resolved to accomplish last January.

And like many of you, I fell short.

At the start of 2010, I had just begun the first draft of my fantasy novel, The Tower, and resolved to finish the first draft by summer, edit and revise by September, and have it submitted to agents and publishers for consideration by end of year.

So, how did I do?

For a story I expected to finish north of 175,000 words, I hit a wall at 90K.  But I hit that wall in October.  So, in nearly the full year, I wrote just over half the projected story.  And then I got the unwelcome news from a member of my writing group that agents and publishers weren’t considering books over 100K words by newcomers.  I felt like a gong that had just been struck by a huge mallet.  My proverbial bones and guts were ringing and vibrating in shock and awe at the unfortunate state of the market.

What did I do?  I did the unthinkable.  I did the unfathomable.  I did the absolutely expected thing that many aspiring writers do.  I stopped writing.  Gasp!  You didn’t?  Yes.  I was flummoxed.  I was stymied.  I was a deflated balloon.

After five months of world-building and 10 months of writing.  My project was a no go even if I finished the draft in 2010 as planned.

Where did that leave me for 2011?  What would I do next to muster some momentum and reboot my writing?

How will I increase productivity this coming year?  Is that even possible?  Shouldn’t I be renewing last year’s resolutions and adding more specifics, or more personal incentives?  Shouldn’t I stick with the modern cultural expectation of at least making some token resolutions?

I believe it was Einstein who said that the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

So, rather than setting resolutions and the expectations to meet them and falling short, I am going to reverse the expectations on myself and thereby open up an unlimited potential for accomplishment.

“Let me ‘splain.   No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.”  Bonus points to whoever recognizes that movie line.

The key is simply setting realistic goals (not resolutions).  In my experience resolutions are what we tell others or ourselves we want to accomplish this new year.  Things like “I want to get a promotion at work,” or “I want to exercise more,” or “I want to eat a healthier diet” or “I want to travel more”, or even “I want to write a novel,” of all things.

But what happens with all these verbalized or cogitated wants?  When they prove elusive from our initial efforts in January and February, we eventually shrug and say, “I tried.”  We then resume or previous behaviors and nothing has really changed.  We convince ourselves that at least we made some resolutions, so we’re okay with it.

Goals are different.  They are not simply wants that are talked about.  A goal is something written down in its specificity and then pursued via a plan.  Progress is marked and adjustments are made until the goal is reached.

Imagine a football team receiving a kick-off and starting with the ball on their own 20 yard line.  A “resolution” might be: “We want to score some points.”  So, they run or pass the ball a couple of times and then after no immediate success or only gaining a few yards, they have to give up and punt.  A “goal” however looks and acts different.  A goal is: “We intend to score a touchdown for six points.  We have 80 yards to go and therefore must achieve up to 7 first downs by moving the ball an average of 4 yards per play.  Let’s use these formations and run these plays and make adjustments based on the defense along the way.”

We all know football.  You score a touchdown when the ball crosses the “goal” line.  It is rare that you score a touchdown on one single play.  Typically, it takes a dozen plays moving the ball several yards at a time.  Sometimes, you gain a big chunk of yards, sometimes you get sacked for a loss of eight yards.  These are the markers of progress and setbacks in seeking the goal.  Forward movement is half the battle.

Like football, success in life is achieved one step at a time.  Rarely all at once.

For a great breakdown of how to structure a goal for the year, go to Randy Ingermanson’s web site and read the January 2011 copy of his e-zine (click link to open a PDF copy).  He is a writing guru who gives great advice that is useful to writers and non-writers alike.  He lays out goals in an easy to understand and easy to follow manner.

Like last year, I will track my writing progress and I will report it here periodically.  I have two main goals in 2011.

  1. Revise and submit my romantic comedy screenplay for representation, sale, or contest placement
  2. Start and finish the 1st draft of my prequel novel with the working title of, “The Lost Tower” and begin submission for representation by an agent.

For clarification, the novel I worked on last year had a working title of “The Tower,” but has been updated to “The Codex of Shrines” and is now Book 2 in the series.

Don’t worry about the titles, they will likely change again, but my goal to finish will not.  I resolve nothing, but I have very specific and very achievable goals.

And so should you.  What are they?  Share so we hold each other accountable…

–Mark

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