Six impossible things

New Year’s Resolutions 2011

I think I was back in high school when I first started setting goals for myself on a regular basis. I didn’t start saving copies of them until I was out of college, though, and I rather regret that. At this point in my life, looking back over 35+ years of goals is really interesting. My life is there in the history of goals I’ve met (“Sell one story by the time I’m 35” [from 1974 – I figured 14 years was long enough that I could probably manage to sell at least one short story. I sold my first novel six years later, in 1980, handily beating my self-imposed deadline]) and goals I haven’t met (“Get promoted to manager within three years” [from 1984, one year before I quit my day job forever, making this one impossible]).

I’ve kept up with my goal-setting ever since those early years. Gradually, it evolved into an annual review, on or around New Year’s, in place of the New Year’s Resolutions that everyone else seemed to be doing. A little over nineteen years ago, I mentioned this to one of my dearest friends, and we’ve been meeting on January 1 every year since then (unless one of us was out of town, in which case we schedule it as soon in January as we can both make it) to talk over what we did in the previous year and set goals for the upcoming year (and on into the future). Our goal-setting get-together has evolved over the past nineteen years; we now do our major goal-planning on Jan 1, and then meet quarterly for a progress and reality check.

One of the big differences, for me, between goals and New Year’s Resolutions is that resolutions tend to be about immediate life changes, like starting to exercise. People make up their minds to do it, head down to the gym every day in January, and then give up. They might as well be called “New Month Resolutions.” My goals are a lot more specific, and I always have at least a year to get them done, though I try to have ones that cover a series of time-frames from immediate, one-year goals to ones that I don’t expect to accomplish for five or ten years, or even longer. (One that’s been on my list for about five years now is “Take a trip to Rome with friend before we are both 75.” I have another 17 years to accomplish that one.)

I also divvy things up to make sure I have short, medium, and long-term goals for different areas of my life, from work to friends and family to hobbies to householding. (The new water softener I need has been carried over from last year’s goals; as soon as the next advance payment comes in…) Sometimes, I subdivide areas I think are particularly important, to make sure I really have them covered properly. This year, for instance, I’ve decided to split my “work” goals into two parts – production (1. Finish the third book of “Frontier Magic” by the deadline. 2. Write up a submission proposal for something new, etc.) and administration (1. Go through backstock and figure out which books I’m running low on, then order more copies of everything that’s in print, 2. Go over backlist with my agent to see which titles need to be reverted this year, etc.). Those are the immediate, short-term work goals; the longer-term ones are things like “Figure out a three-year schedule to finally get the research done for that Arthurian book I’ve been putting off for so long” and “Find a way to organize the non-fiction so I can find all the pirate books when I want them, even though they have to be on three different shelves because they’re all different sizes.” and “Come up with the coolest new story idea in the world because I’m bored with all my old ones.”

I don’t go through exactly the same process or exactly the same categories every year. I keep changing things around, looking for better ways to plan out what I want (just as I’m always looking for a better/easier way to write than whatever I’m currently using). Some years I have “Career” goals and “Writing” goals (the former having to do with things like publicity, generating sales, and so on, while the latter has to do with improving my craft and finishing my current WIP); other years, like 2011, lump both of those under the category “Work.” It can make it a little difficult to see how I’m doing, year to year, but that’s part of the fun.

This year, I had a rather busy fall and wasn’t  quite as ready for our annual goal-setting meeting as I usually am, so the first goal on my list is to spend January firming up a more specific list and coming up with a few that aren’t as obvious as “Get my taxes done on time” and “Finish writing Book 3 by deadline.”

And I know I’ll do it, because in three months, I’ll be meeting Caroline again for our first quarter check in, and she’ll ask me about it. There’s nothing quite like having someone to keep you honest.

Happy New Year, and may all your New Years resolutions or goals be a wild success this year!

  1. I think that I’ll try and set some goals, too, as well as resolutions. Happy New Year!

  2. Yay to the check-ins with your friend. There’s nothing like having to show progress to someone else to make us work hard.

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