In addition to Canada celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year, we also have another milestone to celebrate in 2017 namely the 25th Anniversary of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild.
Founded in 1992, the Guild has gone through a lot of changes over the years, but one thing remains constant – our desire to help our fellow writers achieve their goals. Whether it be learning the basics of fiction writing, or its more specialised help like learning how to draft that killer query letter we’re here for each other. As individuals we may not have all the answers or the experience, but as a collective we have a very broad and diverse range of experiences that serve us well.
At our first meeting of the New Year on January 26th, I hope you will join me in sharing your personal writing goals for 2017. Maybe you’re the type that always itemizes your writing goals for the year complete with spreadsheet and timeline, but more likely than not you’re more like me and you have some vague goal of finishing that book, or getting published. That’s where we need to spend some time thinking about what it is we want to accomplish and what are things we can do to make it happen. We need to focus on what we have control over and what concrete steps we can do to make things happen.
One of my own goals this year is to read more books about writing craft. I tend to get in comfortable spot in my writing where I think I know enough to be a decent writer, but then I stop and read a book and I realize that I don’t know everything. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know everything! For me the great thing about reading about other people’s writing experiences is that they often are able to put into words concepts and ideas about writing that you have been poking around the edges at for years. Suddenly something someone says about plotting or characterization clicks for you and you’ve got a new tool in your writer’s toolbox.
The problems with goals (and New Year’s resolutions in general) is that if we don’t put concrete plans in place to making them happen, they tend to be pie-in-the-sky wishful statements. Even my goal of reading more books on writing is too vague. How many? Over what time? You may have heard about writing SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
If I say I want to read 4 books on writing in the 2017, that’s a pretty good start. But is it specific enough. What would be even better is if I said what TYPE of books I wanted to read. Do I want to read about outlining, grammar, or something else? Even better would be to list the titles of the books I am going to read. That way, when the time comes I don’t use the excuse that I couldn’t find a book I wanted to read on the topic.
Also my current goal allows me to procrastinate to December 2017. It would be better if I planned to read 1 book by end of March, the 2nd on by end of June, etc. So you can see I even need to work on my 2017 goals a bit more before the end of the month. That would make it more measurable and allow me to correct if it was taking me too long to complete the reading. Maybe I need to read fewer books, or maybe switch from paperback to audio.
Is it attainable? Have I chosen a goal that I am capable of achieving given everything I know about myself and my other commitments. I’d like to think so. I typically read around 24 books a year. Fitting in 4 books on craft should be attainable. Measuring whether something is attainable is more important when stating goals like “I want to write 1,000 words a day” or “be published by my next birthday.” In that case I would ask – How fast do you normally write? Do you write everyday? Or with regard to the publishing goal unless you have an agent and a contract with a publishing house, the chances of a book coming out in the next 12 months is not attainable (Unless you’re self-publishing it).
Is it relevant? Does it help further your overall goal? My reading 4 books on writing craft definitely helps me provided they are relevant to areas I want to improve on. While reading a book about the history of hip-hop, while might be interesting an great fodder for story ideas, may not fit with my goal and may not be relevant.
Is it time-bound? Yes – I said up front that I am planning on reading it before the end of the 2017 and that now that I have thought about it I will plan to read one book per quarter (or one every-three months). THat gives me some time to balance other goals and also to absorb what I learn from one book before diving into another one.
There are a lot of resources on the internet about setting goals and especially about writing goals. Here’s one website where I took some information from.
See you at our next meeting – Thursday January 26th, 2017 at 6:30. Doors open at 6pm.