For many years I made it a habit to list my writing accomplishments as each year drew to a close. I first got the idea from Cynthia Morris. She suggested it as a way of focusing on achievements rather than on setbacks. I haven’t done it lately, because my critique group has been doing “writing resolutions” each year. At our January meeting, we review last year’s resolutions, and how we measured up, and submit our resolutions for the coming year. And as a final, liberating gesture, we record our writing demons on flash paper and set them on fire. It’s become a real ritual for us. (If you take a look at the above link, you’ll see examples of what we resolved to do that year, as well as the ritual burning!)
However you choose to do it, I think it’s a useful exercise. List every accomplishment, no matter how minor it seems: attended a workshop, joined a critique group, wrote 1,000 words a day, week, month. Pretty soon it will evolve into: Won/placed in a contest, finished a first draft of a manuscript, received a critique from an agent or editor, queried five agents, and so on.
I looked back at one year in my journal (which I kept faithfully for several years when I was first writing) and here are some of the things I recorded at the end of one year: Read and critiqued six manuscripts; as Facilities Coordinator for RMC-SCBWI, helped find a new meeting venue; attended Pikes Peak Writers Conference; attended the week-long Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop; as a direct result of that, completed a final revision of Pandemic; submitted Pandemic to three editors.
If you didn’t have such a great year, you’ll be forced to ask yourself some uncomfortable questions: what prevented me from accomplishing more? What do I need to do to be more productive? How can I eke out more writing time? Because, let’s face it, writing is the thing. Without producing work, nothing else really matters if your goal is publication, traditional or indie.
I couldn’t have asked for a better year professionally. My debut novel, Kissing Shakespeare, released on August 14. My agent, Steven Chudney, sold a second book of mine to William Morrow/Harper Collins. It’s a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, about Mary Bennet, the socially awkward middle sister. No title yet! I jumped into book promotion, which, of course, is an ongoing project.
But still, looking back on 2012, I see many areas I need to work on. Dividing writing time with book promotion is one. I’m referring mainly to time spent on social media. Now active on Twitter (@PamMingle), Facebook, and GoodReads, as well as blogging here and on TheWildWriters blog, I’m having a tough time finding a workable balance. Answering e-mails from readers is a huge priority. Reaching out to teachers, librarians, bloggers, book clubs, and appearing at library and other events, are all important ways to promote your book. But each of these activities must be weighed against the time away from writing.
As with anything else, it helps to adhere to a schedule. Morning is my chief writing time, so I try to fit everything else into afternoons or evenings. But the temptation to get on the internet is always present, and it sometimes seems as though a little devil is sitting on my shoulder telling me to tweet something, or check my Amazon reviews, or my e-mail. One of my resolutions this year will definitely be to rein in those impulses and tell that devil to take a hike.
Julie Anne Peters, over at TheWildWriters.com, has some great suggestions for creating specific, goal-oriented resolutions, and I strongly encourage you to see what she has to say!
If you have any secrets that have worked for you, either in goal setting, or keeping a sane balance between writing and…other activities, please share!