by Jeffrey J. Michaels
The following is based on a semi-true story that happened to, um, a friend of mine, a guy I know. Not me. It is pieced together from his notes and internal dialogue, also known as omniscient narrating. Perhaps a bit of unreliable narrating as well.
“It is said that we teach that which we must learn. Today’s topic will be the setting of goals. I so suck at that goal-setting stuff. In fact, this article was started last year! And here it is 1999! Well at least I am getting around to finishing it before the 21st Century gets into full swing. It will take that long to get edited by the staff at Writers ‘R’ Us Magazine, sent to the presses, folded, stitched, and shipped to all the many brick and mortar bookstores where hopeful authors hang out and drink coffee while taking notes on their legal pads so that when they get home they can transfer their literary genius into the miracle electronic box called a computer. Thank the ghost of Gutenberg for Windows 98! I myself have plenty of handwritten notes for this article that I just have to type into the machine. So I’ll be right back! Right after I check my electronic mail account…Hmmm…what is this internet thing?
“2005 – Okay. Setting goals means keeping track of your progress by writing down the date you start and then making a firm, solid deadline. I’ll figure out my end date later. This time I really have a handle on the topic. I have been studying and making notes and listening to motivational speakers for years. And here is what I have learned. If you want to get anything done you need to set some goals. An idea without a goal is simply a wish. Or wishful thinking. Something like that. Let me check my quote. Gosh I love Google! Be right back.
“2011 – Wow, I’d forgotten about this article. I wonder if the magazine is still interested in my proposal. I wonder if the magazine is still being published. I guess it would work as a Blog post. Okay, here is the quote I wanted to use; “A goal isn’t automatically a goal. It is a dream until you write it down. Then it is a goal. Or a book.” Hmmm…that ain’t quite right. Maybe it’s, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Wait a sec, let me do a search online for the correct quote…Hey this website about writing looks interesting.
“2014 – Wow! There is a LOT of truth to this goal-setting stuff. But OMG! Pantsers will never quite get the structure part of goal setting. That is a problem in writing a blog on goal setting. Pantsers will just want to wait for inspiration. How can I address this part? I think I will meditate and wait for my Muse to show up…
“2016 – “The Age of Internetlightenment – At last I can see the value of waiting for my Muse while actually showing up at the keyboard, which is where my Muse expects to find me! At last I comprehend that if I am truly a professional writer I must behave the same way I would if I were a professional anything else!”
There is a lot of potential leeway available to the professional writer, but there is also necessary self-discipline that is more important. Here are some guidelines I personally find useful. Adapt them to your own style and energy. Vibe yourself to the basic notes and jazz baby, Jazz!
Write down your PRIMARY GOAL. If this is not something you can immediately identify, then all the other steps will be purposeless. This need not be very specific. Your primary goal as a writer should be to become published, with the best possible product you can create and craft. The way to accomplish this is to understand that “Finished” and “Perfect” do not easily exist together. Goals will help you finish. The more you finish, the more perfect you will become.
Choices you must make only ONE TIME:
- Choose a fixed workspace, and create a specific time to start. Couple this with a time to finish. Note: You can have flextime for your professional writer business, but remember you are trying to set some energetic structure to assist in creating not just stories but FINISHED STORIES!
- Choose a planned number of pages to complete each day. (See Ajay Ohri’s Guidelines for Writers below.)
- Create a simple ritual that signals it is starting time. I find it helps to light a fire, a candle, or stick of incense for example, but it can be as simple as taking a deep breath or putting on headphones.
Goals to accomplish DAILY:
- Review yesterday’s work but DO NOT EDIT. Begin by beginning. Just start where you left off and type until you gain momentum. You can always cut the unworthy words. Conclude when you have all the words necessary for the day, but make sure you have achieved your word count. Write more, but not less.
- If you must, build in a SMALL AMOUNT OF TIME on social media. SET A TIMER! While online, focus on your business and writing contacts when in your work space/time. Platform is useless if you have no product.
Goals to accomplish WEEKLY:
Review the work you did this week (Do NOT Judge!). Determine any narrative or structural problems that need to be addressed, Make a list, check it twice, try to find any pages that are naughty and/or nice. If you are writing a naughty book then you can keep some of the former pages.
Take ONE DAY and do some first draft editing. Break apart overlong paragraphs. Spell check sections of the manuscript. Do a light punctuation scan. Do not get bogged down in details at this point. This is just a little light housekeeping and to gain perspective on the story as a whole.
Goals to accomplish MONTHLY:
- Based on your weekly review process, determine if you need to revise your outline.
- It is easy to become isolated and lose perspective on your project(s). A monthly critique group can help. Can’t find one? Start one!
- Ask yourself; “Have I nourished my Muse? Have I done anything to increase my craft and skills?” These are things that can be done outside the normal working hours. Go see a movie, watch a series of TV shows, read a book or three. AND while you are doing this pay attention to what works for you and what leaves you thinking, “I can write better than that!” Now when you sit down at your work space remember what you said and DO IT!
The following is a helpful list of realities compiled by Ajay Ohri.
- Write 50 words. That is a paragraph
- Write 400 words. That is a page
- Write 300 pages. That is a manuscript
- Write every day. That is a habit
- Edit and Rewrite. That is how you get better.
- Spread your writing for people to comment. That is called feedback.
- Don’t worry about rejection or publication. That’s a writer.
- When not writing read. Read from writers better than you. Read and perceive.
Describing yourself as a writer indicates you are writing. When you are not writing, you are not a writer. You are a sitter. You are an internetter. You are a Facebooker, a movie-er, a TVer. Dreaming is creative, but without placing words in a document that can be seen by others, dreaming and procrastination look a lot alike.
Writing is a verb. Action, active, act. Writer, write!
Jeffrey J. Michaels is a Gemini. As such he is deeply involved in whatever interests him at the moment. His describes his book A Day at the Beach and Other Brief Diversions as “metaphyictional,” combining fantasy and humor with metaphysical elements. He is currently polishing a sweeping fantasy series of interconnected tales collectively known as The Mystical Histories. It is varied enough that he says he may even finish most of the stories. In his real life he is a well-respected creative and spiritual consultant. He does not like to talk about his award winning horror story. www.jeffreyjmichaels.com