I’m reposting this as I update some of the best old content from my blog. It was originally published on June 5th, 2016.
I’m sitting in Panera, sipping a cup of tea, listening to the woman across from me talking about how her cat is dying and how she’s going to get a new one. She’s going on and on about the kind of cat she wants; it has to be pretty, a purebred, quite, docile, doesn’t scratch furniture, not a ‘pest’, doesn’t shed fur, etc. (it may be worth mentioning that the Panera I’m in is in a rather ritzy end of town, full of people who think money is everything (this woman also wants to know where she can rent a hot air ballon)) After listening to this woman natter on about what she wants, I’m quite tempted to stand up and inform her that I know exactly the kind of cat she needs – a fake one. Everyone who has ever had a cat – or three like me – know that you simply don’t find one that that everyday.
Again the other day I had a friend tell me that he thought he would be able to pay off his student loans in two years. Is that a nice thought? Yes. Is that a good goal? Probably not.
This is a philosophy that we can also apply to writing; make good goals. That’s what NaNoWriMo is perfect for. You set a goal – to write 50,000 words in one month – and have the support of thousands of other people to help cheer you on.
Lets be honest, who wouldn’t want to pay off their student loans in a year or two? Can most students do that? No, probably not. Can you write a novel in a month? Possibly. I did, a lot of people did, but a lot of people didn’t. Does that make them lesser authors? Tolkien spend decades on The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, and no one’s calling him a bad writer.
When I make goals for myself, like my Alphabet Books Goal I like to have clear time frames, clear goals, and plenty of time. Take the Alphabet Goal, for instance. I could have said I wanted to finish it all over the summer, and I probably could have, but I would have gone absolutely mad trying to do it. So for my sanity I gave myself until the end of the year. But to keep myself working on it, and so that my end timeframe wouldn’t sneak up on me, I gave myself a half-way point. That way I don’t feel like I’m slugging through forever and ever.
Plan out your goal: step one, step two, step three and so on.
When I make goals, I set out clear steps for myself. If I wanted to read the entire Harry Potter series in two weeks, for example, I would first figure out how long each book was.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: 76,944 words.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: 85,141 words.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: 107,253 words.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: 190,637 words.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: 257,045 words.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: 168,923 words.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: 198,227 words.
That equals 1,084,170 words in total. Whew. That’s a lot! If I wanted to read that many words over 2 weeks (or 14 days) I would be reading 77,440 words in one day! Now if we say the average book has 500 words a page, that has me reading 155 pages a day, which is just about the length of the first book, which isn’t too bad!!
Of course, when I’m making a goal like this, I make sure to take into account any other things I might have, which would take away from my reading time. Here’s a fake schedule, showing how I can take my schedule into account
- Doctor Appt: Can read in waiting room
- 200 pages
- 155 Pages
- Stay after work for meeting: less reading
- 100 Pages
And so on and so forth!
Tell your friends and family what you’re planning. Tell them to encourage you (if they don’t want to they may not be worth your time). Or you can do like me and make a blog post for it and post periodic ‘updates’ so that your readers can push you to succeed.
But when it boils down to it, you are your biggest supporter. You’re the one who has to make time for your goal, and you’re the one who has to live with yourself if you don’t finish.
You’re There…. or not
You finished: Doesn’t it feel great?
You didn’t finish: Oh well. You tried. Isn’t that what matters most? People get so torn up if they don’t reach their goals, but just by setting a goal and starting it you’re so much farther than most people make it. Go easy on yourself.