Thursday, August 22, 2013

Setting Goals and Feeling Guilt

I've been working on Homecoming for around a month now, but I'm not happy with the progress.  At the end of July, I got to 14,000 words and thought I was well on the way, but life intruded, and some of my stuff went on the back burner.

This made me start feeling guilty.  I wondered how would I ever complete my novel by the end of September(like I'd originally planned) if I didn't get around to writing it?  In fact, it crippled some of my fun online - why was I surfing on Facebook or reading political periodicals if I hadn't written anything?  I began to have some serious guilty feelings.

I tried to rationalize what I was doing by saying stupid stuff like "I already have five novels ready, and a short story collection would be easy to put together in a matter of weeks" or "I've got plenty of time - my writing season isn't going to be done until December."  However, these were little but mealy-mouthed reasons why I wasn't doing what I needed to.  Besides, I didn't really want to butt up against another writing season - the schedule of it all last year was exhausting.

It wasn't anything to do with the story.  Like I said earlier, I'm excited about this novel, especially since I re-tooled the point of view.  Still, I couldn't get off my derriere and write.  That's when I figured out that I had two problems.

First, I just wasn't putting in the time.  I was going to bed when I got tired or I wasn't staying at work and putting it together in pieces during my lunch break or some such.  I decided to fix that most ricky-tic.

Second, and more importantly, I hadn't set a series of word count goals to get from A to B.  I envision Homecoming being an 80,000 to 85,000 word novel, but I didn't sit down and think about both the writing schedule and how to get there.  Therefore, I finally did that.

As you read this, I'm currently in Germany on a business trip.  I decided that I needed to be at 20,000 words by the time I left.  Once I got back into the flow, that was an easy goal to reach.  Then I thought about all the time I'd be spending in the air and broke up my hours into writing sessions, computer battery dependent.  It's a loooooooooong flight anywhere from Hawaii, so I made it my goal to get 5,000 words done during the trip to Germany, as well as another 5,000 during the trip back.  Then, once in Germany, I wanted to do another 8,000 in the 10 days I'd be there.  I can do about 2,000 words an hour if I'm on my game, so that isn't an unrealistic goal.
(He's got game!)
I have two other business trips planned for September - one to Alaska and one to American Samoa - so that's even more time to get stuff accomplished.  I've set goals for each trip(to be at 59,000 at the end of Alaska and 75,000 at the end of Samoa).  Then, after I get back, I'm having a minor surgical procedure done, after which I'm not allowed on my feet for a couple of days.  These events mean that reaching the September 30th goal is now achievable.  My biggest concern now is not outrunning my outline...again.

Setting attainable goals, and then following through, is the key to living without guilt.  If only I understood this better before now, I wouldn't have wasted all that time worrying.
(Should I be worried about the butterflies eating me?)


  1. Great insights.
    If you'd like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.