First, Dino Boy started preschool today! Even with the orientation, I had like two hours to do things. I got work done—during the day. It was awesome. And Ninja Girl got to play with any toy she wanted! Without bossy big brother micromanaging!
Obviously I'm not Mother of the Year material, as not a single sign of tearing happened. I hear so many moms get sad and nostalgic, but we were all happy.
Dino Boy: Pick me up later?
Dino Boy: Bye.
Me: Can I at least get a hug?
Dino Boy: /sighs Alright.
He's gonna be an awesome teenager. I can't wait.
I have a little more time now, and I'm so happy about that. I might actually get a chance to let that cyborg side out again!
Today I wanted to talk a little more about self-imposed deadlines, since many comments on Monday mentioned being horrible at keeping them. It's not an easy thing to learn, the whole set-a-goal-and-stick-to-it thing. We can refer to centuries worth of unfilled New Year's resolutions for proof.
But if you want to be a professional writer, part of that is learning self-discipline. I won't lie, at some point in this journey you will want to give up, you won't feel inspired, or you will face outside forces that prevent you from writing. At those times, sometimes "love of writing" just isn't enough. Sometimes you have to push through, and you can't really count on anyone but yourself to do it.
Setting personal goals and deadlines really comes down to how well you can delay your own gratification. It's hard these days, when so many things are instant, to put off "good things" or "fun things" for the "better thing" that takes so freaking long to happen.
Delaying gratification happens constantly in writing. You write now so you'll have a book done later. You edit now so when you finally query it'll pay off. You suffer through submissions so you can have the backing of a publishing house. And so on and so forth.
The first step to meeting self-imposed deadlines and goals is deciding—one hundred percent—that they are worth it. That when you reach them, the deprivation of fun/pleasure/laziness/sleep/food/time will be a decent payment for what you have gained.
Basically, it's the Marshmallow Test, but for grown-ups.
If you can't convince yourself of that goal or deadline's worth/plausibility, then it's less likely to happen, right? Humans are like that—we don't usually go along with things we don't find valuable in some way to ourselves.
Creating A Plan
Okay, so you convince yourself that writing a novel (or running a marathon, or losing weight, or learning to play the piano) is a worthwhile goal. You want it, and you want it BAD. And not only do you want to finish a novel, but you want it published and successful, etc.
How do you get from Point Want to Point Results?
A plan, of course.
Now, don't imagine me with this "How I Will Get Published" notebook full of my goals/deadlines and a little chart I check off when I meet them. You'd be way wrong. I mostly keep this in my head when it comes to the big goals. Besides, let me know if any of your actual "How I Will Get Published" plans actually, uh, go according to plan.
But when it comes to the smaller parts of my goals, I definitely have plans. I plan to finish books within certain periods of time. I plan out my edits. I plan what to work on next.
I can't tell you how to make your personal plan, but I will give a few tips.
Deadlines and Goals and When/How They Should Be Used
Example of a bad deadline: "I will have an agent by the end of this year"
Why? Because this is not something you can entirely control. A deadline should be attainable by you and you alone. It should not be contingent on another person. There is a very real risk that getting an agent in insert-whatever-time-period-here will not happen. And then you will feel bad when you really shouldn't.
This kind of deadline also may hinder your work. You may rush a project that needs more time. You might query before you're ready. You might actually sabotage your own goal of an agent by wanting it too soon! (It took me almost two years, mostly because I spent the first year being stupid and impatient.)
Example of a bad goal: I will sell for six-figures.
Why? Well, it should be obvious. It's also something you can't control—selling at all is something you can't fully control. Having this mindset may also sabotage you. Instead of writing stories from your heart, you may start to write for the market instead, you may get caught up in "the game" that doesn't actually exist.
Good goals? I think we've all heard that they should be measurable, reachable, and all that other stuff. You know, realistic and yet challenging.
Some of mine (that I like to think are good):
• Constantly improve my writing. (Goal)
• Finish first Transparent edit by then end of September. (Deadline)
• Get published. (Goal. [Also notice how there is no time line or specific book attached to that.])
• Finish first draft of new WIP by the end of the year. (Deadline)
All tough, but also realistic according to what I know I can do.
After you have determined your goals and their worth, it doesn't hurt to throw some motivation on there. Of course I prefer rewards—who doesn't? I don't go for punishments unless I really need help moving.
Rewards and punishments are the same as deadlines/goals. You can't give yourself something crazy awesome for writing 100 words. Okay, maybe if you're rich. Rewards and punishments should fit the accomplishment.
I usually go out to lunch for finishing edit rounds—and more importantly I DON'T go out to lunch when I don't. Delayed gratification, right?
There are many things you can do. Maybe you can't write that New Shiny Idea until you finish this book (or chapter). Maybe you don't get to watch that episode of Glee until a scene is done. Maybe you can't get on Twitter for ONE WHOLE HOUR while you write.
Whatever works for you. I find internet deprivation extremely helpful. I'm just sayin'.
In the end, it really comes down to the first point I made—delayed gratification. The rest is fairly worthless if you don't think your goal/deadline is important or worth it. When I struggle with writing, with my self-esteem and motivation, I always have to go back to that ultimate question:
Is publishing my book worth all this work?
I'm always a little surprised when I say yes. Again. As long as that's my answer, I will keep believing in my goals and making deadlines.