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Happy New Goals

Photo by Flickr user Carol VanHook

It’s that time of year again. The airwaves are full of ads for weight-loss programs; gyms are offering discounted annual memberships; and self-help books are flying off the shelves.

Me? I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never really understood the desire to spend the last night of the year making solemn promises–drink in hand–to get fit, or stop eating cheese, or to commit to whatever life-changing idea occurred to me during the last couple of weeks of the year.

I am, however, a fan of goal setting. I like to create a list of goals that I intend to achieve during the year, in various areas of my life.

When it comes to writing, I like to make SMART goals. That is, goals that are:

  • SPECIFIC: “I’ll write ten short stories” rather than “I’ll write some short stories.”
  • MEASURABLE: “I’ll write five days a week” rather than “I’ll write as often as I can.”
  • ACHIEVABLE: “I’ll submit two stories a month” rather than “I’ll submit three hundred short stories this year.”
  • RELEVANT: “I’ll write 5,000 words per month” rather than “I’ll run three marathons.”
  • TIME-BASED: “I’ll finish the draft of my novel by the 30th of June” rather than “I’ll try to finish my novel.”

Goodbye 2017

Here we are in the first week of 2018 – the perfect time to look back at the SMART goals I set this time last year and reflect on my successes.

Now, to be clear, I had a great 2017. My life was busy, and I achieved the most important of my non-writing goals – which is to say that my children and I survived our first full year of homeschooling intact and without killing each other in our sleep. I had a number of wins in my social life, family life, and (paid) work like. And, in terms of writing, I went on a week-long retreat to the Gold Coast with a couple of amazing writers and wrote 40K words of a new manuscript in five days.

And yet…

When I look back at the writing goals I set for myself last January, I didn’t achieve a single one of them. (Even the 40,000 new words were off-target; I was supposed to be finishing my revisions.) My life went in a different direction to the one I’d anticipated, and I didn’t adjust my goals accordingly throughout the year.

Hello 2018

So as I sit here pondering my goals for this year, I’m filled, not with excitement, but with trepidation.

I didn’t achieve anything last year (according to my set goals). What makes me think this year will be any different?

Writing, as I like to say, is a mental game. If I go into the new year feeling worried about what I can possibly achieve this year, I’m already behind the 8-ball.

So, this year, I’m not setting year-long SMART goals about stories written or submitted. I’m not setting yearly goals about word count or revision. Instead, I’ve decided that 2018 is the year of being kind to myself.

It’s the year of encouraging myself to do as much as I can, rather than badgering myself for not doing as much as I think I should.

It’s the year of being truly SMART with my writing goals.

If there’s one thing I learned from 2017, it’s that twelve months is an incredibly long time, and a lot can change between January and December. Instead of setting myself writing goals for the whole year, I’m going to set myself a single writing goal on the first of each month.

Huh. Whaddaya know? The year is looking brighter already.

Do you set yourself writing goals each year? How did you fare in 2017? What goals have you set for 2018?

About Jo Eberhardt

Jo Eberhardt is a writer of speculative fiction, mother to two adorable boys, and lover of words and stories. She lives in rural Queensland, Australia, and spends her non-writing time worrying that the neighbor’s cows will one day succeed in sneaking into her yard and eating everything in her veggie garden.

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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.

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