I read an energizing post last week from Chad Allen, one of my favorite bloggers in the writing/publishing world. As I’ve noted before, his thoughts on turning creative impulses into actual books and other works have been helpful catalysts for me.
In other words, he sometimes gives doldrummy writers a swift kick in the ass. Which I often need.
One of his blog’s regular themes is that lots of people get great creative ideas, but few of us make the time to pursue those notions and hone our craft. (Notice I did not say “few people have the time.” Most everyone has the time — somewhere, somehow — to make it work. It’s a question of priorities, and not watching Being Human until we’ve met our output quota for the day. Speaking hypothetically, of course.)
So in this post, Allen promised that if we would give him five minutes, he would help us make 2014 our best year ever, creatively speaking. He quoted another blogger, Mike Hyatt, who has come up with a helpful acronym to get us to think about how to set goals that we can actually achieve.
If you’ve read Flunking Sainthood, you know that I’m the Queen of the Impossible Dream. “Of course I can master contemplative prayer in a month! And learn to play the piano! And become a gourmet chef!” Etc. Hyatt and Allen say that I need to be SMARTer. In other words, I need to set goals that are:
So here’s the thing. What I really want to do is write a YA novel. I’ve wanted to for years but have not found a way into writing fiction, which is altogether a different animal from the many kinds of NF writing I’ve done. And yet the impulse to write stories literally keeps me up at night. I sometimes have dreams with fully executed plots that I watch unfold. Then I wake up in the morning and can’t even seem to begin to write them down. It’s bizarre.
On New Year’s Eve — at church, of all places! — a book came to me. An idea I love. And then in the wee hours of the night (while the dog kept me up because he devolves to utter Jello when people are setting off fireworks in our neighborhood), I began furiously writing notes for this idea. Notes upon notes about plot and setting and characters. It was thrilling, like my fiction-writing sandbags had been swept away and it was all I could do to keep up with the tide.
My usual MO after something like this would be to say, “I am going to write a YA novel in 2014! In fact, I’ll write a whole trilogy!” And that would be vague and unrealistic enough that I would probably fail.
But instead, mindful of the SMART advice, I took some time to break it all down. Remember, I have to be
And what I came up with is this: “I will create the first 100 pages of this YA novel by December 31, 2014.”
That’s it. Pretty modest and do-able, I hope. Keeping it modest is important because a) I have never written fiction before and b) did I mention that I have no idea what I am doing? I edit fiction, and I certainly read ridiculous amounts of fiction, but I don’t write fiction. This is a paradigm shift. I need to take it slow.
So here’s why I’m telling you this. I’d like to change the “actionable” part of Hyatt’s acronym. I think that “actionable” is understood from the other items on the list; if a goal is specific and realistic, it is by nature actionable. What I need instead is accountability. I am one of those extroverted people who does better achieving her goals when other people are on board than she does just flying solo. I learned this in doing The Twible. I’m pretty sure I would never have made it through tweeting the entire Bible if I hadn’t been doing it in community, but knowing that other people were invested in the project made me determined to continue.
And according to this month’s issue of Money magazine, I’m not alone. (Not being alone is always good news for an extrovert.) Statistically, people who share their goals with a friend are 33% more likely to achieve them than people who don’t.
I think that writing even 100 pages of fiction is going to be very hard for me. It will make it easier if I know I have to report back to you at the end of it, or during the process. So thanks in advance for rooting for me and asking me how it’s going. Hold me accountable to my dreams, people.