Friday, January 14, 2011

Things I've Seen the Last Couple of Weeks that I MUST Somehow, Sometime Write about:

1. Volunteer at the library, hosting story-time for the little ones, wears a t-shirt with one word across the chest: EVIL.

2. In the news: woman steals meerkat from zoo, returns on the doorstep of a pet store with a note: she can't care for the precious little mongoose-like wild animal anymore.

3. My friend the other night at dinner at the every-Asian-country restaurant on going off at the saleslady at Victoria's Secret: What do you mean you don't sell nursing bras? Lactating women deserve to be sexy, too!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Happy Writing Year: Bring It On, 2011!!

If I put my resolutions here, in a public-ish place, I'm more likely to follow through, right? I'll be shamed into doing what I say I'm going to do...unless, of course, come January 2, 2011 (or any of the following three hundred or so days), I can simply delete this post...

But, I won't, right?

I've never bothered with dieting or exercising resolutions or attitude-adjustments or resolves to keep my house clean or my checkbook meticulously balanced or to increase my children's outside play time or reading time or made any kind of a commitment to a particular self-betterment program. But I like writing goals. And I like New Year's. So, here goes.

But, first, a few thoughts on goal-setting in general. I think that my background as an extraordinary nerd all through high school and even more so in college has helped me so much in this area. I used to plan my summer reading assignments to the page number; I still well-remember the summer I spent reading ten pages of The Scarlet Letter and The Grapes of Wrath. I did this every day, no matter if I was on vacation or babysitting all day or spending the night with a friend. I planned my days around my self-assignment. And, in college, I set up mini-deadlines for each term paper. There was: the initial library visit, the index-card collecting, the outline, the lining up of the previously-gathered cards, the first draft, second draft, proofing draft, and finally, final draft, which I always tried to complete a week ahead of schedule in case there was some kind of snag.

HUGE nerd, absolutely. But it was the only way I could live and not go crazy. Truly.

And today, with my writing, having mini-goals gives me peace. I've learned to vary them according to where I am in a project and what's going on in my life at the moment. When I'm starting something new, I generally don't require a whole lot of myself. Often, in the very beginning, when I'm just thinking and taking notes, I'll commit myself to one hour of writing/thinking. I don't worry about producing anything at this point: I'm not ready to. Then, I'll try to get about a page a day written, and then maybe two or three pages a day, once the story starts to gain a little momentum. Finally, when I'm second-drafting or revising, I get going pretty fast. That's the writing-with-abandon part for me. (Which I guess is actually re-writing with abandon.)

I think goals have to be realistic. I also think they have to involve only factors I can control. For example, I've never made my goal anything like getting a specific story published or landing an agent, but instead focus on what I alone can do to reach those goals. I can't, for example, make an editor choose my story, but I can commit to keeping my story out at three different journals for 2011 or until it gets accepted, whichever comes sooner. Back when I was still trying to find representation, I made mini-goals about query-letter drafts and attending conferences.

Okay, so finally, here they are:

1. I'll set monthly page-number goals as I go. For January, I plan to write fifty pages of a relatively new novel I'm working on, but, if my editor sends a heap of revision notes for Goliath, I'll adjust. On January 31, I'll set a goal for February, taking into account all my obligations and where I really want to go with the novel, and so on, throughout the year.

2. I will explore more options for part-time teaching gigs and presenting talks, etc. at workshops and the like. (I have some specifics for this that are too boring to list here.)

3. I am going to read and study The Complete Idiot's Guide to Einstein. This may sound like a strange goal, but I believing in reading widely as a fiction-writer. Not only does this just give me more fodder for the actual content of my work, but I really believe in trying to get your brain to do new things. I believe thinking and understanding leads to good writing. And, anyway, I'm just curious.

Okay. There it is. It's January 1st, there are still dirty appetizer trays in the kitchen from last night's celebration, and I'm tired, but here we go...

What about you? Any writerly (or otherwise) resolutions?