Friday, August 07, 2009

A clean slate and random musings about writing goals

I sent the most recent incarnation of "HOMD" back to my agent yesterday. It was my goal to have it finished and off my hard drive before we left for central Asia. I am pleased that I was able to cross another item off my 'to do' list in advance of our trip. While my agent did not give me a deadline, I knew I didn't want to be away for 3 weeks with this hanging over me. I wanted to travel with a clean slate, writing wise, so I could be fully open to the possibilities, experiences, and stories of Kyrgyzstan.

I have new blank spiral notebooks and pens ready to pack, and I'll be in good shape if only I'll be able to read my own handwriting! (The perils of exclusively using a computer to write.)

Another reason I am pleased the revisions are done is around goal setting and goal realizing. One of the things I believe is crucial to a writer (to any artist, actually) is the ability to set and meet deadlines--even (especially?) if those deadlines are your own internal ones.

A goal, after all, is a promise you make to yourself long before anyone sets any external deadlines.

I was talking with my dear friend, D., who has known me for more than 20 years. She knew me in the days when I journalled in blank books with arty covers, when I moved through my fountain pen phase, and when I would wait to be inspired to write and then never change a word for fear of 'insulting the muse'. It took me a long time to realize that waiting for inspiration to strike means relegating yourself to dilettante status. Professional writers understand that the craft requires consistent practice. That daily pages are the equivalent of musician's scales. Inspiration needs a conduit and the conduit will be most accessible with good work habits.

Setting and meeting goals are part of that process.

Setting and meeting realistic, achievable goals.

It does you no good to set a goal you know you can't reach. Some folks can realistically plan to write a first draft of a novel in 3 months. That's not my process. When I'm working on a novel, I set my goals for 5,000 words a week. Then I try to write 1,000 words a day. I don't always reach the goal, but when I don't, I also don't beat myself up.

Somewhere along the way from my early, amateur writings of my 20s and my current work, I made a conscious decision to behave as if I already was a professional writer. That meant never whining or badmouthing anyone on the blog, working hard to educate myself about publishing, having realistic expectations, accepting feedback graciously, especially constructive feedback, having a consistent work ethic, and meeting goals without making excuses.

These are the things that are within my power to control.

What the publisher(s) will think about this, most recent revision of the "HOMD" is no longer under my control. I send it to the universe with the hope that it will be enough, that the right editor will fall in love with it, that the publishing house will make an offer for it, and that someday soon, it will find itself in the hands of readers.

One week from today, I will be on a plane to a part of the world I never dreamed I would visit. I know there are stories waiting for me there and I can't wait to find them.

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