Monday, January 6, 2014

One Week In -- New Year's Goals Revisited

Here we are again - six days into another new year. I have a cheerful new date book in my computer bag (even though I mostly keep track electronically these days) and a brand new calendar on the fridge. I just finished Catwalk, the third book in my Animals in Focus Mystery series, so I'm poised to start a brand new piece of writing. It's not unlike the brand new spiral-bound notebook on the first day of class - a clean start full of possibilities, and I don't want to mess it up. But here's the thing: to live creatively, whether through writing or painting or travel or volunteerism or, well, any pursuit, we have to make a mess. We have to make false starts. We have to fall on our butts.

We have to recognize that the path to our goals is paved with failures, set-backs, disappointments. I won't throw a bunch of platitutes at you -- you've heard them all. And I agree: failures suck. Rejections suck. If you can get your breath back  and stick it out, though, you can use all that crappy feedback to make your work, your play, and yourself stronger. Granted, you'll have a few scars, and some of the buises won't completely disappear. Hey, I'm still smarting from a comment my seventh-grade English teacher made about an image in a poem I wrote. (He was right, but did he have to laugh so hard?)

Enough of that. The real question when we open this lovely new notebook is this: what now? Where do I want to go, and how will I know when I'm getting close? Goal setting and tracking work for me (and, according to many studies, for a lot of people). I'm actually a bit of a "goal addict." I have  lists of goals for all sorts of things, but I will stick to writing goals for now.

Every year for the past mumble mumble years, I have written down my goals for the year, for the next few years. When I start a new project, I create daily and weekly goals that will get me to the end. Trust me, I'm obsessive about this. Having my goals where I can open a file and look at them gives structure to what can become open-ended work. (Okay, sure, it also serves as one of those rituals of procrastination that we creative types find so comforting.)

Do I reach all my goals? Bahahaha. No. Do I revise my goals along the way? You betcha. Do I re-evaluate the importance of some of my goals as I go? Of course. Occasionally I ditch a goal. But the bones, as they say, are still there, and they support the body of my work, both the act of working and the result. Does goal-setting work? Since 1998, I have written 22 books of non-fiction; 19 of them are published (three were in series that were cancelled by the publisher). I've also written three and a half novels (one published, one in production, one coming along), several short-stories, several essays, a few poems. Goals work for me.

Why have I waited until the second week of the new year to write about goals? I mean, that's all so last week, no? Two reasons...First, I was finishing Catwalk, the third Animals in Focus mystery. (First goal of 2014!) But the other reason may be even more important and here it is: during the first few days of the new year, I like to reflect on what I accomplished in the previous year. A lot of people do this at the end of the year, but that feels too much like an ending to me. A review of accomplishments strikes me as more of a launching pad. Besides, December is already too jam packed to accommodate yet another thing to do.

Did I accomplish my goals in 2013? Yes and no. Some I reached, some I ditched, a few I've carried over and reset. What about you? What did you accomplish last year, and what are your top two goals for the coming year?
Speaking of Goals....Get a Jump Start on Yours!

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1 comment:

  1. I focus on goals as well and I also wait until mid January to nail those goals down.
    I like to take my time reflecting on what worked and didn't work, last year.